Cunt (20th Anniversary Edition)

A Declaration of Independence


By Inga Muscio

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An ancient title of respect for women, the word “cunt” long ago veered off this noble path. Inga Muscio traces the road from honor to expletive, giving women the motivation and tools to claim “cunt” as a positive and powerful force in their lives. In this fully revised edition, she explores, with candidness and humor, such traditional feminist issues as birth control, sexuality, jealousy between women, and prostitution with a fresh attitude for a new generation of women. Sending out a call for every woman to be the Cuntlovin’ Ruler of Her Sexual Universe, Muscio stands convention on its head by embracing all things cunt-related. This edition is fully revised with updated resources, a new foreword from sexual pioneer Betty Dodson, and a new afterword by the author.

“Bright, sharp, empowering, long-lasting, useful, sexy . . . ” — San Francisco Chronicle

” . . . Cunt provides fertile ground for psychological growth.” — San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Cunt does for feminism what smoothies did for high-fiber diets — it reinvents the oft-indigestible into something sweet and delicious.” — Bust Magazine


Author’s Note

Unless otherwise stated, throughout this book the words gentleman, man, and the like are used to refer to the tightly knit male social power structure as it is recognized in American patriarchal society.

Let it be known that the author is fully cognizant of the fact that many men in this world strive for women’s rightful place in society. Without the work, study, love, and support of certain members of the male sector of humanity, this book would not have been as thoroughly articulated as it is. The author is grateful and indebted to many members of this sector of humanity, both living and dead.

The author would also like to acknowledge that masculine and feminine nouns and pronouns impose unrealistic limitations on lived human experience. The author looks forward to the time when our vocabulary reflects the reality and complexity of our multigendered human nature.

All that said, the author continues to be free to talk some serious shit.


Cunt is arguably the most powerful negative word in the American English language. Cunt is the ultimate one-syllable covert verbal weapon any streetwise six-year-old or passing motorist can use against a woman. Cunt refers almost exclusively to women and expresses the utmost rancor. There’s a general feeling of accord on this.

Except for some friends who know all about this book, no one calls me a cunt to communicate what a cool and sublime human being they think I am. Up until a certain time in my life, I never employed cunt to express respect or admiration.

I qualify these statements because my relationship with cunt is no longer what it once was.

One day I came home from third grade and asked my pops, “What’s a wetback?”

With resignation and a sigh, Dad elucidated a brief history of wetback. He concluded, “Don’t you ever say it.”

A list of words I was similarly not to utter was forthcoming: nigger, beaner, kike, wop, jap, injun, spic. The only formal cuss word included on his roster was cunt.

Coming, as I did, from a family where us kids were allowed to strew profanities like birdseed at a wedding, I was mighty affected by all this. Why, in my father’s way of thinking, could I call someone an asshole, but not a wetback kike cunt?

The foreshadowings of a mystery.

In my childhood home, the 1965 Random House Dictionary was as much a part of dinnertime as laughter, arguments, ’n wanton table manners. Throughout dinner, my siblings and I were required to spell and define new vocabulary words. It was a custom I enjoyed very much.

I was raised to appreciate the power of words.

Little did I know that when I grew up, out of the billion and one words in the 1965 Random House Dictionary and beyond, there would exist no word that I could use to adequately describe myself.

This wouldn’t be much of a problem except that there are millions of me’s: articulate, strong, talented, raging, brilliant, grooving, sexy, expressive, dancing, singing, laughing women in America, of all shapes, hues, ethnicities, sizes, sexual orientations, and dispositions.

We are everywhere.

But what are we?

The only dimly representational identifying term that truly, authentically recognizes the actual realities of women in this world is feminism. This is a relatively youthful word. Our actual realities, on the other hand, are rooted deep. We are born with them in our hearts.

Inherited them from our mothers.


Under the influence of this dilemma, I’ve asked myself whether there might be a word as old, as universal, and as deeply rooted as women’s actual realities in patriarchal society. Hidden somewhere in the English language, could there be a word with power steeped in our history, a word that truly conveys the rage and hope of all women?

And, lo and behold, I return to the one formal cuss word on Pop’s roster:


This book is about my reconciliation with

the word


the anatomical jewel.

In Part I of Cunt, “The Word,” I assert that the context in which cunt is presently perceived does not serve women and should therefore be thoroughly reexamined.

English is considered the “universal language” because it is the language of the victors of history’s present telling. Seizing control of this language and manipulating it to serve your community is a very powerful thing to do, and—on the basis of a variety of specific elements, such as ethnicity, musical tastes, credit limits, and/or sexuality—it is done a lot in America. Creating a general, woman-centered version of the English language, however, is just insanely difficult.

Womankind is varied and vast.

But we all have cunts, and it does not matter if they are biological, surgical, or metaphorical. A cunt’s a cunt.

Though one word maketh not a woman-centered language, cunt is certainly a mighty potent and versatile contribution. Not to mention how deliciously satisfying it is to totally snag a reviled word and elevate it to a status that all women should rightfully experience in this society.

When viewed as a positive force in the language of women—as well as a reference to the power of the anatomical jewel that unites us all—the negative power of cunt falls in upon itself, and we are suddenly equipped with a word that describes all women, regardless of race, age, class, religion, or the degree of lesbianism we enjoy.

Part II, “The Anatomical Jewel,” examines why having a cunt in this society might just be worse than being called one. Our cunts bleed and have weird, unpredictable orgasms. The birthing process is painful and messy. Lordisa knows what our cunts are up to. Generally speaking, we don’t understand them, we don’t like them, and we often think they’re ugly.

A more sublime way of looking at this is that our cunts are the symbolic and physical zenith of our existence.

When our cunts bleed, we are bleeding people. Clairvoyant dreams visit our sleepytime heads. Sometimes, the swaggering braggadocio of human males causes our wombs to clench up in spasms of pain. When cunts have stupendous orgasms, we may reel for days and have a fetching smile for every person we meet when we’re walkin’ down the street. When cunts get filled up with sperm, women sometimes get pregnant and experience either the trauma of aborting or the courageous and underappreciated tribulation of devoting the rest of our lives to another human being. When men fuck our cunts against our will, we often feel like a diarrhea shit has been offed upon the very essence of our soul, and we may live the rest of our days cleaning it off in whatever way we see fit.

An aisle in all American grocery stores is devoted to various commercial products, dreamed up by corporations owned and operated by men, that are designed to “care for” and deodorize cunts. An entire branch of Western medicine, male style, exists because of the infernal, confounding magic of cunts. Doctors who treat cunts have special names.

Famous cunts in history have caused empires to rise and fall.

Sex industries throughout the world enjoy exorbitant profit margins because of the wonderful things cunts do and represent.

When women endure cultural customs such as clitoridectomies, chastity belts, Mississippi appendectomies (i.e., forced sterilization), infibulation, forced prostitution, slavery, and rape, cunts are where? Why, in the spotlight, of course.

Yes, though they often play supporting roles to cocks, cunts deserve star billing in the marquee of every woman’s life.

Cunts are very important.

Unfortunately, cunts are important to all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.

Cunts are not important to women because they are the very fount of our power, genius, and beauty. Rather, cunts are important to men because they generate profits and episodes of ejaculation and represent the precise point of vulnerability for keeping women divided and, thus, conquered.

History, the media, economic structures, and justice systems have led women to the understanding that delighting in a love affair with our cunts will get us no further than Sitting Bull had he opted to have a passionate love affair with the Seventh Cavalry.

Which, of course, he did not.

Why should Sitting Bull love the Seventh Cavalry? The Seventh Cavalry consistently represented the undoing of his people.

Why should women love our cunts? They, too, consistently represent the undoing of our people.

The main contention here, of course, is that the Seventh Cavalry did not reside between Sitting Bull’s legs.

“The Anatomical Jewel” makes up the bulk of Cunt. The fact that women learn to dislike an actual, undeniable, unavoidable physical region of ourselves results in a crappy Sisyphean situation, warranting an intense focus of attention.

Part III is called “Reconciliation.” One definition of reconciliation is the reestablishment of a close relationship that has experienced estrangement somewhere along the line.

My cunt is mine.

To reestablish a close relationship with my cunt, I must take responsibility not only for what it is to me today but also for everything it has become as a result of the seemingly endless throng of spin doctors, past and present. My cunt serves me in ways cavernously unrelated to generating profits, promoting episodes of ejaculation in males, and representing the precise point of vulnerability for keeping women divided and, thus, conquered. It is therefore my responsibility to ensure this reality resides at the forefront of humanity’s consciousness when history is rewritten once again.

We women have a lot of responsibilities.

Here are a few:

Seizing a vocabulary for ourselves.

Teaching ourselves to actively perceive cunts—ours and others’—in a manner that generates understanding and empathy.

Taking this knowledge out into the community.

Learning self-protection.

Seeking out and supporting cuntlovin’ artists, businesses, media, and role models.

Using our power as consumers.

Keeping our money in a community of cuntlovin’ women.

We arrive at reconciliation by confronting learned, internalized misogyny and reeducating ourselves on our terms. Three of the most important aspects of reconciliation involve fighting with our minds, art, and money to create a cultural consciousness that supports and respects all women. The power and potential of these weapons—minds, art, and money—are exalted in Part III.

Closing Regards

One of Cunt’s aspirations is to contribute to a language and philosophy specifically designed to empower and unite all women.

I do not, however, expect my personal experiences necessarily to pluck on the heartstrings of said all women.

I am white, so many complexities of individual and institutional racism are not present in this book like they would be if I were, say, a Filipina American writer whose ancestors founded a ranch outside Houston before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848.

I am a lesbian who wouldn’t oppose a tumble in the hay with my housemate’s boyfriend’s twenty-year-old brother who lives in Peru and is achingly beautiful, so likewise with rigid strictures of hetero- and homosexuality.

I am an American citizen from a mid-middle-class family that was supported solely by the sweat of my mother’s brow. As such, I have never been without shoes, food, education, shelter, and other fine trappings of subsistence.

When I was three, an accident with a street-cleaner bristle blinded me in my right eye. I’ve lived through the deaths of my father and youngest brother. I started writing as a child to survive a spiritually blighted landscape. I obsessively devoted my life to writing so I wouldn’t go insane after my brother died. I’m a vegetarian, but I like watching people eat spareribs.

All this greatly influences my perspective.

As does a prayer my mother has hanging in her kitchen, now, then, and in the hour of her death: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here, and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

From the poetry of Sappho to the zines of Riot Grrrls, personal experience has proven to be a very effective way for women to communicate. Sharing individual knowledge contributes to the whole and has been a foundation of women’s power, in cultures spanning the globe, since time out of mind.

Here in America, at the dawning of the postpatriarchal age, a growing understanding of our differences and commonalities continues to emerge full force. Because we now have more means to communicate than ever before, histories based on personal experience are poised to unite all women.

Women are blue-black as the ocean’s deepest knowledge, creamy-white ’n lacy blue-veined, freshly ground cinnamon brown. Women are Christian motorcycle dykes, militantly hetero Muslim theological scholars, Jewish Chinese bisexual macrobiotic ballerinas, and Chippewa shawomen who fuck not just lovers but Time and Silence too.

Women are drug addicts, antiabortion activists, and volunteers for Meals on Wheels. Women have AIDS, big fancy houses, post-traumatic stress disorder, and cockroach-infested hovels. Women are rock stars, Whores, mothers, lawyers, taxidermists, welders, supermodels, scientists, belly dancers, cops, filmmakers, athletes, and nurses.

Not many things unite all women. I have found cunt, the word and the anatomical jewel, to be a venerable ally in my war against my own oppression. Besides global subjugation, our cunts are the only common denominator I can think of that all women irrefutably share.

We are divided from the word.

We are divided from the anatomical jewel.

I seek reconciliation.

Introduction to the 20th Anniversary Edition

Dear You,

Happy 20th Anniversary!

I’m excited to tell you a bunch of things, but first things first, I wanna tell you about this one time Cunt made me cry.

It was after a lecture in San Antonio, Texas.

Five, maybe eight young ladies came up to the book-signing table with a communal battered copy. I like a good battered copy. The more battered, the better. Coffee rings, tear stains, weed burns, blueberry yogurt dribbles.

All, always, beautiful to me.

But this copy of Cunt was pummeled to absolute heck ’n back, and the young women were so very keen about it, almost as if they wrote it themselves.

I was highly intrigued.

They explained to me there were around twelve or so in their group. Each friend chose a different colored ink to make color-coded notations throughout the book. Utilizing the blank pages at the back, they elucidated points important to them.

Everyone knew whose ink was whose.

It was glorious.

They made an Endless Soup Pot out of my book.

Over the years, I’ve worked on saving my tears for later.

People come up to me at readings and throw down the emotional gauntlet a lot, and who wants to see a blubbering author signing their book?

No one, that’s who.

But now, with these ladies standing before me, showcasing their masterpiece, yeah, through the tears, I begged them to let me borrow their copy to peruse overnight.

They were… hesitant.

Yeah, that’s right.

I, the one who wrote the sucker, am sobbing before them, beseeching, and these folks still weren’t overly enthused about letting their Cunt out of their possession.

I love, cherish, worship this moment.

This was the absolute highest, most crowning honor I’ve achieved as an author.

No one can ever take that away from me.

I sometimes revisit that memory if I feel down.

Eventually, they agreed to meet me the next morning for coffee, but I goddamn best have their book or my ass = grass.

I stayed up late, poring over it, riveted, and, bet yer bottom dollar, I was at that coffee shop on the dot.

Y’all are probably in your thirties now, sparkling out there in the world.

Thank you for shining your lights in my life.

They shine still.

This is a special book.

I don’t say that because I’m the author, even though it’s also true that every book I’ve written is special to me. Cunt is objectively special.

It felt special when I was writing it, which generally happens to writers when they’re writing books.

It felt incredibly special the first time I saw it as a book instead of as a mess of paper that other people (Faith Conlon, Holly Morris, Jennie Goode, Ingrid Emerick) helped to make, but that’s probably because it was so fucken pretty (Ingrid Emerick, again) and, this can’t be stressed enough: A BOOK.

A product that would sit on shelves in public places for borrowing or for purchase. Librarians all over the place would hold it in their hands, and I made it.

Librarians touching my words!

Lordie, that was special.

Again, though, not objective at all, and not why this sweet little daisy-kissed book is such a wee treasure bouncing around the world.

The first thing that happened after Cunt came out was a cavalcade of emails from bookstore employees arrived. What fun they had on their PA systems, or yelling across the store to each other, often needlessly, along the theme of: “Do we have any Cunts in the house?”

Then came the customer experiences: demanding Cunt from unenthusiastic bookstores and disobliging miscommunications with less fun-filled employees.


“No, ‘Cunt,’ ‘Cunt: A Declaration of Independence.’”

“Ohhhh! You mean Kant?”

“No, I mean Cunt. As in, what a little cunt you are being for pretending I am saying Kant and Tent when you can very well hear me say Cunt.”

The first reports of what became an iconic transformation soon followed:

Our fearless reader makes sure the clerk bags their Cunt then slips carefully away with it. After reading a few pages, trepidation is replaced with exaltation and sheer joy at brandishing it in public, accompanied by a mad desire to work cunt into every conversation conceivably possible—much to the annoyance/intrigue of many a parent/child/partner/housemate, bless all yer souls.

That transformation—which, itself, makes it a bit difficult to bridge the experiential gulf between new and veteran readers—is where we start to leave behind the general novelty of a book with a nasty-worded title and head into bona fide special-assed-shit territory. Whereas the actual text itself is liberating, the physical presence of Cunt in one’s possession is equally emboldening, like an amulet handed down through the years, worn close to the heart.

Story after story inundated me, and my all-time favorite came in the form of a decade-old email I simply cannot find. It was from a sixteen-year-old kid who snuck into his sister’s room to snoop through her diary. Instead, he came across Cunt, and decided it would be filled with delicious smut. He spent a day or so reading it, riveted by mysterious inner workings of the female body. The email was to thank me because he felt he had a huge dating edge over other kids his age.

If you are this person, I owe you at least two cumulative hours of laughter.

That’s another thing.

In my wildest fantasies, I did not anticipate the chick magnet aspect of this book. I learned this from young men, who unceremoniously informed me that prominently carrying around a copy of Cunt inspired the young ladies to make conversation.

I will get a huge kick in the pants out of this until my dying day.

And when Sergeant Jennifer Scalia was called as a witness in the court-martial of a guard at Abu Ghraib prison, she showed up carrying a copy of Cunt, I guess to read while waiting to testify. A Baltimore Sun photographer snapped the moment Sergeant Scalia entered the courtroom, Cunt in hand, for all the world to see.

Hot off the next day’s press, the Baltimore Sun issued an apology, which was arguably more entertaining than Sergeant Scalia herself:

A photograph published yesterday with an article about the court-martial of a guard at Abu Ghraib prison showed a book cover that contained an obscenity. The obscenity went unnoticed during editing and should not have been published. Publication of the photo violates the Sun’s guidelines. The Sun apologizes for the oversight.

Another day, another hearty chuckle from Cunt.

I can’t tell you how much laughter this book has brought into my life.

A lot.

Then there was the Cunt Company in Iraq. A soldier read my book and asked me to send him some stickers. I said, “Sure, no problem, dude, I’ll pop a couple in the mail tomorrow.” “No,” he said, “you don’t understand. I want stickers for everyone in my company.”

So I sent him a stack and he sent me photos of Cunt stickers on helmets, guns, trucks, everywhere.

The Cunt Company in the US Army.

You can’t make this shit up.

Of course, no 20th Anniversary Edition introduction would be complete without remembering the Teamsters Incident.

I’m at the American Booksellers Association convention in Los Angeles. This is the big one: celebrities and politicians hawk their ghostwritten wares here.

I walk into the massive, sprawling, acres of convention center and am stricken with anxiety.

“Just find the person who gives you a badge,” I guide myself, filled with loathing of the creepy dog-butt-sniffing hierarchy at these things, where your badge color denotes your contextual importance and people immediately treat you accordingly.

I find the badge person, who directs me to my publisher’s booth.

“Point B to Point C,” I say to myself, as I tuck the badge under my clothing and make my way to the booth. “Point Shitstain B to Point Suckass C.”

I hate these convention things.

Finally, my nice publishers show me where I need to be.

My job is to stand at a table among a row of tables extending in either direction as far as the eye can see, signing books. On my left is Billy Dee Williams. Obviously, with that caliber of human being standing next to me, I can’t remember who was on my right.

But the thrilling Billy Dee Williams realization comes later. For the time being, while waiting to sign books, I don’t have anything to do or anywhere to be. I’d been informed of a green room, but, believe me, no one with social anxiety has any business in a green room.

People will talk to you in there. They’ll ask you questions about your book that you don’t want to answer in the first place, but they’re only asking so they can tell you about their book. You’re supposed to compete with them, in a really nice, jovial way, so that attention turns back to your book, and they then politely jostle for the attention to get back to their book, and it goes on and on like this, until someone else urbanely butts in, wanting their book to have attention too.

Instead, I go behind the massive floor-to-ceiling curtain separating the signing area from the book staging area and just stand around like a fool for a few minutes.

Looking like a fool is still preferable to being in a green room.

I sit down on a pallet of Cunts and witness Inner Workings. (Never underestimate the joy of witnessing Inner Workings.) Teamsters are busting ass, forklifting pallets of the correct books into place directly behind the proper curtain slit for the exact right time slot.

No small feat, with hundreds of signings scheduled every half hour.

A gigantic sweat-stained man walks up to me and asks why I’m sitting on the books.

“I’m signing my book in a while, so I’m just, uh, here, I guess. Happy to stay out of your way.”

The gigantic man cranes his massive neck, like a polar bear investigating the credentials of a wayward penguin, consulting his clipboard.

“You the Cunt lady?”

“Uhh, yeah… I s’pose I am. The Cunt lady. As it were. Uhm.”

His eyes light up, he busts into a jaw-dropping grin, turns away from me, cups his hands to his mouth, and hollers, “SHE’S HERE!”

All activity stops, every forklift comes to a halt.

Imagine a loud, involved video game crashing, unspeakably.

A band of men—and I do mean cis-gendered men in every sense of the word—stream out of each crevice of book-box towers, moving toward me.





They crowd around, pelting me with good, interesting, imploring questions.

They want to know about feminism, they want to understand, they want information.

I fall in love.

This particular gang of teamsters are avid readers and make sure they get the ABA gig every year. They stalk the book boxes and plan out who they want books from, much like actual attendees, inversely.

Cunt was one of the books they were collectively excited about that day.

I never imagined such an honor.

They grilled me, as I signed Cunts for them, their daughters, mothers, sisters, partners.

Twenty-plus teamsters crowded around, filling my day with an inexplicable joy in which I learned, yet again, to never, ever judge books by their covers.

It’s rather surprising how many times I’ve learned that lesson.

There’s evidently no end of preconceived notions to stumble on.

In gratitude for this experience, and so many others, I’d be honored to send a lovingly signed copy of Cunt 20 to anyone who furnishes me with proof of their affiliation with the US Army or Teamsters Union.

Thank you.

I’ve experienced this book from so many points of view that it’s hard to keep track of what’s unequivocally mine, though for all intents and purposes it is and will always be my book.

Cunt kindles a fire that consumes the reader’s heart.

I did not do that.

No one can do that.

Artists serve as mediums between the mundane and the divine. That’s the highest objective of any artist. All artists know about the divine. We tangle with it in our daily lives, not unlike archbishops, scientists, imams, mothers, rabbis, and electrical engineers.

Artists can contrive to make something special—various formulas are designed to pull at heartstrings, make people bop around, want to buy more, that sort of thing, but no matter how much money, time, social media manipulation, marketing, or inspiration is thrown at it, Fortuna forever rules opening day.


  • "Beautifully written and incredibly informative, this book is like no other. It made me laugh, cry, and appreciate what I have down there more than anything I've ever read. Not just an owner's manual, but a love letter to the most valuable thing on the planet. Everyone who was born out of one needs to read Cunt."—Margaret Cho
  • "I had chills by page two of the introduction. Cunt touched me deeply . . . I had a chance to step back and think about how Cunt affects my perspective, not just about women but also the world around me. I was reminded of all the inequity that surrounds women. All the time. Every day. Everywhere. A must-read."—Joan Jett
  • "Bright, sharp, empowering, long-lasting, useful, sexy."—San Francisco Chronicle
  • "Cunt does for feminism what smoothies did for high-fiber diets-it reinvents the oft-indigestible into something sweet and delicious."—Bust

On Sale
Mar 13, 2018
Page Count
384 pages
Seal Press

Inga Muscio

About the Author

Inga Muscio is a writer and public speaker addressing the issues of sexism, racism, sexual violence, and feminist issues. She teaches writing and appears frequently on college campuses. She lives in Seattle.

Learn more about this author