This piece originally appeared on Role/Reboot. Republished here with permission.
Warning: Some parts of this article, and individual hyperlinks, are explicit, and may be considered NSFW.
There’s a lot of pressure to have a good vagina. Rapper Missy Elliott’s mysterious “Pussycat” is a ballad from a woman to her genitals. She pleads that they not “fail her now” so her lover won’t cheat on her. Then she disguises her voice through a creepy filter and raps as her lover, backhandedly affirming that he’s “glad [hers] ain’t that gushy stuff.” Ten years later, I’m still not sure if the song is parody or commentary. It reminds us that in a culture that reduces women to our appearances, we can feel like not much more than walking vaginas. And if you flip and reverse that argument, when we sexualize women, we see women’s genitals existing to perform for a partner’s pleasure. Where every part of a woman’s body is taxonomized, judged, and sentenced, it’s no surprise that we treat our vulvas with fear and disgust.
I know a few extra things about how women regard their genitals. While creating my documentary,Subjectified, I had intimate conversations about sex with women across the United States. In the jarring words of a funny, self-confident, conventionally gorgeous 23-year-old, “I don’t think I have the prettiest genitals…I remember like three years ago I put a mirror down there, and that was the first time I saw up-front what was going on…I was totally horrified for a whole week.” Another woman described how her genitals were seriously injured in childbirth, requiring reconstructive surgery that she couldn’t afford. She felt stuck in a dysfunctional relationship because she was ashamed to show her body to anyone else. Our feelings about our genitals reverberate through our lives, and we project a life’s worth of insecurities onto our private parts. Keep reading »
I’ve read a lot of letters asking for advice. Some of them are weird, like the woman who asked Slate’s Dear Prudence if she should date the guy who sniffed her sweaty bicycle seat at the gym. I vote for NO. Some of them are soul-stirring. Check out Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice On Love And Life from Dear Sugar if you haven’t already. I cried my way through it. Sometimes I agree with the advice and sometimes I don’t. That’s to be expected. But I think I stumbled upon what might be the saddest advice exchange ever. A woman whose boyfriend finds her vagina “repulsive” wrote in to the Guardian:
“My boyfriend of three years has never actively looked at my vagina or shown the slightest interest in it other than the usual foreplay. He performs oral sex occasionally but always under the darkness of the duvet and has admitted he doesn’t find vaginas particularly attractive, joking that mine is especially repulsive…”
Three years!? This poor woman. I’m no professional, but I feel like I know exactly what she should do: DUMP HIM RIGHT NOW. I mean, is there any other option? No one deserves to be with someone who finds their genitals repulsive. After the jump, check out the AWFUL advice this woman was given. Keep reading »
Hey, do you think this lip gloss ad from Vbeauté might have anything to do with … well … vaginas? Nah. What about that dress? No vaginas there either, right? [Refinery29]
I’m tempted to respond like a fourth-grader and refer to New Hampshire State Representative Peter Hansen as “penis” for the rest of this post. But unlike this “fairly well-educated” man, I’m not of the mind that genitalia are acceptable substitutes for gender. In an email sent to the New Hampshire House of Representatives list-serv Rep. Hansen wrote (emphasis ours):
“What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s [sic] of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims.”
Keep reading »
As a woman in her ’30s, I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about my body. If you had asked me, I would have sworn I was well-informed. And then I started going to a new gynecologist and she literally blew my mind when she told I’d been checking my breasts all wrong. What? How had I missed this? I knew about the circular check but not the up-and-down pattern. Well, maybe because the last time I learned about breast self-examination was from a pamphlet I got in high school. That was a while ago. After the jump, I asked other women about the most surprising things they learned from their gynos. Keep reading »