The Sexual Anatomy Alphabet
Once upon a time I had a fantasy that Sesame Street aired a segment where Cookie Monster taught kids that C was for clitoris. How radical! (12 years after I shared this fantasy on the site Hip Mama, Sesame Street decided to update Cookie’s image, but not to one that is sex-positive, but one that is vegetable-positive!)
But seriously, we teach kids the alphabet to learn all manner of things, why not come up with a sexual anatomy alphabet game? What a great way to normalize kids’ relationship to their sexuality when they’re young and the most impressionable. If you’re not sure why this is necessary, consider a recent study of pre-school-aged kids, in the journal Gender and Psychoanalysis, which revealed that girls are more likely to learn the word “penis” than any specific word for their own genitals.
Girls get short-changed right off the bat when it comes to understanding their bodies, and their confusion won’t get cleared up if parents awkwardly substitute euphemisms like “down there” or “hoohaa” when referring to them. It’s time to face up to our own discomfort and just set the record straight. By teaching them the correct names for their genitals, you not only send a positive message about their bodies, you provide the tools they’ll need if they ever have any questions or troubles. Imagine asking a child who’s been injured to tell you where it hurts without ever having taught them the names for their stomach, shins, and shoulders, and you’ll see my point.
I think it’s fine to come up with pet names for your parts once you’ve established that your kids know what they are—in my house we just refer to our “lady parts” when someone asks a fairly personal question, usually about why we’re in the bathroom so long.
Young kids, being so inquisitive, will usually ask about their genitals (or yours!) so take the opportunity to explain the complete set. You can adapt my alphabet game below to your favorite song (or do a version of “heads/shoulders/knees/toes” with their parts) or, even easier, sit down with a book that shows an illustration—my kids loved It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris, because they have cartoon illustrations. Remember to teach them the names for both girls’ and boys’ parts, not just their own.
I have a great story about teaching sexual anatomy. I have two girls and there was a magical moment when the younger one (who was about 5 at the time) was really curious about her genitals, and the older one (who was 11) was not yet old enough to be mortified every time the subject came up. The older one had started puberty, so I pulled out the puberty book and reviewed their sexual anatomy with both of them. Then for fun I found an art book I had showing photos of vulvas in nature (it is one of the perqs of working for a sex toy company, you tend to have stuff like this lying around). The girls got such a kick out of seeing vulva valleys and labia landscapes that the younger one kept it by her bed for a couple of months to review.
Ok, now on to the alphabet. Help me fill it in by suggesting missing words (no slang please) or appropriate tunes! Post your suggestions or comments during July and you could win a prize.
A is for Anus
B is for Breasts
C is for Clitoris
D is for
E is for Ejaculation
F is for Frenulum or Fallopian tubes
G is for G-spot
H is for Hymen
L is for Labia
M is for Mons
N is for Nipples
O is for Ovaries
P is for Penis
Q is for Questions
R is for Rectum
S is for Sexuality
T is for Testicles
U is for Urethra
V is for Vulva
X is for eXamination
Sex education is so important, so seize the moment. You can also support organizations that help with this, like SIECUS. During July if you donate $5, you’ll receive a Jimmyjane gift in return.
- The ABC’s of Sex Ed
- Toddlers and Preschoolers: Too Young for the Sex Talk?
- Teens’ Sexual Bill of Rights
- The Importance of Teaching Sexual Consent to Teens
- Talking With My Kid About Sex pt. 1