Anti-Science

Oprah’s Vajayjay

Not to name names, but somebody apparently felt that he or she was too mature to post a link to a site called Oprah’s Vajayjay and so instead sent it to me. I would like to thank this nameless person for making me laugh because I am immature. If you don’t feel like clicking through, here’s the sole content on the page:

As I’ve mentioned before on Skepchick, the word “vajayjay,” as used by Oprah and her ilk is indicative of the way Oprah addresses women’s health issues in general: dumbed down, wishy washy, cutesy, pseudoscientific. She is creating a world in which the word “vagina” is too dirty to utter but it’s totally okay to have Dr. Christiane Northrup go on at length about redirecting her “chi” in order to orgasm.

I’ve been a bit remiss in not covering the current (and hopefully rising) Oprah backlash, trusting that you’re all paying attention to the Quickies and noticed the big Salon and Newsweek stories (I love that they used the same photo of Oprah I chose for my London Skeptics in the Pub talk, though I LOLed mine). It’s fantastic to think that our anti-Oprah efforts aren’t going unnoticed, and I suspect that this high-profile criticism will continue to grow. Will it grow large enough to combat the enormous Oprah empire? Who knows. But hey, let’s keep trying.

With that in mind, I hope that the owner of OprahsVajayjay.com expands to include more clips of her mind-blowing vagina-related idiocy. There’s enough material out there, after all.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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62 Comments

  1. I hate that word. My friends use it and think I’m a little uptight about it, but I just feel that it’s unnecessary and infantilizing. We’re supposed to be mature adult women, who work in health care!, if we can’t say “vagina” that’s pretty silly. I think they just think it’s a funny word, but I prefer not to use it.

    VAGINA! Ok look I didn’t die.

  2. That word has always made me cringe. It’s incredibly immature, and actually sounds dumber than the vast majority of the other euphemisms for it. The reality is, in day-to-day life, and especially in sexual terms, people rarely use the word vagina simply because it’s a rather ugly word for a body part many of us hold quite fondly (the word penis, to me, also seems like one of the more emasculating terms for it). But taking the clinical term and applying this baby-talk slang to it just makes the speaker sound dumb, not to mention slightly creepy.

    Of course my other personal complaint is with the overuse of the word vagina as it is. From what I can tell, the vast majority of the time anyone refers to a vagina they are, in fact, referring to the vulva. The vagina’s the first 1-1/2 to 2 inches of the INSIDE of a woman’s genitals. The term vulva applies to the whole area, including the parts people actually SEE and can feel from the outside, and surely the areas Oprah’s supposedly feeling something in. It’s just always been a major pet peeve of mine when people actually make the effort to use the clinical term, but consistently use the wrong one. And Heinlein fans may remember Deety’s annoyance over the inaccurate use of the word “breasts,” preferring the correct term, “teat” (pronounced to rhyme with “quit”).

    Anyway, that’s my rant for the day on primary and secondary sexual organs and the misuse of their terminology. I now return you to a world full of foreskin face creams and giggly, whispered references to “down there.”

  3. @TurboFool: I’d say people use Vagina because that’s what they are familiar with. It’s a sort of slang. I don’t really see the problem with it, considering the majority of us aren’t doctors, and it’s still lightyears better than “vajajay” or “coochie” or any of the other creepy words people like to use.

  4. @Kimbo Jones: lol, yeah, that sounds like an instant mood killer.

    @marilove: I don’t think it’s one of the worst things to say, but I just thing it’s silly to make slang out of a completely different word. It’d be like calling all my fingers thumbs, or my face my mouth. No, we’re not all doctors, but these terms are pretty common, or SHOULD be pretty common, and people should have been educated on them correctly to begin with. It’s not like it’s a difficult word to learn. I don’t question WHY people misuse it, I’m just bothered that it’s become so commonly misused.

  5. MiddleMan: Not sure what she meant, but I think it could have a group-therapeutic effect, no? I’m picturing kids lined up at Sunday school where they must recite the entire gamut of biological terms for the sex organs.

  6. My favorite euphamism is ‘WooWoo’, used in Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety”, his oft-overlooked sendup of Hitchcock films.

    Unfortunately, that term is well entrenched in the skeptical world with a very different meaning. But it sure fits in Oprah’s case, doesn’t it?

  7. @TurboFool: I agree. I’m pretty easy-going, even about stuff like “vajayjay,” usually. But misusing “vagina” to refer to everything below the belt is inaccurate and shows that unfortunately many people aren’t knowledgeable about a woman’s anatomy. This is especially terrible when it’s a woman, since she should know her own body and be able to, say, tell her doctor where there’s a problem or tell her lover where there should be more tongue.

  8. @Rebecca: That’s exactly my complaint. I can ALMOST forgive a man’s ignorance on the subject (although considering our interest in it, we should do better than that), but for women to not know or be able to speak intelligently about their own bodies is a shame. But it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem with our society. Sexuality in general, and ESPECIALLY for women, is marginalized and treated as something shameful. I can’t imagine how many women die of or suffer from fully-preventable conditions simply because they’re part of that “down there” area they’re afraid to admit exists.

    Now all of that said, things have gotten a hell of a lot better. The women who are THAT squeamish and out of touch are, at least in my circles, much less common than the ones who are open and at least moderately knowledgeable.

    But it’s the little things like language that show we’ve got more room for improvement. That and the reactions over Janet Jackson’s nipple flash, or the stupid people who believe it’s reasonable for streaking at a football game to get you branded as a sexual predator because naked bodies invading our vision is damaging to our fragile psyches. I know I keep a shroud over all my mirrors when I shower and until I get dressed, and I wear rubber gloves and look away when I pee so I don’t have to see my icky boy parts. One time I accidentally looked and had to take the week off from work. Damn it, I think I’m getting PTSD from just thinking about it.

  9. I have to admit, I’ve used this word for work, but it makes sense to do so sometimes. I will leave the context up to your creative imaginations. Also, I’ve used the word in an appropriate joking manner, never as a serious reference to my own anatomy unless a client’s call required such a thing.

    @TurboFool: You say the words “penis” and “vagina” are ugly words for body parts, what words would you prefer and why? When you mix the words up with other body part terms like arm, leg, frenulum, or eyeball, I don’t see them as any more or less ugly than the others. Perhaps there is some sort of social influence in your view of these words?

    Also, I have the same pet peeve about people referring to the vulva as a ‘vagina.’ In fact, this was such an issue that when I first did phone sex, I had to learn not to use technical terms and I had to give special attention to not correcting people on their use of the word ‘vagina,’ on the rare occasion that it was used. My first few days of phone sex ended up being an adventure in learning.

    @Kimbo Jones: Oh, it certainly can be made to work. It isn’t sexy, but some people seem to think it is.

    @TurboFool: The use of the word ‘coochie’ makes more sense than ‘vajajay ‘and other terms we hear people use. The origins of ‘cooch’ and ‘cunt’ has to do with bedtime practices and the former was also used in reference to an erotic dance (& erotic event performed in a large tent also called a ‘hoochie-coochie’*) in which the motion of the genitals were, of course, the main theme of the dance. As a result, the dance & erotic event was the hoochie coochie and the term ‘coochie’ seems to have developed in reference to the genitals as a result. This term was developed as a natural process of language association, rather than something developed as a bastardization of an already present, more sensible term.

    On another note, while things like this really distort our way of communicating because it makes what we’re referencing seem more ambiguous, these kinds of distortions of language actually play a role in linguistic evolution. While we complain about the childish use of the term ‘vajayjay’ today, it is possible that it could become a commonly used term 30 years from now and may have lost the childish connotation. That being said, it would be sad if that is the way this word evolves.

    *Some of the earliest forms of erotic pole dancing seems to be from old hoochie-coochies, where the stage often extended so far out into the tent that it would be up against the tent pole, so dancers could use the pole in their routines as they entertained.

  10. My opinion of Oprah just went from rock-bottom to half-way to the Earth’s core. At least she could have come up with a euphemism for her vagina, sorry vulva (thx TurboFool for reminding me!) that doesn’t sounds like it was uttered by a Tellytubby. *cringe*

  11. VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA!!!

    That is one thing that really bothered me about the TV show “Scrubs.” The character, Dr. Reed, could not use the actual words for people’s anatomical parts or biological functions and was always using foofy substitutes like “bajingo.” And the woman was supposed to be a doctor!!! I guess I should lighten up, because it’s comedy, but still. Doctor!! Oprah, though, is inviting medical experts and giving medical advice, and even she can’t use the right words?

    Seriously, if Oprah gets her own TV channel, I’m calling Time Warner to have them block the feed from coming into my house.

  12. @TurboFool: This information may depress you more, but when I tell people that I study sexology, after I explain what that means, the women usually respond with great interest while the men frequently respond with claiming that they already learned all they need to know about sex and then proceed with some sort of sexual innuendo that they think is clever and drives their point.* I suspect that this tendency is because women in the last several decades have been allowed and even expected to become more sexually curious as we shed the social binds that we once had. At the same time, there hasn’t been as much of a change in the pattern of teaching men that they are sexual dominants and should generally be sexually in control. How can someone who should be sexually in control portray himself as being sexually inadequate to a potential partner if he acknowledges that he doesn’t know as much as said partner? (This isn’t to imply that all of these men have had a chance to be my partner, it is more the case that that is how they are perceiving the situation. This actually happens with clients and with peers. I think that as men are given more room to learn and acknowledge that even experts are still learning about important issues in sex, they will also be more open to learning more about sex.

    *Context could be all that matters here – my work and/or personality usually precedes these conversations in some manner and may have an affect on who responds and how. It is quite possible that the differences in responses between men and women is because the women are less likely to be inclined to present themselves as someone sexually interested in me, while a man’s responses to me may be already primed by some desire to make himself seem sexually available.

  13. @TurboFool: “I can’t imagine how many women die of or suffer from fully-preventable conditions simply because they’re part of that “down there” area they’re afraid to admit exists.”

    This calculation is known as the Vajayjay Quotient.

    @SophieHirschfeld: Jo-ooke. :)

    There seems to be a trend:
    1) Euphemisms that are sexy. For use during or when talking about intimacy.
    2) Euphemisms that are infantile. Not well-tolerated by some, used with giggles by others.
    3) The correct biological terminology. Accurate and mature, but maybe not super attractive or sexy.

    And there seems to be a subjective distinction for which words fall into these categories. For me the distinction between sexy and vajayjay is a large one.

  14. @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): Medical and scientific terminology is often fudged on TV shows. I have an unhealthy tendency to love to watch “Bones,” even though they seem to only have a mild understanding of forensic anthropology. Some of the most glaring ways that this presents itself is the lack of common terms used in the field that many people don’t realize or notice. For example, bones that are separated by impact or force are said to be ‘disarticulated’ and when you refer to a location where two bones meet, you say something to the effect of, “where the sternum articulates with the 3rd rib.” Also, though the show seems to try not to do this, where bones have grown into each other and fused is called a ‘suture’ and those are usually named according to the adjacent plates. So where the upper jaw meets the zygomatic is the zygomaticomaxillary suture. When they refer to that as the base of the zygomatic or other ambiguous reference, it creates more variables in how it could be interpreted. Anyway, now I’m just rambling and so people are likely to get tired of me spamming this skepchick post comment area. So I’ll shut up for now. :)

  15. @SophieHirschfeld: You said “When you mix the words up with other body part terms like arm, leg, frenulum, or eyeball, I don’t see them as any more or less ugly than the others. Perhaps there is some sort of social influence in your view of these words?”

    Spot-on answer. When was the last time you heard someone use a cutsey euphemism for, say, their foot or their ear?

    It’s a bizarre state of affairs when you’ve got daytime TV talking about orgasms, oral sex, and all manner of fairly explicit subject matter, but they won’t actually use the proper names of the parts involved…

  16. Patton Oswalt said it best:

    Cleaned up, g-rated filth is WAY more disturbing and horrifying than regular old filth. What’s worse? ‘I’m going to stick my hard cock in your wet pussy’ or ‘I’m gonna fill your hoo-ha with goof juice’?

    Oprah is horrifying and I rest my case. Thank you.

  17. @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): Just keep in mind, with Dr. Reed, this was actually kind of the point. It was meant to be absurd that she was so neurotic that even as a doctor she couldn’t use proper names for certain body parts (this actually has changed over time, and she’s used the word “vagina” on multiple occasions). Remember, she’s also what she dubs a “nervous poo-er,” unable to move her bowels in public restrooms. She’s essentially a complete mental mess, which is one of her main character traits. So while it IS, indeed, ridiculous for a doctor to use the term “bajingo,” it was meant to be that way in this case.

    More annoying to me was the doctor in Grey’s Anatomy referring to it as a vajajay. But she was in the midst of childbirth, so maybe we’ll chalk that up to hormones overriding her language skills.

  18. Oh wonderful vagina:

    ‘Tis but thy name that is Oprah’s enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a vajayjay.
    What’s vajayjay? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a woman. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? that which we call a vagina
    By any other name would smell as sweet;

  19. @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): lol, fair enough. I figure, though, as long as the shows have a Carla or a Pam to balance out the wackjobs and show it’s not just their opinion of women in general, I can deal with it. The Office is especially good with having a diverse and very realistic cast. That office is made up almost entirely of some of the most boring, uninteresting, normal people you’d find in every office, yet they manage to be hilarious in their normalcy.

  20. Yeah, it’s weird, isn’t it? Might be a context thing. To continue Oswalt’s bit, he said:

    ‘I’m gonna fill your hoo-ha with goof juice’, is something you say to a woman you’re keeping in a pit in your basement, lowering food in a basket.’

    I totally agree. There’s an oddly maladjusted sense to “vajayjay”, “hoo-ha”, and other supposedly cutsy nicknames for female genitals.

    His other great line with creepy euphemisms was:

    When Captain Frosty gets done with your hairy bingle-bangle, it’s gonna look like a rat in a rainstorm when I’m all done with my love paints!

    Ew.

  21. It suddenly crosses my mind that I had a nightmare about Oprah’s vajayjay (I’ve decided she doesn’t even deserve for US to call it by its proper name if she won’t) when I was a teenager. I’ll spare you the details, but despite my inexperience, I was quite confident that that’s NOT where it was supposed to be located…

  22. @SophieHirschfeld: the women usually respond with great interest while the men frequently respond with claiming that they already learned all they need to know about sex

    This led me to think of a survey that was taken recently among local high school teens. (It was a small sample, about 100 participants, for an undergraduate paper, so results may be taken with a grain of salt.)

    One of the statements was “I think my friends know more than I do about sex.” (rate on a scale of 1 – strongly agree to 5- strongly disagree). By a significant factor, the boys disagreed with this statement, and the girls agreed with it. I.e. even in their young teens, boys already think they know everything and girls think there’s more to learn. I found that interesting (and kind of disheartening).

  23. @Robyne_BR: I’m not sure that’s necessarily an accurate portrayal of the results. I can pretty confidently say that I know more about sex than nearly all of my friends. That has absolutely no bearing on my willingness or interest to learn more. There is NO subject in which I believe I’m adequately versed, and I never feel fully satisfied in my knowledge of the subjects in which I take the greatest interest (yes, this is definitely one of them). If I’m not learning, I’m bored.

    @SophieHirschfeld: I draw a parallel with a friend my wife and I used to have who ran a home party business (kind of like tupperware parties, but for sex toys). A party was thrown for a group of friends of ours, and the party was free unless men were invited, in which case there was a $100 fee. I initially assumed this was because the women would be more intimidated by the presence of men and less willing to openly ask questions about the products and buy things. But according to our friend it was quite the opposite. She said the men were generally very closed-off, unwilling to ask questions, unwilling to take interest in new ideas, and would just generally bring down the whole mood of the party.

    I found that hard to believe from my personal perspective, as that’s not me by a long shot. But apparently I’m not typical. Just found it interesting, and it seems to back up your experiences.

  24. @Noadi: To be perfectly honest, I had to think for a minute or two to come up with any nose euphemisms, but now that you mention it, we do.

    The difference, perhaps, is that the genital euphemisms have at least some basis in embarrassment and others (such as “beak” for nose) don’t.

  25. @SophieHirschfeld:

    I wish we were close enough to sit down and talk over a cup of coffee.

    Actually, I think that those that don’t know much of anything about their body or are so repressed that they can’t talk about it at all are in serious trouble. Not just sexual trouble, either. One of my wife’s friends was so ignorant that after she became pregnant, my wife (RN, BSN) ended up essentially teaching her what to expect during pregnancy and delivery. She was in her early 20’s. How sad is that?

    To be honest, I think that two newlyweds that are both virgin and ignorant on their wedding night can well be a setup for sexual trouble for the long term. As nice and romantic as it sounds, there is knowledge involved in sex. We are all born knowing how to do it, but not how to do it well. Therein lies a world of difference.

    Side note: To this day, my wife refuses to even look at a Volvo because it’s name sounds too close to “vulva.” Is that repressed or what?

    As a side note, I have absolutely no use for Oprah whatsoever.

  26. The time difference always puts me so far behind, but COTW for this whole thread, (best ever, ROTFL) and, Rebecca, good on ya, keep smacking Oprah hard!

    Best blog on the internet, for sure!

  27. Probably worth filing here:

    But to fully capture the flavor of Oprah’s discomfort with sex, go back a few months to the show that carried this warning:

    “This program contains graphic content that is suitable for mature audiences only.”

    And what was this “graphic content” that should only be watched by a select few? A chart from a high school biology textbook that celebrity sex therapist Laura Berman used to show where the vagina is.

    Well, you may call it the vagina, but poor Oprah just can’t stand that ugly word. “Don’t you think vi-jay-jay sounds better than vagina?” she asked with a pained expression. And the urethral opening? That’s “where you pee-pee,” said the 55-year-old Oprah on national TV. Remember, this woman is the most influential sex educator in the history of the world.

    Yes, it gets “better” from there.

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