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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).
Social taboos originally related to religion and ritual, and Philip Thody contrasts our contemporary bodily taboos with the ritual taboos of tribal cultures: "In our society, that of the industrialised West, the word 'taboo' has lost almost all its magical and religious associations" (1997).
In , Sigmund Freud's classic two-fold definition of 'taboo' encompasses both the sacred and the profane, both religion and defilement: "The meaning of 'taboo', as we see it, diverges in two contrary directions.
The Cunt-Art movement used traditional 'feminine' arenas such as sewing and cheerleading as artistic contexts in which to relocate the word.
A parallel 'cunt-power' ideology, seeking to reclaim the word more forcefully, was instigated by Germaine Greer - and later revived by Zoe Williams, who encouraged "Cunt Warriors" to reclaim the word (2006), the latest of the "various attempts over several hundred years of usage to "resignify" cunt to resume its original, feminine-anatomical status" (Jacqueline Z Wilson, 2008[b]).
What 'cunt' has in common with most other contemporary swear words is its connection to bodily functions.