Name Your Vagina Last week Dr. Read discussed why men are so wrapped-up when it comes their junk. This week Dr. Read examines why women are so self-conscious when it comes to theirs. BY DR. TRINA READ
Men can name their penis, why can't women name their vaginas?
As homework for a women’s sexuality workshop, I instructed each woman to come to the next class with a drawn representation of her vagina. The silence was deafening.
From the group’s facial expressions, I gathered a feeling of, "You not only want me to draw my private parts, but then I am supposed to bring my illustration to the workshop to show everyone? That’s a little too bizarre for me. Thanks, but I’ll pass."
Sensing the dread, I decided to play devil’s advocate. I asked the group, "Given that most of us have limited drawing ability, how would you feel if I had requested you draw your right hand?" I then added, "What is the difference between drawing one part of your body like your hand then drawing another part of your body? Your vagina is simply one part of your body." The group was still not convinced and a few vocalized their distaste for the exercise.
Of course, the story ends happily. Every woman came to the next class with her picture and an account of how this small exercise was a life-changing experience. Why? Most of my participants did not realize how they shut down that area of their body. They all agreed this disconnect from their vagina significantly impacted their sexuality.
Women in general have a pretty twisted sense of body image. Those insecurities are personified when it comes to their vaginas. My own pre–sex expert introduction to this idea came when The Vagina Monologues came to town.
I remember reading the show’s program and thinking it strange that each cast member not only named her vagina but also described what it would wear. One woman wrote her vagina "Samantha" would wear a tiara and drink champagne. I dismissed it as artsy-fartsy feminist theater and decided to get comfy because it was going to be a long evening.
I am sure my slack-mouth gaped during the entire performance. Young, old, fat, thin, pretty and ugly women went on about their relationships with their vaginas. I was not so much shocked by the brazen display as I was saddened by my lack of openness. At that time, I could not even say the word "vagina" out loud.
Naming my vagina? Asking what it would wear? Never had such a thing occurred to me. Yet, men have a very intimate relationship with their penises and its size (see: Battle of the Bulge)—many a penis has a name and its own distinct personality.
The late sexologist Mary Calderone, M.D., coined the phrase "a women’s doughnut hole sensibility." What does that mean? Women have been trained over thousands of years to feel disgust about their vaginas. The way it looks, the way it smells and the fluids that come out are things women need to hide. Unconsciously and subversively, it is easier for a woman to pretend that her vagina does not exist than to deal with all the shame and anxiety.
For example, when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree of fruit, they were ashamed and covered up their private areas with fig leaves. Victorian era women went even further and changed under floor-length flannel gowns to avoid exposing their genitals.
Even today, women have an unconscious need to hide their privates. When I am changing in the gym locker room, it is rare to see a woman walking around naked. As well, girlfriends have expressed the uncomfortable feeling of having an internal exam by a gynecologist.
Unfortunately, media play up on our crotch insecurities. I have lost count of how many subjective advertisements ask me if I am clean and hairless. Do I smell right? If not, I should immediately buy a lightly scented panty liner.
Ladies, your vagina is not some mystical wonderland you get to visit only while having sex with your spouse. Your vagina is a part of your anatomy. You need to learn to treat it with respect and love.
So, what would it take for you to pull out a mirror, a pencil and paper to sketch your vagina? Before your husband catches you with a No. 2 and a mirror and a stumped look on his face, you might want to let him know what you're up to.
Just like the ladies in my workshop, I can appreciate how the thought of this can be confrontational. I promise you: it is a worthwhile experience that can open some doors to your sexuality. Trust me, he’ll understand when it’s over.
Dr. Trina Read has a doctorate in human sexuality. Dr. Read is also an international speaker and offers free sex tips on her website www.bestsextipsever.com.