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The Body Parts That Must Not Be Named

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"...he put his boy's thingy in mine and we HAD SEX."
Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way, My Immortal

This trope is when it's not only considered Not Safe for Work/kids/etc to show the genitals, but to say the words for them too.

The exact levels of censorship vary: sometimes, only technical terms like "penis", "scrotum", "vagina", and "vulva" are censored, while casual terms like "willy" and "vajayjay" are allowed. On the other hand, sometimes, clinical terms are allowed while slang terms aren't. Sometimes, no words that actually mean the genitals are allowed, so euphemisms such as "down there" and "you-know-what" are said instead. Sometimes, writers just make euphemisms up.

When this trope is in play, it may also extend to the inner reproductive anatomy, such as the uterus and prostate, but not always.

Many kids' shows are not allowed to say the words, not even in child-friendly contexts, unless it's meant to be educational, and sometimes not even then. In fact, this trope is often why works which try to teach about "good and bad touches" end up being clumsily-written.

Some "Nannybots" meant to censor online profanity will censor anatomical words as well, which may lead to the Scunthorpe Problem.

However, this trope isn't limited to child-friendly works: some M-rated works censor anatomical words too, even though their target audience is usually way too old for that to be a problem. Heck, even Hentai uses this trope sometimes.

It must be noted that this isn't any instance of the use of euphemisms or words like "wiener". Sometimes, euphemisms and slang might be played solely for comedy, and the use of euphemisms might be just appropriate dialogue for a character who's a prude. Ditto for slang and characters who tend to use it in general. Signs that it is this trope include:

  • The work does not have an Everyone Rating.
  • Alternatively, the work does have an Everyone rating, but the censorship is for a word in a non-sexual situation, e.g. "I hurt my penis."
  • The work mentions sex, contains profanity, deals with heavy topics, or even a combination.
  • A translation of a work removes or changes a non-profane word for the genitals.
  • A work or scene had to be removed or edited solely due to featuring an anatomical word.
  • The euphemism or whatever sounds unnatural and it would make more sense to just say the word and this unnatural effect doesn't make sense in-universe.
  • A character who otherwise speaks in an notably rough manner still uses euphemisms for anything involving sexual anatomy, except when this is used as characterisation (e.g. to hint that he's a "closet prude".)

A subtrope of Bowdlerize if the prohibition on terms comes from an external source (probably Moral Guardians). Compare Nipple and Dimed and Never Say "Die" for other taboos. Also compare Sexual Euphemism for ways of avoiding saying what you might do with those bathing suit parts. For extra fun, may be combined with IKEA Erotica.

See also I Call Him "Mister Happy", when the body parts in question are nicknamed. Distant cousin to Meet My Good Friends Lefty and Righty, which is about non-sexual body parts.

Despite the name similarity, The Disease That Shall Not Be Named is only partially related to this trope because censorship is only one reason that the disease shall not be named. See Speak of the Devil and The Scottish Trope for other things some people want to avoid naming.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Though Ayakashi Triangle has loads of graphic nudity and suggestive situation, dialogue never mentions genitals by name, even when they're being discussed (mostly in relation to Matsuri's Gender Bender). In the most extreme case, Matsuri describes his transformation to Haya, including an anecdote about peeing with his new body, but his language is no more specific than having "lost an essential part of me down there".
    Suzu: (heart-eyed) His essential part...
    Shirogane: Stop trying to picture it in your mind!
  • In Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Kobayashi turns into a man and she and Tohru always refer to her penis as "that", "one of those", or, in some unofficial translations, a "thingy".
  • In Sailor Moon, Sailor Star Maker has an attack called "Star Gentle Uterus". The first English translation of the manga renamed it "Star Gentle Creator".
  • Shimoneta features an exaggerated In-Universe example. In a near-future Japan where everything that is "immoral", from pornography to talking about anything related to sex or genitals — including dirty jokes — has been made illegal, everyone has to use highly sanitized euphemisms... except for the perverted terrorist "Blue Snow", who revels in flouting the law by dressing up in nothing but a blanket on her body and a panty as a makeshift mask and publicly spouting the most explicit vulgarities and sexual jokes ever invented by man (though those are censored for the audience's "benefit").

    Comic Books 
  • In the early days of Vertigo Comics, DC Comics was squeamish about rude language, so halfway through The Sandman (1989), Neil Gaiman was forced to write dialogue between adults about men thinking with their "dorks". This is averted by the audio drama adaptation in which the word "dicks" is actually used in that conversation.
  • In issue 54 of the Futurama comic book, Bender complains that he can see Leela's "logic board" when he sees her naked.

    Comic Strips 

  • In My Immortal, an infamously bad Harry Potter fanfiction, there are multiple sex scenes in addition to swear words, suicide, and even Satanism, and the narrator Ebony is obviously not a prude, yet she still describes the genitals with words such as "boys' thingy", "thingy", "you-know-what", and even "Spock".
  • In the Kingdom Hearts fanfiction Those Lacking Spines, the three protagonists Vexen, Lexaeus, and Xaldin travel to different worlds seeking to get rid of the Semes of their Uke-fied friends. With the exception of Larxene, the Semes have taken the friends' testicles, which are only as the " know". The penis also is mentioned once and is called the "that".
  • Papa Smurf has a talk with Smurfette about sex in an Empath: The Luckiest Smurf mini-story, where, more for the sake of the audience than for her ears, he refers to genitalia as "boy parts" and "girl parts".
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Makeover," Mittens agrees to a tryst with Bolt, but tells him he needs to have his "doggy lipstick" (a slang term for canine penis) all ready to go when they get together later. The dog misunderstands and decides to give himself a full (and hideous) facial makeover to fulfill the request.
  • With Pearl and Ruby Glowing is a fanfic focusing on a rape support group and is M-Rated, but the series rarely uses anatomical names, with terms such as "private parts" and "special place" being used instead, at least when children talk about it. Depictions of the assaults tend to fade to black or be described vaguely in general. Averted at one point when Lisa Loud has to explicitly say "penis" to get the other little kids to understand what she's talking about.

    Film — Animated 
  • Heavy Metal: When Den appears on the planet Neverwhere in his new body, he's naked and covers himself with a cloth, narrating that there was no way he was going to walk around with his "dork" hanging out.
  • In The Rugrats Movie, Didi is pregnant with Tommy's younger brother Dil, but they don't know what the sex is yet. The doctor thought it might be a girl, but Charlotte starts a rhyme "Born under Venus, look for a—" but her phone rings before she could say the last word.
  • In Turning Red, Ming uses a flower metaphor to discuss menstrual hygiene with Mei. Ming says Mei "must protect [her] delicate petals and clean them regularly". Later she is interrupted by Mei as she is describing the purpose of giving her herbal tea.
    Ming: For cramps. It helps relax your...
    Mei: I got it! Thank you! Bye!

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me. When Dr. Evil flies his phallic-shaped rocket, everybody on the ground describes it as "looking like a..." only to be cut off with the scene changing to another person saying a synonym for penis in an unrelated context.
  • In Too Smart For Strangers With Winnie the Pooh, Pooh calls genitals "bathing suit parts".
  • In High Anxiety, Dr. Thorndyke is giving a lecture on genitalia to a room of psychologists when he notices a colleague's two small daughters are in the audience, causing him to awkwardly improvise with childish euphemisms instead. He waxes eloquent on the subject of "peepee envy" as opposed to a woman's "balloons" and "where the babies come out, the woo woo." Even the other doctors go along with this, one asking a question about the developmental effects of toilet training: "Are you referring to number one, or cocky-doodie?"

  • In The Dresden Files novel Blood Rites, Harry is on the phone with his best friend and cop, Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, updating her about the client he's been hired to work for, who happens to be a porn mogul. At this point in the series, Harry has not gotten over his chivalrous streak, so when he has to tell Murphy about the porn mogul's propensity for using women with natural breasts instead of those with fake breasts, he stumbles on how to convey it to her without actually saying the word. Murphy then gleefully fires off as many synonyms for breasts as she can until Harry is a blushing, flustered mess and begs her to stop it. She then calls him "cute" and they move on with the conversation.
  • In Gulliver's Travels, the private parts are referred to as "the parts that nature taught us to conceal".
  • The children's book Its OK To Say No meant to teach kids about how to be safe from molesters, has several stories about kids saying no, a few of which directly involve touching, but the wording is vague, with phrases such as "touched him/her in a way that made him/her feel very uncomfortable".
  • In Little Zizi, the boy Martin's penis is always referred to by the euphemism "zizi".
  • Played for Laughs in Twig. The main characters discuss why an enormous Single Specimen Species male warbeast several storeys tall would need similarly gargantuan penis, of all things. With one character being one character being polite, one being embarrassed, and the last being an outright troll, they dance around the topic with euphemisms going from "well-bestowed" to "homewrecker" to "slumbering dragon".
  • Wicked: 9-year old Nor tells her mother that her two brothers forced Liir (who unknowingly is their half-brother) to pull down his pants and show him his "thing" in order to prove he isn't green like his mother Elphaba.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI-verse:
    • Averted in a CSI episode involving transvestite & transgender showgirls. Greg tells Gil, "For the record, I like having a penis." Gil just gives him a *look*. Also in one where Catherine enlarges and examines some autopsy photos by herself instead of including Nick & Sara who are working the case with her. She justifies this to Sara by saying the whole lab didn't need to see the girl's vagina. Sara, miffed, retorts, "So, Nick & I are the whole lab now?"
    • In both the backdoor pilot for NY, CSI: Miami 's, "MIA/NYC Nonstop," and CSI: NY 's "Uncertainly Rules" from season 6, references are made to a candle being blown out.
    • In another NY episode, When Danny tells Mac about the results of some evidence found "on the victim's [whistles instead of saying penis]", Mac kinda grins at him.
  • Subverted and parodied in Dharma & Greg: Greg sprains a muscle in his upper leg, and when Kitty doesn't want to use the word "groin" when describing the injury, Dharma says, "What should I call it? The muscle near his PENIS?"
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: In episode "Wet", a woman's body is found on a fountain. Benson takes for granted that all evidence has been washed away. The CSU technician informs her that all external evidence on the woman's body is gone but she was able to find blood and semen in the victim's vagina, or rather, her "hoochie-hoo". A speechless Benson stares at the tech, who apologizes: "Sorry, I sometimes forget they're people."
  • On MADtv (1995) the favorite nickname for Stuart Larkin is the "Danger Zone".
  • In three episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus, the show used the phrase "naughty bits" due to censorship.
  • While all the Star Trek series have said the word "sex" and dealt with sexual things, they still censor words for genitals, although the phrase "sexual organs" has been said at least once.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Data the android has male genitalia, and whenever that fact is brought to light, the phrases "fully functional" and "anatomically correct" are used. In "Datalore", Riker sounds pretty awkward when asking Data if his "brother" Lore has all his parts, implying that he's wondering if Lore has a penis. In "The Naked Now", Data hears a limerick from a person infected with a virus that makes the infected lose their inhibitions and repeats part of it to Picard: "There was a young lady from Venus, whose body was shaped like a...", but Picard interrupts him before he can say the last word.
    • Star Trek: Voyager
      • In "Message in a Bottle", the holographic doctor meets another one and mentions that he's had sex before. The other hologram says, "Sex?! How is that possible?! We aren't equipped with a—" but is cut off by the Doctor bragging, "Let's just say I made an addition to my program."
      • In "State of Flux", Neelix describes some poisoning symptoms that include a stabbing pain that starts at your knees and works its way up to the—
        Chakotay: [interrupting] I think we get the picture.
  • Elliot in Scrubs is an in-universe example, unable to use the correct terms for genitalia. Especially noticeable since she's a doctor, and has to deal with/talk about those body parts more than the average person as part of her job.


    Web Original 
  • On CHYOA, a collaborative erotica website, author introductions take the form of answering preset questions- questions such as "My favorite word for penis is..."
  • The chrome extension Swearing Substitution is meant to replace swear words with other words when they crop up, but it censors all words for genitalia, even technical ones, into "reproductive body part".
  • The chrome extension Web Censor censors swear words, but also some anatomical words. The weird thing is, it doesn't censor "penis" or "vulva", but it does censor "scrotum" and "vagina".
  • ContraPoints played this for laughs by referring to a vagina as a "sacred passage."

    Western Animation 
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Guru" has Aang learning of chakras from Guru Pathik. All of them are associated with specific bodily location, except the "water chakra", which is associated with pleasure—because its traditional equivalent is located in the reproductive organs and specifically associated with sexual pleasure.
  • The Simpsons: Parodied in "This Little Wiggy". Ralph calls for help when Marge lays a hand on his "special area", by which he means his shoulder, implying that he was taught what to do in case someone tried to molest him and misinterpreted what "special area" was referring to because of his naivety and the vague choice of words.

    Real Life 
  • In Victorian times, people called the genitals (as well as the underwear) the "unmentionables".
  • Some parents feel emotionally uncomfortable naming the genitals when discussing anatomy with their young children (especially girls) so they make up a name or try to avoid the topic. Most professionals recommend teaching children the proper names: it makes discussing them feel more normal and makes the kid able to communicate more clearly if they get sexually abused or if their genitals have been injured.
  • The phrase "white meat" comes from the Victorian times. Victorians would refer to different parts of a cooked chicken as "white meat" and "dark meat" to avoid using the words "breast" and "thigh" (which wouldn't be considered rude words today, especially the latter, but values were different then).
  • US politician Lisa Brown once got in legal trouble for saying the word "vagina" on television... even though she was talking about abortion.


Video Example(s):


Ralph Wiggum's "Special Area"

'The Simpsons' provides an in-universe example: Ralph isn't told what parts people aren't allowed to touch-- they've just used the phrase "special area", which he thinks is his shoulder. Then, Marge touches his shoulder...

How well does it match the trope?

3.4 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheBodyPartsThatMustNotBeNamed

Media sources: