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Censorship of both the word 'cunt' and the organ to which it refers is symptomatic of a general fear of - and disgust for - the vagina itself.
The most literal manifestation of this fear is the myth of the 'vagina dentata', symbolising the male fear that the vagina is a tool of castration (the femme castratrice, a more specific manifestation of the Film Noir femme fatale).
It can also be used as an adjective (to describe a foolish person), a verb (meaning both to physically abuse someone and to call a woman a cunt), and an exclamation (to signify frustration).
Despite its semantic flexibility, however, 'cunt' remains our highest linguistic taboo: "It has yet, if ever, to return to grace" (Jonathon Green, 2010).
Kate Millett sums up the word's uniquely despised status: "Somehow every indignity the female suffers ultimately comes to be symbolized in a sexuality that is held to be her responsibility, her shame [...] It can be summarized in one four-letter word. Our self-contempt originates in this: in knowing we are cunt" (1973).What 'cunt' has in common with most other contemporary swear words is its connection to bodily functions.Genital, scatological, and sexual terms (such as, respectively, 'cunt', 'shit', and 'fuck') are our most powerful taboos, though this was not always the case.When used in a reductive, abusive context, female genital terms such as 'cunt' are notably more offensive than male equivalents such as 'dick'.
This linguistic inequality is mirrored by a cultural imbalance that sees images of the vagina obliterated from contemporary visual culture: "The vagina, according to many feminist writers, is so taboo as to be virtually invisible in Western culture" (Lynn Holden, 2000).
To us it means, on the one hand, 'sacred', 'consecrated', and on the other 'uncanny', 'dangerous', 'forbidden', 'unclean'" (1912).