Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Vagina Monologue

I grew up in a house where four out of the five inhabitants owned vaginas. However, one of these people also owned a bible, and she and her husband were born before the sexual revolution and in a culture where people don't talk about body parts that are usually covered by undies, so in our house, we didn't mention our vaginas much. The only times I remember my mother mentioning sex to me were when her friend's son had a baby 'out of wedlock' (phrase is still alive and well in the Born Again community), and the other was after sex education at school, when she made me describe to her how sex worked to make sure I got it (I didn't really; adults never seemed to understand that the science bit was easy to find out about, and it was the other stuff that we really wanted to know about), which was as embarrassing as it sounds.

It's actually only been quite recently that I've been able to say vagina without feeling like a doctor, or a ten-year-old. Since finding out what it was, mine has been a cunt; I always hated the contrived suggestiveness of pussy, and other words for it always sounded patronising or offensive (offensive to women, not offensive like some people find cunt). I think that's a really sad thing. The first time I ever said vagina was on a Sunday. I was about six, and at my cousin's house for lunch before Sunday School, and having finished eating before everybody else was in the sitting room (adjoining the dining room) reading my aunty's First Aid book, which fascinated me, with its drawings of bleeding heads and people in shock. I was happily reading about childbirth until I reached a word I hadn't come across before in any of my school readers, and called out "Mum, what's a va-gee-na?". There was a lot of laughter, and then a lot of hushing, and I don't think anyone actually answered my question. I may have secretly looked it up myself in the dictionary when we got home - I don't remember, but the association of vaginas, unintended humour and confusion stayed with me long afterward.

As with many things, Cleo and Cosmo only confused me further. The only time I remember reading about vaginas that wasn't about ways to make them feel better to penises was after The Vagina Monologues became famous, and one of the magazines had a segment about them, including a rather seventies recommendation to get to know yours properly with a mirror (sparking flashbacks of pre-period attempts to insert tampons). It was the first time I'd ever read about vaginas being beautiful, but rather than being comforting, the news alarmed me; vaginas were subject to judgement. I examined mine with my little hand-mirror, and though intrigued, I was a bit grossed out; it all looked a bit like insides, and having realised porn wasn't a reliable place to gain information but not knowing that there isn't a normal when it comes to bodies, I didn't know how to find out if mine was okay.

I don't know when it was that I realised it is. I get thrush more often than I'd like (and make a point of telling people about it, because I think hiding things like thrush is ridiculous and makes them seem unusual and embarrassing), but otherwise, it works just fine (haven't tried pushing a baby out through it yet, but I'm sure that will hurt like fuck regardless of my individual tunnel), and is as remarkable and unremarkable as every other one. I like people who are comfortable talking about theirs; they make me feel comfortable, and there is an implicit understanding that we won't pretend we don't fart or get angry or laugh at inappropriate times.

Today I discovered a new (to me) blog, sex+, where this awesome woman talks about vaginas and a whole lot of other things; dispelling myths, exposing things like fat/slut-shaming, and making bodies and sexuality feel normal. I wish I had found this when I was younger, but I'm glad I found it now. And next time I see the Vagisil ad that makes me want to break things, I will think about all of the people who will watch this video and realise that Vagisil is based on an evil lie to make them feel shitty and spend money on something they don't need, and I will happily yell Fuck You, Vagisil - someone is calling you out on your bullshit, and My Vagina And I Are Fine.

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