Today I wasnt to talk about vaginas. In an article in the Guardian it states that one in five young women in the UK has experienced bullying about periods. It also discusses how boys should be taught about menstruation in school. “If men don’t know about periods, how can they take period poverty or the tampon tax seriously. Or even sympathise with someone in pain once a month?”
Everyone should be given proper menstrual education. Chella Quint created the project Period Positive. Chella “believes menstruation education should be free, unbranded, objective, inclusive of reusables (like menstrual cups and cloth pads), and easy to understand.” They say “We strive to ensure that no matter what your gender, whether you menstruate or not, that you’ll feel more confident and comfortable talking about menstruation publicly and privately.”
But how do we expect menstruation to be discussed openly when vaginas themselves seem to be such a taboo subject? I watched 100 Vaginas recently, a documentary by artist Laura Dodsworth. Laura “photographs women and hears their moving, powerful or funny stories about how their vaginas have shaped their lives.”
It’s a brilliant documentary that I really believe should be shown in schools. As a 37 year old woman I watched in awe, wishing I’d have seen this as a young teen. It really smashed some myths around vaginas and vulvas and seeing so many was an eye opener! I realised I have only ever seen my own vulva, one other woman’s and vulvas in pornography. So the views that I held on what’s ‘normal’ we’re so skewed!
Just hearing women celebrating their vaginas was wonderful. It made me realise how much negative language you usually hear about vaginas. Women talking about the beauty of their vulva, the joy of their vaginas and the pleasure they bring. It was a powerful and surprising documentary that I would recommend to anyone.
Does my vagina smell?
There was a part where they talked about smell and it hit me in the gut taking me back to being 13 years old. Some boys in class were laughing and talking about someone having a “fishy fanny”. I specifically remember these phrases including one about her vagina smelling like a garbage truck. They weren’t talking about me and to my shame I didn’t stand up for anyone. I laughed along whilst inwardly panicking if my vagina smelt right!
Then I went home and got in the bath washing myself thoroughly with soap and bubble bath. Sadly spraying my knickers with perfume and tried to desperately hide the natural smell of my vagina. I used to clamp my thighs together, wear knickers, then tights, then another pair of knickers on top!
Unsurprisingly, I then got thrush. I’d basically stripped away all the good healthy things in my vagina and caused a heavy dose of thrush. There was too much embrassment to talk to my mum about it. It wasn’t something we would ever discuss, I never had a period or sex talk with her. We also didn’t have google!
So after thinking I was dying, I went to the library and read a medical book. Then went to a newsagents and read a woman’s magazine and diagnosed myself. Even then I was too ashamed to tell anyone. I didn’t eat school lunches all week so I could spend my dinner money at the chemist on some thrush cream! Having thrush then made me more embarrassed and self conscious of my vagina, stuck in a vicious circle!
It’s funny though, as I haven’t thought about that in over 20 years. But watching the show brought up thoughts about the internal shame we get about vaginas from society, the media and our peers and how talking about it can rid us of these fears and shame.
Vaginas and Disability
Vaginas seem to even be a taboo when it comes to medicine. I have had jpouch surgery. Subsequently having the jpouch and my rectum and anus removed. I had so many worries about my vagina and sex life. The surgeries were deep in my groin and had created issues with the pouch pressing on the vaginal wall causing it to start to prolapse. Yet when I asked questions about how this could affect my sex life, nurses and doctors were quick to brush it off. Concentrating on the recovery leaving me feeling like a freak for asking if it would affect my ability to orgasm!
I speak to many people who say that Inflammatory Bowel Disease plays havoc with their periods. Either making them heavier, not regular or more painful. Yet there seems to be so little research done around this area and doctors don’t seem to have an answer.
If the vaginas of non disabled people are taboo, then if you add illness, chronic illness or disability into the pot, the discussion shuts down completely. The desexualisation of disabled people is everywhere. The feelings, fears and questions of disabled people remain unanswered and unspoken.
What do you call your vagina?
And I suppose that’s why today, I wanted to talk a little about vaginas. Or the many different names we have for them; fanny, pussy, tuppence, tutu, front bottom, cunt, foo foo, flue, vagjayjay… Isn’t it odd how for so long we were almost afraid to use the words vagina or vulva to young children to describe their body parts?
So here ends my little chat about vaginas. May we talk about them, may we celebrate them, may we educate and teach the world about the magnificent and wonderful vagina!
✌🏽 & ❤️