Going Public About Privates

Laura’s Team Pick

What comes to mind when you think of spirituality? That was the invitation sent out to writers who would be contributing to freq.uenci.es, a “collective genealogy of spirituality” (you can let me know if you figure out what that means). I like the take on This American Life and I appreciate the ode to procrastination, but I love that some guy decided to write about pubic hair. If the questions in Riese’s formspring inbox are any indication, I’m not the only one confused and delighted by its existence. Why is it there? What do you do with it? Should specialized dyes really exist? Luckily Mr. Roger Friedland decided to take my questions seriously and examine the disappearance of pubic hair. Whether you’re interested in Emile Durkheim or Playboy bunnies, he’s got you covered (that’s almost a pun).

In Rome a vagina is una fica, a term deriving from the fig, a great thing, a delightful gift, a ribboned fruit. Among young Romans, the expression fica is a way to convey something extraordinarily good, akin to “cool.” They even make it into a superlative—fichissimo, meaning that something is the “cuntest” and very good indeed. Una fica is not only a sexually attractive woman, it is anything worthy of possession or experience. Imagine an American guy saying: “Wow, that is so vagina!” You can’t.


Before you go! Did you like what you just read? We keep Autostraddle majority free-to-read, but it isn't free to create! And yet most readers don't support this indie queer site. Will you be one of the people who do? A+ membership starts at just $4/month or $30/year and they literally keep us from closing. Will you join? Cancel anytime.

Join A+


Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


  1. That is so awesome and so weird at the same time in terms of language/cultural shift. The Latin word for vagina is Pudenda, which literally means “something to be ashamed of.” I have forgotten the word for penis but, of course, it means “something to be proud of.”

    • it’s penis,the latin word for penis is penis.

      there are two good things about this reply:
      1. 5 years of latin finally paid off.
      2. I probably just set a record for writing penis three times in just one sentence.

      • Awesome. That’s probably why I didn’t remember actually…

        Also point two made me laugh, thereby startling my girlfriend and the sleeping cat. Hmmm, do I get some sort of lesbian prize for this?

          • I love how much Latin discussion is going on right now! You can keep your gay membership card for taking 5 years of Latin and making this happen. (I’ve got 5 years of Latin too so now it’s a gay thing.)

          • Totallly! You guys are gayer than me in that respect because I only did four, and then literally not a month after I dropped the class I started dating a boy!

    • actually ‘pudenda’ is gerundive (and plural) so in latin it’s stronger than ‘things that should be ashamed of’; it’s ‘things that MUST be ashamed of’.

      ^ this is the most obscure thing i have ever written on the internet but gerundives are sexy, so.

      • Fellow gerundive lover here. Since gerundives can also be a let’s verb thing, at first I translated it as ‘let’s vagina!’ and then realized that was incorrect… as much as I wish it wasn’t.

      • I have always enjoyed that about vagina, mostly because it allows some truly awful vulgar metaphors. Though actually if that’s what penis means then it can’t be the counterpart to Pudenda. That is going to drive me insane.

          • No no but there is one! It means something to be proud of! They’re a pair!

            And I have been trying to make a penis counterpart joke here for about five minutes but I can’t think of a not terrible one. Sad.

          • ‘mentula’ was used for penis in some latin poetry as a more casual word, and it either means ‘little mind’ or ‘spearmint twig’ depending on which embittered academic you believe. make of that what you will, fellow ladyboffers.

            anon, i don’t know anything about the noah’s ark male equivalent for ‘pudenda’ but i don’t think there’s really a concept of ‘being proud’ or ‘feeling proud’ in a positive sense in latin. only ‘superbus’, which really means proud in the sense of arrogance or something pejorative….

      • Yeah. Roman scabbards were actually called vaginas. Seriously! But then vagina didn’t actually mean vagina in the Classical Roman period: it meant uterus.

        I think when people say ‘vagina’ here they actually mean ‘vulva’? If so, the Roman word for that was ‘cunnus’.

  2. Related? I guess. Whatever, I am extraordinarily lucky to be part of a band of hardcore femmes who gleefully refer to themselves, their style, and the delightful nuanced details of embodying and expressing femme as “cunty”. It’s tops!

  3. The fact that this is even a thing scares me.

    Now all I can think about is my snatch – not a good thing.

    When all I want to do is think about other people’s snatches.

    And that scares me too.

    Then that just makes me wonder about my snatch again. I don’t know. Just all the things – snatches, vaginas, cunts rushing into the room. Eh, and that’s probably a good thing.

  4. ..also you can say FIGA or FIGO reffering to a hot girl or a hot guy. You need to say FIGO!/FICO! if you mean COOL! but you may say as well… giving you all pudenda-italian lessons is UNA FIGATA!
    Moreover, speaking of latin, you have to know that your pudenda are hidden by your mutanda, which means “things to be changed”
    Baci from Italy

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!