Naming and Claiming
I have no relationship with my genitals. We’re like you and that cute, mysterious person you’ve seen walking around campus but can’t figure out how to talk to. I’ve made eyes with them from afar; I’ve set up elaborate scenarios in my mind in which I smoothly approach them and they can’t help but fall in love with my wit and strong hands. I thought about taking up smoking just to have an “in” with them (pun intended?). We dance at blue room parties, but I can tell they’re just waiting for someone else more interesting to walk in. Sometimes we end up in bed together and it’s ok but not stellar. The worst part, though, is that I’ve forgotten their name and at this point it feels rude to ask.
I don’t mean names like Bruno or, infamous in my family, Murgatroid. In fact, from an early age my parents tried to impress upon me the importance of not naming my genitals in such a manner. I mean names for genitals: pussy, cock, cunt, dick, dicklit, etc. Words that make people feel some sense of connection to the parts of their bodies they are describing. Genitals are so easily seen as gendered, but finding a name that feels right for you can help you get them back from the essentialism of “girl parts” and “boy parts” by either divorcing them from your gender or sex entirely or tying them to a gender or sex that makes more sense to you.
Still, when applied to me, all the words that I know other people use to connect to these parts of their bodies make my disconnect feel greater. Even words that are not commonly associated with a particular sex like “junk” and “bits” don’t work for me because I can’t imagine saying them about my body, especially not out loud in a sexy situation. If I can’t hear a partner saying “touching your (insert name for genitals here) makes me really hot,” I don’t know what the purpose of a name would be anyway. I am comfortable with this thinking until I am reminded that my genitals are not just for sharing—I should have a private relationship with them.
I have seen my genitals; I read the Vagina Monologues when I was younger and learned that it was important to know what you looked like in order to reclaim yourself from a society that wanted you to hate your body. Since then, I’ve spent time looking at genitals shaped like mine and I’ve come to the understanding that mine are of an aesthetic that I—and other people—enjoy. Still, when I think about them I have no mental image of them. They’re just a blank spot between my legs that feels nice sometimes, and even that feels somehow disconnected from me. I think there’s a self-perpetuating cycle going for me of not having a name and not having a connection. How can I come up with a name if I don’t know them? But if I don’t know their name, how can I get to know them better? This is not just a matter of spending more time with my genitals; trust me, I try.
It’s not like that with my chest, luckily. Knowing that my chest is most comfortably called just that helps me think about and look at it in loving, connected ways. Additionally, while names and labels have different meanings to each individual who uses them, I find that usually those meanings are linked to common conceptions, so designating a specific name as opposed to all the other possibilities brackets the named part in people’s understanding. In this way, explaining what that part of my body is called helps me explain to lovers how to interact with it so that I feel sexy and seen and don’t have to shy away from acknowledging its presence as part of my body. Everyone knows there’s no bigger faux pas than when a lover calls out the wrong name in bed, but when they really get all your names right… well, that’s a whole new level of sexy.