While the world has come to terms with mentioning "vagina" or "penis" in polite conversation, the "C" word remains an enigma with the power to evoke a powerful emotional response.
Honestly, say it at a dinner party and watch the reaction!
I would have been in my mid 20s when I first heard the "C" word and having read that it was a misogynistic term which no woman (or man) deserved to be labelled, I disliked the word for years. But what I really disliked was the way that part of my anatomy was used in a nasty way to reduce someone to a mere body part.
And of course there's the linguistic gender imbalance - there's no male equivalent! Calling someone a "dick" doesn't evoke the same reaction.
Wikipedia describes cunt as a "vulgar term for female genitalia" and a "term of disparagement for women".
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a "term of vulgar abuse" whilst Urban dictionary states it's a "synonym for a woman's genitalia" and a "derogatory term for a woman". Francis Grose's "Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" published in 1785 defined it as "a nasty name for a nasty thing". It's sometimes used as a general expletive to show frustration, eg. "I've had a cunt of a day!" Funnily enough the only countries to make light of the term that we could find were Australia where "he's a funny cunt" actually conveys a less negative tone and Ireland where they say it in an almost playful fashion. The Irish even have a word "Cunteen" which is a variation for a young person deemed a "Cunt".
The Origin of the "C" word
Most scholars consider the word to have originated from a Germanic word (Proto-Germanic *kuntō, stem *kuntōn-), which appeared as kunta in Old Norse. Relationships to similar sounding words such as the Latin "cunnus" (meaning vulva) are also suggested. Even the Anglo-Saxon word "cunnan" (to know) might be the origin of cunt: "Abraham ‘knew’ his wife. Where? In her cunt."
In ancient Egypt an earlier form of the word was used as a synonym for woman and "kunta" means woman in several African languages. The word cunt is found in goddess names such as the Indian goddess Kunt and Barbara Walker traced it to the Oriental Great Goddess as "Cunti" or Kundra, the Yoni [Sanskrit for cunt] of the Universe. Cuneiform, the most ancient form of writing, derives from “kunta” meaning “female genitalia” in Sumerian of ancient Iraq. And the prefix "cu" has been deemed “quintessentially feminine” and pre-dates written language. Honestly you could write a whole blog post just on this alone, it's fascinating.
The "C" word was brought to England by the Anglo-Saxons, not as an obscenity but as a factual name for female genitals. The origin of the word "vagina" dates back to 1680 and from the Latin means a sheath in which to thrust a sword. Whereas a "cunt" was celebrated as a giver of pleasure. In fact it's the only word in the English language which refers to the entire female genitalia including the clitoris so it encompasses the pleasure aspect - rather than just being something entered forcefully with an erection.
The "C" word wasn't taboo in the middle-ages but it became taboo by the late 18th century and then didn't appear in print until the second half of the 20th century. The word first appeared around 1230 where a street in London's red light district - where it was common for streets to be named after the good available for sale - was called Gropecunt Lane. By the 17th century it was used to describe a sexually active woman and also a softer version of the word "cunny" came into use. The "C" word was first used to describe a vile person around 1860 and terms such as "cunt-sucker" a person who performs cunnilingus and "cunt struck" if exceedingly horny were used. By the early 20th century language taboos shifted from religious profanity to sexual vulgarity and it was around this time it began to be used as an insult. It was added to Webster's Dictionary in 1961 and Oxford English Dictionary in 1972. Curiously in 1967 moustaches were sometimes called "cunt ticklers" and who didn't get "cunt faced" if you partied in the 1980s.
In a 2000 BBC study of the most offensive words, it ranked #1 ahead of motherfucker and fuck.
The "C" Word in Literature, Music & Film
Literature is sprinkled with the "C" word and everyone from Chaucer to Shakespeare, James Joyce to DH Lawrence used it. In fact DH Lawrence included it 14 times in his risque novel Lady Chatterley's Lover which was subsequently used as evidence in his obscenity trial in 1960.
The 1971 film Carnal Knowledge popped the "C" word's cinema cherry when Jack Nicholson said "Is this an ultimatum? Answer me, you ball-busting, castrating, son of a cunt bitch!" And probably the most infamous use of the word - at a grand total of 35 times - was Peter Cook & Dudley Moore in their infamous Derek & Clive dialogues.
Closer to home Rodney Rude frequently said it in his acts, even referring to his audience as "cunts" which resulted in him being arrested in QLD & WA for breaching obscenity laws. And Kevin Bloody Wilson wasn't shy about including it in his song "You Can't Say Cunt in Canada".
I can remember going to see The Vagina Monologues in Sydney. One of the monologues was entitled "Reclaiming Cunt", a piece narrated by a woman who shares that the "C" word itself is lovely despite its disturbing implications.
In the 1970s as the punk movement grew Ian Dury screamed the "C" word, closely followed by the Sex Pistols who snuck it into a song which reached the UK Top 10. But in these songs the term wasn't being used in a derogative fashion - it was just another expletive. Then in 1979 Marianne Faithfull recorded a song about a woman confronting her unfaithful lover and screamed "every time I see your dick I see her cunt in my bed". Apparently workers at the Australian EMI plant where the record was pressed were so upset by the song that they staged a walkout and the track wasn't re-released in Australia until 1988.
Recently Rihanna and Nicki Minaj have used the word in a more positive way that raises a provocative question: Are we witnessing the beginning of a new cunt-positive era in pop music?
Why does the "C" word Remain Taboo?
So from luscious origins the "C" word has evolved to become synonymous with hate and misogyny.
"Cunt is one of the few remaining words in the English
language with a genuine power to shock." ~ Germaine Greer
Some linguists believe it's the sound that contributes to the force in which it's said. Many taboo Anglo-Saxon words have monosyllables with short vowels, eg. shit, piss, fuck, and cock which are considered more offensive than words of the same meaning, like willy, pussy or pee.
Do we lay blame with Marianne Faithful for popularising the "C" word in a negative way? Are we all partly to blame because "fuck" - once a taboo - became acceptable and we sought another word with shock value? Do we blame feminism who fought to remove words like "bitch" and "cunt" but whose militarism may have been the very thing which reinforced the hysteria that women (and their genitals) were to be feared.
In a 2006 segment on BBC TV's Balderdash and Piffle, Germaine Greer proposed that the condemnation of “cunt” was an inevitability in a patriarchal culture with a fear of female desire. “For hundreds of years, men identified female sexual energy as a dangerous force,” she noted. “And unlike other words for female genitals, this one sounds powerful. It demands to be taken seriously.”
Embrace your "Cuntspeak"
Now that you are armed with the knowledge of the "C" word's beautiful origins, it's time to embrace your cunt. If you're the proud owner of a cunt embrace it and if you are a lover of cunts then treat them with the respect and wonder they deserve.
Cunts are givers of pleasure and bring life into the world. Each is as unique as a snowflake and science is still learning all of their secrets.
Personally I intend to embrace "Cuntspeak". You know when people tell you to listen to your gut? Well I've decided I'm going to listen to my cunt. Jane Caputi explained it beautifully but basically it's speaking to the source. Female oracles in ancient Greece were known as "belly talkers" and through them petitioners could hear the voice of the earth. So my take on this is being more grounded with nature, with my femaleness and with my cunt. I can visualise it using the breathing exercises I learnt in Tantra. I'm certainly going to add it to my meditation routine from now on.
I also intend to embrace my "cunctipotence" which is basically my cunt-magic. And no, it's not some feminist rant. Baubo, an Egyptian and Greek goddess of myrth and female power was described as being cunctipotent. She would apparently lift her dress and flash those who were depressed, thereby giving the receiver a good laugh and a good view. My interpretation is using my sexuality for good not evil or at least being more grounded and present during my sexual encounters.
Your cunt gives you pleasure and can give pleasure as well so embrace your cunt-magic and don't let anyone take away your magical powers.