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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).There have been attempts, however, to reappropriate 'cunt', investing it with a positive meaning and removing it from the lexicon of offence, similar in effect to the transvaluation of 'bad', 'sick', and 'wicked', whose colloquial meanings have also been changed from negative to positive - what Jonathon Green calls "the bad equals good model" of oppositional slang (Jennifer Higgie, 1998).The same process took place in Mexico when the offensive term 'guey'/'buey' was "co-opted by the cool, young set as a term of endearment" (Marc Lacey, 2009).The word has since become increasingly prolific in the media, and its appearances can broadly be divided into two types: euphemism and repetition.Humorous, euphemistic references to 'cunt', punning on the word without actually using it in full, represent an attempt to undermine our taboo against it: by laughing at our inability to utter the word, we recognise the arcane nature of the taboo and begin to challenge it.

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According to Francis Grose's scurrilous definition, it is "a nasty name for a nasty thing" (1796).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).William Shakespeare, writing at the cusp of the Reformation, demonstrated the reduced potency of blasphemy and, with his thinly veiled 'cunt' puns, slyly circumvented the newfound intolerance towards sexual language.Later, John Wilmot would remove the veil altogether, writing "some of the filthiest verses composed in English" (David Ward, 2003) with an astonishingly uninhibited sexual frankness and a blatant disregard for the prevailing Puritanism.

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