There comes a time between a person and another person with a vagina when that vagina is going to need to be addressed. Out loud. Not in the clinical sense, but in the romantic or sexual sense. It seems some guys aren't sure how to proceed, at least according to one of their spokesmagazines. So let's help them out.

Over at Maxim, in a piece called "What to Call Her Lady Parts," we are given the premise, ostensibly a relatable one for many men, from author Cara Hessel, who writes:

Nothing ruins a romantic moment quite like the word "vagina." Fortunately, there are many, many alternative terms out there that can be deployed to better – in most cases - effect. You've got to know your audience to know which phrase to use, but there are a few hard and fast rules. For instance, never ask to "pet her kitty" if she does not, in fact, own a cat.

In an attempt to help you become a more cunning linguist (sorry), we've curated a list of euphemisms you can choose from. A word of warning: She'll probably hate whichever one you choose.

What follows is a list of alternatives:

  • Cooter
  • Clam
  • Beaver
  • Cooze
  • Vajayjay
  • Muff
  • C.U. Next Tuesday
  • Trim
  • Pussy
  • Snatch
  • Fanny
  • Box

A word of advice: She will hate whichever one you choose if you pick ANYTHING from this list except for "pussy." For advanced lovers, "cunt" is an option, but comes with caveats. More on that in a minute.

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Seriously: Why are there no good other words for vagina when it comes to sex times? There are a couple other options for penis: Dick. Cock. Both work just fine, and if cock is too much—as it surely is for certain men, according to an informal poll I conducted—it's not because anyone is going to think the woman is creepy.

Here's a theory: Too many vagina descriptors are in fact, creepy- or gross-sounding. Consider all the aforementioned, plus the ones we don't like to mention—the ones that involve food, gashes and slits. Hatchet wound, anyone? Gash? No? Didn't think so.

Meanwhile, the various words a woman could utter in place of "penis," if she felt like becoming an amateur erotica writer in the bedroom, are decidedly not creepy. Silly maybe, but not disgusting. They tend to celebrate the penis's girth, hardness and length. There's "hardness," "manhood," and even "member" and "staff"—both overused by romance novel standards, according to this roundup of sex euphemisms from SmutWriters. And it's not that there aren't dumb names for dicks: rod, for instance, is a real riot, as far as I'm concerned. Fifty Shades of Grey's Anastasia is fond of "his length," which is too vague to be satisfying. But these at least sound functional and not nasty, like "clam" or "beaver."

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But box, snatch, gash, clam, cooze, and for the love of all that's pH balanced, beaver—well, why not call it a stinky cylinder and call it a day?

Maybe it's that all this feels too co-opted by gross dudes, or co-opted in ways that sound too porny (though it's impossible to avoid pornified anything at this point, on some level, including pussy). Which is why the answer to this question—what to call your lady's vagina in a sexual or sexty scenario—is actually pretty simple.

I polled two groups: a handful of women and a handful of men in their late 20s or early to mid 30s, and asked them what they call a vagina or wish a vagina to be called in a sexual scenario. The conclusion was the same: Pussy. Cunt, depending.

Pussy

Pussy pussy pussy. I think it's kind of a silly word. I hate that it's used as a pejorative for weak men, as Hessel also notes in the Maxim piece, and I could rant about that forever. But as she says, it's been around for centuries. Of all the possible options—ye olde cavernous cavern, cul de sac, waterin' hole—pussy has had staying power for a reason. Probably because it's not vagina! It's pussy.

And it will outlast us all, like it or not, because it is the safest, most ubiquitous, most in-the-water term available that communicates a sexualized vagina. It's a workhorse of sex terms, because for most people most of the time it will get the job done. Those are reassuring odds, friend. Anyone who hates the term pussy—and I encountered both men and women who do—the burden is on them to let others know, same as if you're someone who dislikes handshakes. That's what pussy is at this point. A handshake.

Dudes Said These Things

The dudes I talked to said it was all very case-by-case to get with women and have to decide what to call that woman's vagina. If the girlfriend had a preference, they would go with it, assuming it wasn't too ridiculous. However, some of them were ridiculous, like "delicate flower," or, in one extreme case, "butterfly," because of that Crazy Town song (WTF, women). They all said that generally, girlfriends had "playful, nonsexual words (chooch, hoo-ha)" for their vaginas in non-bonin' scenarios, but for sex, pussy it was. Apparently, honeypot is a thing people call a vagina, but I would like to never meet those people.

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One note: The men I spoke with said a little guidance would not hurt in the slightest, and that any reasonable man would appreciate it. One said, "On the third date, it'd be super helpful if a woman said, 'So this is what we're going to call my vagina.'"

Women Told Me These Things

The women felt, across the board, that "pussy," imperfect though it is, is the default. Everything was else was too gross, and too porny. Though one woman said pussy felt "Straight outta Playboy 1975," it was still the best choice out there. Ultimately, they felt there was no good word, really. And when we tried to think of unique alternatives, they were terrible.

  • Crotch boob
  • Tiger (sexy cat?)
  • Opening
  • Core
  • Innermost
  • Bagel
  • Dim sum
  • Delicious hamburger

One woman realized she'd been "poisoned by romance novels." Another was just really hungry.

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Here's a thought: The women I polled appreciated when men did what you might call a "pussy workaround." In other words, don't refer to it directly. Just do stuff that feels good and/or dodge the descriptor. Rather than say "Your muff is so wet," one woman advised, simply say "You're so wet."

On a sadder note, we agreed that it does "mean something" that there is no good word. "It means we aren't proud of it," one woman lamented.

So, pussy.

"'Vagina' isn't sexy," said one woman. "And 'cunt' is hostile sometimes."

"I would shout 'cunt' from the mountaintops before I ever said 'flower,'" said another.

Oh yes, back to cunt caveats.

Cunt

Pussy is the winner, but cunt is the wild card. Cunt is extremely execution-dependent. It should not be attempted by amateurs. All women polled agreed that cunt should only be used by a seasoned linguist who understood the boldness with which it should be undertaken—unless, one added, Clive Owen is doing the saying.

"He could say and get away with it. Few others."

If all else fails, you could just ask your lady what she prefers, but this is better done in advance. Stopping the proceedings mid-moment (e.g., I can't wait to slide my member into your — oh hey, what do you want me to call your vagina?) is not exactly going to lube that hole.

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Oh, and one last thing: It's clit. Not clitoris. Not like, a bean or whatever. Clit.

Illustration by Jim Cooke.