God Save The Queef: The Cultural Origin and History of Vaginal Flatulence

Unknown-1uring a late night conversation with a Spanish-speaking friend, I learned that there is no Spanish word for ‘queef’.  A queef, “the sound of air escaping from the vagina during or after intercourse” (Morton, 183), is slang for vaginal flatulence.  Since, “queefing is totally normal”, as Roshini Rajapksa notes (84), it has to be a common occurrence in women’s sex lives.  After prompting my friend for a possible explanation, she confirmed that the Spanish language’s lack of a word for ‘queef’ is because “they don’t need to talk about it”.

Why is much of the world repressing a natural, harmless waft of air?

This suppression of a biological component to sexuality has had me thinking about the origin, history and cultural significance of queefing ever since.  I must get to the bottom on this!

images-2The word ‘queef’, also known as a vart, pussy fart, vaginal noise, and an Air Jordan, originates in Scotland and England as far back as 1617, when it meant, “an inhalation of tobacco smoke” or “a puff” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2012).  Interestingly, by 1686, although less frequently than the previous definition, ‘quiffing’ meant, “sexual intercourse, esp. had with or by a prostitute” (Oxford English Dictionary).  Ah Ha!  These definitions of the word, then, make up our current, slang term for vaginal flatulence.  Although, the meaning of ‘queef’ has changed slightly throughout 400 years—in the 1880’s, it meant an unorthodox trick, and in the 1890’s it was a popular hairstyle—from 1923 on, ‘queef’ has been relatively derogatory towards women.

The current, derogatory status of the word is baffling to me.  In attempts to find queefing in a positive light, I embarked on a mission to find as much information as I could about today’s queef.  My favorite modern day representation of the queef is queef painting. http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=805_1342904836>
These French artists really showcase the queef in a positive, more beautiful light!  Queef art takes the queef away from being an accident, and moves it towards high culture and fine art (fine vart?).

images-1On a different note, the laughing in the Queef art video is almost impossible to overlook.  Although the queef is likened to fine art, I would be doing it a disservice if I didn’t discuss its comedic qualities.  Like its cousins, the fart and the burp, the queef is a bodily function that makes people laugh.  Now, farts and burps make people feel uncomfortable because of odors, which is why they’re funny.  The queef, on the other hand, is funny because of its surprise effect.  Out of the control of both people involved, the queef is a sneaky mouse that hibernates, grows, and multiplies until it can’t hide in the hole any longer.  Just when a couple is in a deep state of pleasure, gazing into each other’s eyes… insert preferred noise here… a squeaky, little creature scurries about.  The change in atmosphere and emotions is comical.  It just is!  Although it currently has a stigma attached to it, the queef is a bridge that connects passion and humour, which are two essential pieces to relationships.  The queef is a cultural chameleon; it is a work of art, a comedian, a biological occurrence, and a dynamic taboo!  Artsy, funny, smart, yet edgy?  Sounds like the perfect date!

queefWhile this is all peachy, unfortunately, a vast majority of what I have been finding about queefing is negative.  Questions like, “How can I stop myself from queefing?”, or “why a I queefing? This is so embarrassing!”, have been abundant in my research.  But why!?  Sure, it started off in a negative light, but what happened to the feminist strategy of reclaiming words?  Feminists have already done some reclamation of “bitch” and “cunt”, why not ‘queef’?  If you ask me, I think it is more about manners.  The vagina can’t talk, so maybe a queef is just a vagina’s way of saying thank-you!  I mean, you wouldn’t sit down at your grandmother’s dinner table, go to town on all of her delicious goods, get so stuffed that you can possibly take anymore, and not express your utmost appreciation, would you?  Of course not!  Putting all of this together, it seems only logical that the meaning of queef should evolve from an embarrassment, into a simple expression of gratitude.  “Could you pass the mashed potatoes please?”, “Queef you!”.

That settles it then.  A queef is not unorthodox, impolite, or crude; it upholds a vaginal tradition, and it is an expression of gratitude.  Doesn’t that make it moral?  Or honorable?  The Victorians should have been proud of a little queef!  It all goes with that old saying, “every time a vagina queefs, an angel get its wings”… or something like that.