Warning: "Bad" words straight ahead in this video! But here's the thing. They're not "bad" words. (Unless you go to religious school, in which case you should probably only use them after school. Don't tell your teachers I said that). They're derived from body parts that are anything but inherently bad, but we assign and ascribe negative connotations to them because, you know, women's bodies and all of their dirty bad parts. Old-school Puritans (whose values are still applied to women's lives and bodies now. I mean, HELLO, CONGRESS AND BODY LEGISLATION!) be like "Ew! Gross!" And TV standards bros be like "BLEEP!"
Words like pu--- and cu-- are derived from the vagina which is anything but a bad thing because, you know, life. But the ban on words that refer to body parts and even contraception and pregnancy date all the way back to 1873, when the Comstock Act, which specified the "Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use," forbid Americans from sending erotica, contraception and many other "smutty" things in the mail. It was became a misdemeanor to sell, distribute or possess any "obscene" material in public, and that legislation had a chilling effect on most discussion of female sexuality, which was seen as shameful, a perversion or simply non-existent. (You don't need birth control if sex isn't a real thing!)
Radio was regulated as early as the 1920s, when a friend of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger (herself arrested in the early 1900s for advertising a birth control clinic in Brooklyn) named Olga Petrova went on the radio, read a Mother Goose rhyme (Specifically she read "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, She had so many children because she didn’t know what to do," which was a thinly veiled reference to the lack of birth control) and was kicked off the air because the radio's owner, Westinghouse, feared she'd use her platform to discuss birth control. HEAVENS!
Starting in the 1930s, movie studios, under Hollywood's chief censor, William Hays, the crustiest old bore of them all, enacted the most restrictive, Puritanical code of standards and practices since, maybe, the Old Testament. The Motion Picture Production Code also known as the Hays Act, restricted even the slightest suggestion of nudity, miscegenation, and "excessive or lustful kissing" in movies, which I can barely believe anyone even watched. Those rules were enforced well into the 1960s, when finally moviegoers were free to bask in the overt sexuality of... women's ankles.
In the '60s, TV censors even banned Mary Ann from "Gilligan's Island" and Jeannie from "I Dream of Jeannie," from exposing their belly buttons.
We've obviously come a ways since the days when words like "pregnancy" were banned on TV. (That was a real thing!) There's frank discussion of sex and sexuality (um, and a lot of images) on the Internet, obviously. But there are still lots of words you can't say on TV, and most of them have to do with words that refer to women's bodies. They're words that have negative connotations because, sadly, women's bodies have, historically, had negative, hyper-sexualized and overly regulated connotations (Um, see above?). It's a semantic taboo based on years of sexist double standards -- why are we allowed to see men shirtless but not women (except in New York City, where everyone is free to be topless!)?
Dude nipples are fine, but half of America had a meltdown when they saw Janet Jackson's nip for literally 1.1 second at the 2004 Super Bowl.
A guy can fill up your Instagram feed with shirtless gym pix, but Alyssa Milano posted a beautiful photo of her child breastfeeding, and people flipped fantastic.
Again, words and images associated with women's bodies are attached to shame and vulgarity, while, in general, similar body parts attached to men's bodies are not. Which is precisely the point of this week's episode of "Braless," by sex education Laci Green, who's trying to change that.
And so is comedian Amy Schumer, who recently convinced Comedy Central to allow her to say the word pu--- on her show "Inside Amy Schumer" by using the extremely logical explanation that the network (the same network that runs Viacom, which runs this site, too) allows di--, a slang word for penis, on the air, so why not pu---? Why is one set of genitals okay to refer to, but women's body parts are censored?
In her 2013 HBO comedy special "We Are Miracles," Sarah Silverman -- who ACTUALLY DARED TO USE THE WORD VAGINA when she hosted the 2007 Movie Awards and when she opened the 2007 VMAs with a joke about Britney Spears' vagina -- hilariously tried to take the tee-hee titillation out of the word pu--- by puffing out your cheeks when you say it. Try it. Like Sarah herself, it's magical.
OK, so maybe you're not comfortable using those words, and there's certainly a solid argument for that -- and that's certainly your choice. We're not here to tell you what to say or how to say it. We're just saying body parts are not inherently bad, wrong, dirty, or gross and pointing out that attaching a negative connotation to women's bodies is sad and sexist. So check out Laci's excellent video for a lesson on lexicon, penises, vaginas and double standards and a brief (and funny!) lesson on the double standard and negative associations women's bodies are held to. If nothing else, it's the perfect excuse to say the word pu--- for educational purposes!