You know… girly bits.
Labia. Vagina. Clitoris.
Meat curtains. Ham sandwich. The Beaver. The Wet Cave. Poontang. Hair Pie. Box. Bunny. Cootch. Cooter. Lower Lips. Muff. Patch. Jelly Roll. Juice Box. Treasure Chest. Pink Taco. Trench. Split Tail. Bird’s nest, homemade slit pie, pelt, Happy Valley, poke hole, love tunnel, Lady Jane.
(I could keep going, there are, like, a billion of them.)
(“NO, I’m not that well versed in girl part euphemisms.” I had to look them up.)
(On a loosely related note, be careful when you search “female genitalia” online, the results are …violating. I feel like I need to wash my eyes out with soap.)
(And before you freak out, “No.” I’m not going to put a picture of my bits in this blog post.)
Of all the parts of the female anatomy, genitalia are the most female. Duh, right? It’s THE THING that makes us “girl.” It’s the part that defines our womanhood, it’s the area of our body used to grow and deliver more people into the world.
Ironically enough, it is also the part we speak the least about, and the part that is hardest to look at and get to.
I bet I offended people just with that list of words up there, and I haven’t even really SAID anything yet.
I could write volumes about the female genitalia and the impact it has on our lives. VOLUMES. We could talk about gender identity. Or sexual empowerment. We could talk about masturbation. We could discuss the beauty of birth, the biological function and purpose of our labia (major and minor), how to get the most out of your vagina, or why you should be thankful for your clitoris in all its glory. We could explore the ideas of sexuality, culture, marriage, shame, intimacy, hormones, menstruation, sexual development, rape, suffrage, discrimination, feminism, or female sexual response.
We could write volumes and volumes on female genitalia, because each of the issues above is linked to and triggered by the presence of girly bits. When I say “let’s talk about girl parts,” we really could go anywhere with the conversation and still be within the confines of the topic at hand.
Does anyone else think that’s amazing?!
Seriously consider that for a minute. What other objects exist in all the world that prompt such thought and diverse reaction? What other things exist that cause such upheaval?
“Pandora’s Box,” for sure. Now we know what box they were talking about. ;)
(Hahahahahaha I crack myself up. :) Hahahaha…)
It is not surprising, considering the taboo nature of the object itself and the infinite number of prohibitive subjects related to it, that we don’t spend much time thinking about or talking about our private parts. The word private says it all – “KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.”
Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t LOOK at it, don’t touch it. Put your underpants on to hide your shame and vulnerability, then you can live your life.
Extra super sad, because of all the parts of us, this is one we should be most intimate with. We should KNOW our girly bits. We should be extremely knowledgeable of them. We should know how they work, what they look like, what feels good, what doesn’t feel good. We should know how they respond to certain stimulus, and we really, really need to know what “my normal girl bits” look like. We cannot be expected to keep our bodies in prime condition if we do not know what “normal” is.
So, how do we include girly bits in The Body Image Project?
We talk about them.
We THINK about it. We think about our private parts. We remove shame and embarrassment. We understand that our genitalia are, from a biological perspective, no different than a hand or a foot, an ear or an eye. They are specialized and specific to gender, but they are made of the same stuff as any other part of our body. Meat and bone, hair and flesh.
No big deal.
As an adult of childhood sexual abuse, I KNOW how difficult it can be to be okay with your sexual organs. Those teeny folds of skin carry the heaviest of all my baggage. I know how hard it can be to cope with your own sexual response. To this day, when I feel myself sexually responding to “unsafe stimulus,” I freak out and (sometimes literally) run away.
“TOO MUCH CAN’T DO IT.” **sprints from room** (It happened two days ago. Still healing, I am.)
The goal of this particular Body Image Project post, what it is I’d like for us to get out of it, is to dispel as much of the stigma surrounding our genitals as possible. I’d like to put out there all the thoughts and feelings I’ve had about myself, my body, and my sexual response as possible. Not in a pervy way, not because I think my way is the only way, but because
1) you need to know that you’re not the only one, and
2) the only way to dispel shame is to push through. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT.
As a Catholic Japanese woman, sex and/or genitals were not things we talked about. The only sex education my parents gave me was delivered by my dad, who told me when I turned sixteen, “You’re fertile. Use protection.” There was a cultural and religious expectation that sex was a no no and “just don’t have it,” but we never really talked about that, either.
When I was fifteen, I started my period. It was a bit later than most of my friends. I was at school and only somewhat prepared. (Translate that to “I made a mess.”) When I got home I told my mom. Her reply was, “Oh, okay. The supplies are in the cabinet under the sink.”
I navigated body discovery without any type of guidance. I learned how to insert a tampon by myself, by reading the instructional insert in the box. (Thank God there was no YouTube back then, and OMG DO THEY HAVE VIDEOS LIKE THAT?! I’m afraid to check.) I was so afraid I was doing it wrong, and that I wasn’t a virgin anymore, and that “I’m ruining sex for my husband someday.” In hindsight I know a person could stuff a toaster up there and still be saintly and pure and physically fine, but at the time my vagina was something akin to the Bermuda Triangle. “WHAT GOES IN MAY NEVER COME BACK.” Super scary. Super mysterious.
Back then the maxi pads were SUPER MAXI, once you put them in your underpants and sat down, it felt like sitting on a box of Kleenex. They were also not very effective. You’d think that seven hundred fifty layers of cotton fiber would absorb teenage menstrual flow, but NOPE. I leaked ALL THE TIME. One time I leaked through my pants onto a classroom chair. That was not awesome.
I did not have sex for the first time until I was 22. It was terrifying. I had no idea what to expect, how it would feel, or whether or not I would even enjoy it. To be honest, I DIDN’T enjoy it. I enjoyed the power of it, the fact that my body held something desperately desired, but the act itself was less enjoyable than a good, hard, sneeze. For the first fifteen-ish years of sexual activity, I probably experienced orgasm less than twenty times.
I got pregnant and had children. I gave birth to all three of my kids at home and naturally. They say that childbirth is painful, and it is (like, THE MOST PAINFUL), but it does not compare to the recovery of a serious labial tear.
Peeing was torture. I peed naked in the shower for the first two weeks after my daughter was born, because the only way I could pee and NOT SCREAM was laying on my back under running water. (“Oh, she must be peeing, the shower is on.”)
It wasn’t ALL bad. After the birth of my daughter, after the tear and during the stitching-up time, people walking in and out of the room while I lay spread eagle on the bed made absolutely no difference to me. I did not feel shy. I did not feel embarrassed. I did not feel ugly or gross or immodest. In that moment, my body and genitals became a biological specimen, like a piece of random, unidentifiable flesh in a petri dish. My girl bits were FUNCTIONAL. They were a flesh and folds machine, used to bring forth life. They had, suddenly, a greater purpose beyond my shame and insecurity.
Even now, I still feel that way.
My babies left scars. I joke with The Mr that my girl bits look like a pink Frankenstein, patched together and sewn up to resemble something normal.
Which brings me to one of the most important parts of genitalia and The Body Image Project –
how well does your partner know what it’s like down there?
One of the things I have found it HUGELY IMPORTANT to do in my sexual and intimate relationship is take The Mr on a tour of the facilities. Go spelunking. I don’t mean this in a sexual or gross way, but in a biological and scientific one.
Get naked. Shower. Clean all the things. Clean well. Dry off. Lay down. Spread a wide eagle. Hand him a flashlight. Prop your shoulders up on a pillow, tell him to go to town, let him poke and prod and spread and check. Then, answer all the questions.
“Yes, that’s the clitoris. YES, it goes all the way up to there, underneath the skin. No, that’s the urethra opening, where pee comes out. Yes, vaginas look weird. Yes, that feels okay. No, I don’t like that so much. The g-spot is up in there, toward my stomach side. Yes, that must be it. No, I don’t mind. No, that doesn’t hurt, I can’t feel texture, just pressure. Yes, that’s okay, you can push pretty hard before it hurts. Three babies came out of there, it’s quite flexible.”
I understand that for most people, this scientific approach and objective activity would be too scary. TOO MUCH. Too intimate, too intense. I get that. It wasn’t easy for me, by any means.
It was hugely necessary, hugely informative, and extremely affectionate. It was great. Every woman should be willing to do it, and every man should want to.
(And not to be crude, but it usually leads to some more fun, less objective, mattress-Olympic-type activity immediately after, AND HE WILL KNOW BETTER WHAT HE’S DOING.)
If you were to look at my girl parts from a short distance, you’d see that the folds are not even. One is longer than the other. There are scars. When I got stitched up, the curtains were not pulled shut straight, so there are creases and gaps, like when you button your shirt crooked. There is also an INORDINATE amount of hair, which is still better than it was before because I’ve had a few laser treatments. (Used to be 70’s hippie bush down there. Epic.)
I do shave. I trim around the face-forward edges, keep the overall hedge short, and remove all the hair from around the cracks and folds. For the most part, things are neat and tidy down there.
Although it may seem that I trim and primp to fit some desirable sexual norm, my trimming is for physical health. I have (among my other abilities) an extremely virile strain of E-coli in my body, and I’ve had in my life no less than 236 bladder infections. I’ve experienced bladder infections so many times that I am now able to tell when it’s going to happen before it happens. I get a twinge and a pinch, and I know “you’ve got twelve hours before you’ll test positive, and twelve more before you need medication.” My doctor knows of this tendency and has a bottomless prescription of Cipro at my disposal.
Two of my infections have ascended and manifested into full blown kidney infections, and I’ve been warned that “one more like that and we’re talking about kidney failure.”
So I shave. And I buy ONLY cotton underwear, because synthetics don’t breathe. I change my underpants twice a day. I use only tampons, because maxis hold in too much heat. No pantyhose. No tights. No jeans that rub too much, no unlubricated sex. (An old roommate named my bladder infection nemesis “dry bouncy porn sex,” but I’m trying to be professional.) Hydrate. Pee often. Pee and clean up before and after sex. Wash hands before the bathroom and after. Wash HIM before sex, top and hands and tail.
As far as the deeper recesses of the girl parts, I am what you’d consider a prolific producer of moisture. My sister calls it “snail trail.” It’s clear, odorless, benign, but it’s always there. Some women I know find their discharge to be embarrassing or gross. It shouldn’t be, and it’s not. It’s important that you pay attention to WHAT it is (color, smell, consistency, texture, etc) in order to know what’s normal, but other than that it’s just a part of normal, physical, female function.
Upon sexual response, my tendency to produce liquid is more like Niagara Falls. It has been pointed out to me that “that’s not normal,” but I wouldn’t know. It’s been that way for me forever. I’ve heard that female ejaculation is also not a normal thing, but I experience that as well. There was a point in time where my body and the weird things it does would tempt me to hide my head, but not any more. I have come to accept that it is what it is, and shame has no place in it.
Tears and wailing went in to accepting that truth, and that truth is the whole point of The Body Image Project, and it is the point of this post.
How much of your life is ruled or diminished because you’re so worried about the way your body looks, or the way it works, that you can’t be mindful of anything else? How many moments of joy and intimacy, contentment and fulfillment have you missed out on because you were too busy thinking about “I’m fat in these pants, everyone’s looking at my huge ass,” or “what is he doing down there, I hope he doesn’t touch my stomach, he’s going to see how weird it looks?”
I read in an article that said “most women are afraid of receiving oral sex,” that we as women freak out because we’re afraid HE will freak out, because we’re afraid we’re gross. That we smell bad. Or that we taste bad.
We’re not gross. And healthy, (even if it’s just mostly) clean female genitalia smell and taste fine.
I’ve read even MORE articles that say most women, up to 64%, fail to orgasm during sex. THIS MAKES ME SO SAD. I remember what sex without climax was like. NO FUN. Not for me, anyways.
I believe that every woman’s self-worth, her sexual response, her ability to climax, and the level of familiarity she has with her genitalia are directly and effectually connected. The deeper the understanding of one, the deeper the understanding of all. It makes sense. Trying to squeeze an orgasm from an unfamiliar, shame-ridden, embarrassing body part is not likely to be successful. Or enjoyable, or easy.
Get to know yourself, your worth, your body, and how to make things do what they’re meant to do?
Your sexuality and your genitalia are a part of who you are. They are a part of our image, and they factor in greatly to how we see ourselves.
I did not add in a picture to this post, not because I’m shy of taking one (remember, stitches ‘n’ stuff), but because the content of this post is too important to risk off-putting others from reading it.
To make up for the lack of picture of my parts, I challenge you to take a picture of YOURS. Girl part selfie, then look at it. You can delete it right away, if you need to. No muss, no fuss.
…you could also send it to your significant other, and get some of those fireworks for yourself. (Plus he’ll probably crap his pants from shock, and that’s always entertaining.)
Own your life, my friend. Own your body, all the parts. Remember that there is no shame in what you are, because you are enough.
Just as you are.
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Live every day like it’s your last one. Find yourself, own your truth, and change your whole world. Forge Depth, and never stop digging.