Vulva, not vagina. Vulva, not Vagina. VULVA, NOT VAGINA.
My goal for 2017 is to to convince people to stop equating vaginas with vulvas, for vaginas are not, in fact, vulvas.
In mammals, vaginas are the muscular and tubular tract that leads from the external world to the cervix and forthwith to the uterus. It is sometimes a pleasurable part of the body (other times, not), and the place henceforth menstrual blood, the body's natural lubricant, and babies seep out in their various ways. It is a passageway, both entrance and exit from the body, and while magical in it's own way, it is not everything.
I won't link to it because I'm mad, but Refinery29 insists on hawking an article about shaving one's vagina. They even re-published the same exact article, the only thing that changed was the date: as if to remind us all, "hey, you should shave your vagina." Within, the author even admits that the proper word is vulva: but rest assured, they like vagina better.
They like vagina better, even though no hair grows on the tubular and gently folded crevices of the internal organ. Even though the mere concept of shaving one's vagina is cringe-worthy at best, eliciting in myself that terrified and shell-shocked reaction not unlike when you calmly describe what happens to testicles when you put them in a blender to someone in possession of such an organ. Shaving a vagina sounds like death by a thousand cuts, only worse.
It sounds like slowly bleeding from my vagina, but not in the natural, usually monthly manner. No, it sounds significantly worse and much more painful, if we set aside the logistics of even being able to accomplish such a feat.
With some exceptions, hair generally does not grow on the inside of the body, and while it is certainly plausible that some people may have hair growing in the vagina, because genes sometimes do out of the ordinary things, I think it's fair and reasonable to say that generally, it does not. If we can all agree on that--and I think we can--we can all agree that the mere concept shaving one's vagina is fairly absurd.
"Why are you yelling on your blog and your Twitter about vaginas? Don't you have better things to do," you ask. Well, probably yes. But this is a matter that has dug itself under my skin like an ingrown hair following a bad shave job. It's become red and irritated and something must be done to excise it from my brain.
What I care about here is accuracy: you wouldn't call a dick your balls. You wouldn't call your face your throat. Why, then, would you call your vulva--those wondrous nebulae that encompass the vagina, internal clitoris, external clitoris, and the labia, both majora and minora, simply a vagina?
I'll tell you why: sexism.
That may sound like a cop-out, but it's not: the focus on the vagina is because the heteropatriachal trashfire that is our society likes to boil down a woman's--yes, because "only women have vaginas"*--sexual pleasure and function down to graciously receiving dicks like a 1950's housewife playing hostess at a dinner party. It's ignoring the rest of the function, like the clitoris with those thousands on nerve endings or the mystical prowess of the g-spot, or anal, or the a-spot, or people who enjoy urethral stimulation, et-fucking-cetera. It simplifies these bodily parts down to one simple functionality: admitting dicks. Nothing about other, often more pleasurable** functionality. Because dicks in the vaginas is what matters: that's how you make babies, and if you're not making babies, it's how you please your husband. Get back into the kitchen and stop asking questions.
If that sounds like an over-exaggeration, I assure you it is not.
Society teaches us that the only important part of the anatomy commonly referred to as female is the vagina, which is there expressly for receiving the dick. Science has by and large ignored clitorises and despite tons of personal experience to the otherwise we still have articles either affirming or denying the mere existence of the G-Spot every few months, not to mention the arguments over whether or not "female" ejaculate is just pee.
Science looks at the vulva and it's wondrous parts, shrugs phlegmatically, and says, "yeah, how the lady genitalia works is a mystery, probably something to do with pleasing dicks," and potters off to do more research on how to cure erectile dysfunction. But isn't science supposed to search for truth and uncover the mysteries of that which we don't already comprehend? Why yes, that is the point of the thing. But who cares about vulvas or wants to understand how they work? All we need to know is that you put the dick in, the ejaculate comes out, and sometimes babies happen.
If I sound really salty, it's because I am.
Now, if you think I'm coming for the words you use for your bits and pieces, when you're fucking or when you're not: I'm not. Call your dick a banana for all I care, scream about your pussy as you squirt all over your partner's face.
Having our own words for our sometimes-sexy parts is really important both for titillating reasons and for reasons of empowerment--and it's really important for those of us who aren't comfortable with the gender we were assigned. A trans woman might want to call her external part a hen, or a disco stick, or whatever else feels right. I know a few trans men who like to refer to what is anatomically their vagina as their front hole. We have every right to self-determine the words we personally use for the things hanging out in-between our legs, but the vulva-not-vagina argument is one that is for me about accuracy, about not simplifying our parts down to things that are commonly thought of receptive and penetrable. I'm tired of mainstream, corporatized feminism equating everything with vagina, willy-nilly, in some sort of misplaced and un-examined attempt at empowerment.
It's about exploring what else is happening in that region of our bodies, and widening our view from the narrow one we've been sold. It's about sexual pleasure, sexual health, and saying "fuck you!" to a society that wants to make you small and simple when you're so much more than that.
Vulva, not vagina. Let's do it, 2017.
* This is sarcasm. It's not only women who have vaginas. Sorry, gender binary, you're outdated.
** Most people who have vulvas need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, an estimated 70%. While orgasm isn't the be-all-end-all of pleasure, it is a pretty good measure of the thing.