Let’s talk about sex and vaginas.
Now, there are many of you who just cringed and said, “Nope”. While others shrugged saying, “I’m open to it” and some declared, “Hell Yes!”
This discussion is not going to be like a magazine headline: How to orgasm every time or ‘pleasure him’ ideas. No, this is going to be an honest look at female sexuality and reproductive health through a feminist lens.
I remember sitting in sex-ed and freaking out because everything that I was being told was negative towards sexuality. STD’s, unwanted pregnancy, periods, and painful doctor visits (etc). I was just a kid wondering about what I had down there. I wasn’t taught about the urges, masturbation, or learning how to care for my vagina.
It’s important to educate on sexuality with honesty and realism because kids and teens are less likely to look elsewhere for content when they are presented with information they can relate to. It’s about creating a safe space where sex isn’t just physical but emotional.
In our technology-driven culture, the pornography industry is the new sex-ed. Teaching boys and girls what sex “looks” and “feels” like. And for girls, porn is terrifying! I mean let’s be honest, porn is directed to focus on the man’s pleasure and make women objects. There is no lust, passion, and meaningful storytelling. Porn magnifies the rape culture, taking respect and consent out of the conversation.
Erika Lust, the leader in feminist erotic film says, “The first time I saw a porn film, I had the same reaction that many women have – while I was aroused by some of the images, for the most part I found it unsatisfying. The audiovisual quality was awful. I didn’t identify with anything that I saw. The women did not look like they were enjoying themselves, and the sexual situations were totally ridiculous. We’re modern women! Not slutty Sharon’s, horny teens, desperate housewives, hot nurses, and nymphomaniac hookers, always looking to service pimps, multi-millionaires or macho sex machines. Not always looking to please rather than be pleased. I wanted to know: where was my lifestyle, my values, my sexuality?”
When it comes to sex, there’s tons of pressure on women to act and look a certain way. “The widespread popularity of pornography has prompted many women to worry about their vaginal appearance and even get labiaplasty, which is on the rise in the U.S. among adults and women 18 and under alike.”
This notion of not understanding the vagina drives us to be influenced easily by what we see in the media. Female sexuality isn’t openly discussed. Based on films and tv shows, women are finding themselves surrounded by male dominated sexuality, causing women to question their bodies more than ever.
“I get labeled a sex comic. But if a guy got up onstage and pulled his dick out, everybody would say, ‘He’s a thinker.” – Amy Schumer
The word vagina makes people uncomfortable. Whether it’s spoken in the classroom or in a film, it’s always surrounded by jokes, laughs, and an ew! We hear the term “pussy” all the time, an insult that associates the vagina with weakness. “Don’t be such a pussy!” Yes, the word dick is used a lot in our culture as well. “He’s such a dick.” But when you compare the two, dick is more assertive and dominating, I mean wouldn’t you rather be seen more strong than weak?
“In 37 states, tampons, pads and other period products, are taxed as non-essential items.” It’s almost like the movement looks down at us for having to bleed each month, it causes us to feel unwanted and less-than. “…there’s no other tax that’s this gender biased,” says Meika Hollender, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Sustain Natural. “Tampons are critical to women’s overall health and wellness. To tax these items and not acknowledge them as essential products is another example of gender inequality playing out in policy. Overseeing women’s needs, and in turn putting women’s health at risk, is unacceptable.”
The menstrual cycle is natural, a part of us that we find to be a nuisance but also empowering at the same time. Our periods are universally seen as females being unstable and overemotional. You have heard the jokes that go like, “She can’t be president, what if she starts a war when she’s on her period.” Our decisions and personality is shadowed by the cycle given to us by nature. Let’s not forget how periods are seen as gross! Hide your tampons and pads…no one wants to see it. We’re embarrassed to bleed.
In many cultures, women are seen as symbols of life, lust, and divination. Cherished for their courage, strength, and ability to create. Yet there is some disconnect with how we view women in myth and reality. Lost in translation we find ourselves torn at the seams of how the culture sees us and how we view ourselves.
“You have an immense amount of power just simply OWNING a vagina! There’s no need to criticize the one thing that should give you an incredible sense of power and femininity.” The vagina is intimacy, pleasure, and power. It bleeds, grows hair, and feels good when touched the right way. As women, we shouldn’t be taught to be ashamed of our vagina but rather taught how to understand and explore.
The wellbeing of our vaginas relies on us, as women, to love ourselves wholly.