Vaginas


Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is something that is really bothering me in the midst of all of this menstruation talk and that is the issue about how women feel about their own vaginas.

There, I've said it. Vagina. Can everyone deal with it? (Apparently not, as I was recently told that it is "gross" by a grown man, which brings me right back to the point at hand.) Vaginas don't get a lot of love. Well, maybe yours is getting a lot of love. But by and large, most vaginas don't. At least, not in the verbal department.

Let's switch gears for a minute. Prostate. Ah, much better isn't it? That's just a fancy word for Penis. Well, actually, it's not, but it's often times used that way. We don't have any dainty, prissied up word for vagina. But prostate...that's much more comfortable. Clean. Clinical. Now what if we started having a talk about prostate health. What about "avoiding prostate cancers" or other "damage to the prostate". We can listen rather comfortably to that, can't we.

Now let's switch back and talk about vaginas. What about vaginal health or vaginal cancers? Feeling embarrassed? You aren't alone. When we are penis talking, we have lots of choices about words to use and as a society we are feeling much more comfortable talking about male reproductive health than...well...female reproductive health. Women have difficulty discussing their sexual health even with their own healthcare providers. That's coming from somewhere.


Is it coming from men? Is it coming from other women? Is it coming from how we, as parents (or our own parents), talk to children about our sex organs? Is it coming from the sexually repressed society we came from or the sexually explicit society in which we live, where pornos and "Barely 18" rags are part of the vernacular?

I don't know how these feelings about vaginas got started, but I know there is only one "right" vagina to have. A woman's vagina must be firm, tight, and tiny to make her partner (never mind the actual owner of said vagina) feel good. It must never secrete anything and must always smell powdery and fresh. It should be hairless and young looking, like that of a little girl (how disturbing is that?!)

What is happening, of course, is that women are teased and taunted. If they have "too many" sexual partners or are suspected of such (the number is subjective) they are "loose" (referring to the tone of their vaginal canal). Of course, upon having a baby, many a doctor has commented "let's give an episiotomy and sew her up real good and tight so she'll be just like a virgin for her husband." The belief, of course, is that women who have had a vaginal birth have those icky, loose vaginas, too.

This madness must end. It is healthy and normal for vaginas to come in all sizes and shapes. It is healthy and normal for women to have fuller vaginas (and bodies, for that matter) post baby than pre-baby. It is healthy and normal for women (and men) to come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Yikes! There was a pun there. I swear that wasn't intended.
Image by Meluna

When it comes to menstrual cups (and this issue has been much discussed on Wise Woman lately), it's important to know that, just like we don't all wear one size in clothes, we can't all wear one or even two sizes in menstrual cups, either.


I've learned about women who were 5 foot 1 and shocked that they had very long vaginas (sometimes referred to in a more politically correct way as a "high cervix") and very tall women who were quite surprised by the fact that their vagina's were quite short ("low cervix") and that is affecting their perception of themselves as "beautiful" and as women.

A lot of women don't even know what their vagina is like, inside, compared to others and then feel bad about themselves when they go on to use something like a menstrual cup and have to make a choice about what size will best fit them. I've been hearing from women who are "embarrassed" to get a larger size cup because it means they are "all stretched out and gross" and this is all so silly but even worse than that, upsetting because it just perpetuates these myths about and against women!

It's important to know that the vagina and cervix change in texture and position throughout the cycle and some days will feel "mushier" and lower (during the heaviest days of the period) or mushy and higher (during ovulation...) or firm and high or low and so on and so forth. So how your vagina and cervix are during your menses is not an indication of how they are and feel throughout the rest of your cycle but it is an indication that you are perfectly "normal" in your vaginal and cervical variations.

I highly recommend this book (I blog about it here) for more information about that and what it means. I go into depth with women about this when I consult with them privately, but I think that if more women read this book, knew about FAM and were able to internalize it, there would be way less in the way of fertility and other problems in our population.

Lastly, I want to say that loving yourself includes loving all of your parts...including your vagina.



4 comments:

HeatherG said...

When I first read through this blog I immediately thought of this old Whoopie Goldberg movie where she tries to help a friend feel more comfortable calling her vagina by its true name rather then just by "down there" or "foo-foo" like her mother taught her.

I've always thought of the vagina as mysterious and powerful.

Oh - See, I didn't write "my vagina", instead I wrote the more impersonal "the vagina", like they are all the same, not each unique as you pointed out.

Interesting!!!

Medicine Woman said...

Excellent observation and I probably would have missed that, myself, if you hadn't pointed it out. It's very VERY hard to say "my vagina."

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

It is odd that such an essential definitive feature is still a huge taboo. Recently, I seem to be finding more and more projects focused on this general topic. Here is another project similarly focused on an openness towards celebrating the diversity of vulvas and vaginas.

http://www.showoffbooks.com/products/ill-show-you-mine-hardcover-book

Speaking to the author - it was unbelievable to find just how uncomfortable most women are about the topic - even when they are considering dramatic changes such as labia-plasty.

poopie said...

I had to share this with you ladies:
The Labia Theater in Cape Town. I have entered to enjoy many many times ...
http://www.labia.co.za/LabiaTheatre.htm