Too embarrassed to say the word ‘vagina’? Trust doctor says we still have Victorian values when it comes to talking about our privates

“Our openness about sex and genitals in this country verges on Victorian at times and is way behind other, more progressive European countries” says Dr Laura Waters, Consultant at CNWL Trust’s Mortimer Market Clinic - a sexual health centre based in central London.

Her comments come as a new report by the charity Ovarian Cancer Action revealed that two thirds of young women said they’d be embarrassed to say the word ‘vagina’ or ‘orgasm’ to their doctor. The survey of 1,000 women also found that those aged between 18 and 24 were four times less likely to go to their doctor about a sexual health issue than women aged between 55-64; giving rise to worries that serious gynaecological problems are going undetected.

Dr Waters adds: “This story is disappointing but not surprising. Encouraging confidence starts in childhood but there is no standardised sex education programme in this country – schools are required to have a programme but the content is pretty much left to them to decide; different names for genitalia and how to talk about them are not necessarily part of that. We need standardised, compulsory, relevant and age-appropriate sex education and more media coverage to de-stigmatise talking about sex and genitals and to ensure people feel confident to report symptoms, sexual problems and any concerns they have. GPs are experienced in sexual health and their services are completely confidential but anyone who still cannot face telling their GP can also attend any sexual health clinic, anywhere in the country for advice.”


CNWL NHS Foundation Trust provides sexual health and HIV services, including STI testing and treatment (GUM), contraception, and HIV testing, treatment, and care. Our three main sexual health centres are the Mortimer Market Centre, Archway Centre and the Margaret Pyke Centre.