When a man called Paul Bullen tried to mansplain women's sexual organs on Twitter last month, he fell into a common trap: getting the vulva (the external part that includes the clitoris, labia, and vaginal and urethral openings) and the vagina (the internal canal connecting the vaginal opening and the cervix) confused. "The correct word is vagina," Bullen wrote in response to a Guardian tweet about an article entitled "Me and my vulva: 100 women reveal all". When Twitter users (including gynaecologists and women's health experts) corrected him, Bullen remained resolute, defending his error as "how actual people speak". His brazen comeback may have been misguided, but it's true that 'vagina' is often misused – including by women – and many of us are too squeamish to use the term at all.
As part of Refinery29's big survey of 3,670 readers about their attitudes towards their vulvas and vaginas, parts of our bodies sometimes still shrouded in shame and secrecy, we wanted to know how women refer to their own genitalia. What's in a name? While the language we use to refer to our body parts may seem trivial, words do matter (clinical psychologist Dr Harriet Lerner describes our collective failure to use 'vulva' correctly as "psychic genital mutilation").
It's not always that deep, though, and it can be fun to deliberately ascribe a silly name to your genitals (especially in the absence of a better term that encompasses both the vagina and vulva).
So what do women call theirs? Half of our respondents (1,818) call their genitalia their 'vagina', but the rest are a little more creative. Our favourites? 'Pum pum', 'lulu', 'muffin', 'hoohoo', 'coochie', 'front bottom', 'rose garden', 'fandandy', 'cosmic matrix', 'dickhole', 'Myfanwy', 'growler', 'axe wound', 'twinkle'. The rest, however, slip more seamlessly into everyday conversation.