“The idea that an adult man could be distressed by the word “vagina” is hilarious, and also deeply sinister.” - Sarah Ditum
Dear reader, before we get to the 15 Crazy Things About Vaginas, I must torture you with my little personal story. You must understand why I, a middle-aged black male born and raised in a socially-conservative village in Zimbabwe, am blogging about the vagina today. I’m a big fan. A feminist. An activist. A rebel. A questioner. A non-conformist.
To thank for all that I’ve my father and the village. Both treated anything that wasn’t male as ugly and almost-useless. Another thank you goes to the male chauvinism that has surrounded me in both Africa and North America these past forty years.
My father was a very violent man. An asshole. In fact, his assholism knew no bounds.
He assaulted my mother almost every day. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, for no apparent reason. She’d eventually die from injuries sustained from the beatings. But before she passed, she forgave him.
My father routinely used the creator of life and portal of pleasure as a weapon to unleash violence against his own family. A slight misdeed would earn me the insult: Beche raAmai vako (Your mother’s big ugly vagina!). Or beche raAmai vaAmai vako (Your grandmother’s big ugly vagina!) In a socially-conservative society where privates are taboo, there’s no better way to abuse a seven year old child. It hurt, really bad, especially when he said those horrible things in front of the few friends he allowed me to have. It hurt especially because the two women were the rocks upon which my fragile and tempestuous life was built.
Grandma raised me for the first two years of my life. Once, after I’d moved to the city, I send grandma $20 worth of groceries, including a 2.5kg packet of brown sugar, margarine and bread. She told the whole village about it. That’s how special she made her “son of my daughter” feel.
Both women never stopped believing in me.
If I didn’t act manly enough, my father’s insult would be: you’ve a vagina! Or, you’re a woman! There were other versions of the insult. Equally lethal. He repeated the insults so often that, in the end, I’d put my hand “down there”, just to remind myself that I still had a penis and set of balls, not a vagina. It’s a terrible thing to have to do.
I’d often, silently, ask myself: what is it about women and female genitalia that riles my father so much? And, if he hates the vagina so much, why the hell does he fuck my mother? These questions received no answers, forcing me to go out and seek the answers on my own. The search led me to a special place: I suspected that there was something divinely beautiful about the vagina. Something unknowable to men like my father. Something that drew a man like my father to it all the same.
Needless to say, if I’d vocalized these rebellious thoughts, I’d not be around to write this blog.
I’d eventually rebel against my father. And the village which coddled him. Remember the saying: it takes a village to raise a child, blah, blah, blah. It’s bullshit! Villages do not grow independent, open-minded individuals. They indoctrinate. Oppress.
Because I wasn’t allowed to challenge or talk back, I devised ways to cope with the abuse: see beauty in that which my father condemned. I vowed to be his opposite. I resisted becoming the man he tried to create of me.
Then I became a closeted defender of the vagina. I created a fantasy of “Vagina” as an independent, living, breathing, being. Vagina became my next door neighbor. A day or so after she moved in, I knocked on her door and said, Vagina, it’s such a pleasure to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.
After that, every time my father hurled an insult at me, I imagined Vagina had overheard. So, I’d imagine sneaking up to her later, to tell her: listen, don’t mind my father. He’s an asshole. He’s got issues with the universe. You’re the most beautiful thing ever! And I love you. Always will. Promise me you’ll love me back. High five!
As I grew older, I wanted to leave the village so much that every time I read good western literature, I’d imagine that I was in the place and time the story took place. That I was part of the story. I can’t tell you how many times Huck Finn and I ran away and had adventures on the Mississippi.
When I eventually left the village, it felt as though I’d been liberated from the heart of darkness. I imagined eventually settling in a place where vaginas spoke for themselves and would help me to understand whatever it was that drove my father nuts.
I became a closeted “hater” of most things that move, wield unearned power and have a penis. Still am. Male role models, I’ve no more than five. None of them politicians.
Women have dominated and shaped my life. I’m what women made me. After my mother and grandma, came my step mom. She was a survivor. In the early 1980s, Robert Mugabe, the genocidal dictator of Zimbabwe unleashed a crack military unit, North Korea-trained, into her village in the southern provinces of the country. An estimated ten thousands innocent villagers were massacred, my step mom’s family included.
In the 1990s, I worked for Margaret Dongo, a former guerrilla fighter, Zimbabwe’s first independent MP and “mother” of that country’s democratic movement, as a campaign worker, personal assistant and speechwriter. In 1975, at fifteen, Margaret left school to join the war seeking to liberate Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), from colonial rule. In 1990, she was elected to parliament as a member of Mugabe’s party. In 1995, she rebelled against the corruption in the dictator’s government. She contested the next election as an independent and won, beating Mugabe’s party, Zanu PF, which was backed by state resources, violence and a sophisticated election manipulation machinery.
In 2002, I met Kim Campbell, Canada’s first female prime minister, at Harvard University, where she taught. That meeting would influence my decision to permanently settle in Canada.
Then there’s Thandi, the Zimbabwean woman I loved to death. My first true love. The first woman I ever cooked a meal for. Never got the chance to love her. Allison is my adopted Canadian little sister. Until recently, I’d an adopted Canadian big sister. Although we haven’t been able to speak to each other for about two years now, she gave me a gift I’ll take with me to the beyond. Then there’s B, my best friend from Bosnia. I don’t know how she manages to put up with my bullshit: unreturned e-mail messages and phone calls, forgotten birthdays, etc.
All these women have given me something special. Where my father reduced women to vaginas and nothingness, they opened my eyes. They made me “see” the potential women have as leaders, teachers, friends, lovers, adversaries. Because of them, I tasted the pleasure available only to a man who truly respects a woman as an equal. The purest of life’s pleasures.
And yet, I’ve remained thoroughly ignorant about the vagina!
I was especially disappointed after moving to North America about ten years ago. The vagina is everywhere but talking about, looking at, or touching it is still culturally taboo. In fact, the word “vagina” provokes fear. Anger, even. Not long ago, Democratic Representative Lisa Brown was prevented from speaking in the Michigan State House after she used the V-word in a debate about abortion.
I’m convinced that my father’s vagina hate-fest masked a debilitating fear of the power women wield. And yet, this fear is also prevalent here in Canada, my adopted home. In the last few years, women who have challenged male-dominated institutions have been felled in spectacular fashion. And, we’re still to elect our first female prime minister.
Very few of my guy friends define their masculinity by how many dragons they’ve wrestled over five continents and thousands galaxies, and strangled to death. But they, and the men who tried to silence rep Brown, would be the first to seek to control women’s bodies. Even as they treat them as an obscenities. They still identify V in euphemistic and deragatory terms: c-word, p-word, lady garden, hoo haa, twinkle, mini, yoni, flower, vajayjay, fancy, muffin, kitty, pompom, noonoo, wider receiver, penis house, sin gash, forbidden area, basement, baby factory, love cave, baby chute, man trap, wound, the not-so-fresh place.
And five hundred other degrading terms.
My female friends, most of them fiercely independent and “progressive”, are quick to show how embarrassed they’re about that part of their bodies. In fact, about every part of their body that seems out of sync with the so called ideal body. When I say I dig women with bums the size of Texas they say they know: it’s a black man thing. When I say I’d die for a woman hairy as an ox – hairy on her arms, under-arms, legs and “down there” – they say, oh, you’re one of the weird ones. As if I’m a creature of legend. Unreal. I’m supposed to appreciate only the ideal. Problem is: the ideal derives directly from sick male minds like my father’s.
Most of my female friends hate it “down there.” Hate their “you-know-what” with a passion. Sometimes I want to scream: for the love of Mother Earth, woman, just call a vagina a fucking vagina.
Is it really possible for a male and a female to talk about private parts without raising hell? In the summer of 2008, my other great friend, E, observed that I’d would fuck anything that has a vagina and two legs. That’s because I couldn’t stop “talking vagina.”
Then, a few weeks later, while we were enjoying Sushi, I suggested that I still hoped to hold a private conversation with a vagina. The kind that would answer all the questions I had. And make me understand and appreciate that part of the female body. She became instantly defensive. She loved me so much she’d take a bullet for me, she said. But her vagina? No, Sir. I tried to explain that I’d not meant her privates. That maybe the man in me mis-spoke. I’ve a flirtatious streak, remember, I said. Too late.
Why she reacted this way? My vagina-talk probably crossed the friendship boundary. Earlier, I’d jokingly suggested that if she ever decided to go bungee jumping at the mighty Victoria Falls, she could leave her vagina behind and I’d babysit her.
So, where does a guy go to learn about the vagina? Am I crazy to believe that it’s impossible for a woman to truly love all of herself before she’s loved and understood her girly parts? To believe that it’s impossible for me to truly love a woman before I’ve understood and appreciated her girly parts?
I’m digressing. The point is: there’re very few real defenders of the vagina around, male or female. And I’m not claiming to be one of them. But I can tell you that I’m willing to learn everything there’s to learn about the female genitalia. And, until that day the vagina is hauled out of the closet and given par-status with the overrated penis, I’ll not believe 99% of the things men say about it.
If you don’t already know the 15 Crazy Things About Vaginas, you will, after reading this piece by Lissa Rankin, M.D., published in Psychology Today back in April. Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, author, and founder of Owning Pink Center, a women’s health practice in Mill Valley, California. She’s the author of a recent book: What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend.
So, here are the 15 things you may or may not know about the female genitalia:
- Pubic hair is not just a biological accident that forces us to the waxing salon. It serves three critical functions. First, it protects the delicate vagina. Second, it serves as a reproductive billboard to alert potential mates that you are biologically (if not emotionally) prepared to procreate. And last, it’s a pheromone carpet and traps the scents that lead potential mates to the promised land. So you might think twice before you shave it all off. It’s there for a reason. Embrace it.
- There are 8000 nerve endings in the clitoris, dedicated exclusively to female pleasure. The penis only has 4000. Who says God didn’t take care of us girls?
- The average vagina is 3-4 inches long, but fear not if your guy is hung like a horse. The vagina can expand by 200% when sexually aroused, kind of like a balloon. Remember, the vagina was made to birth babies, so it’s exceedingly elastic. If you have pain when getting it on with someone large, you can use dilators to help stretch the vagina so you can accommodate the whole package.
- The vagina doesn’t connect to the lung. While the vagina can expand, it’s not an open conduit to the abdominal cavity. While microscopic sperm can swim through a tiny hole in the cervix, a tampon simply won’t fit. So if you lose something in there, don’t worry. Reach in all the way and pull it out. Do not — I repeat, do not — go hunting for whatever you’ve lost with a pair of pliers. Think of your vagina as being like a sock. If you lose a banana in a sock…it stays in the sock.
- Yes, it’s true — your vagina can fall out. Not to belabor the sock metaphor, but it can turn inside out just like a worn out sweat sock and hang between your legs as you get older. But don’t fret; this condition — called pelvic prolapse — can be fixed.
- Vaginas have something in common with sharks. Both contain squalene, a substance that exists in both shark livers and natural vaginal lubricant. (Cue music: “She’s a maneater…”)
- You can catch sexually transmitted diseases even if you use a condom. Sorry to break it to you, but the skin of the vulva can still touch infectious skin of the scrotum — and BAM! Warts. Herpes. Molluscum contagiosum. Pubic lice. So pick your partners carefully.
- The average length of the labia minora is less than ¾ inch long (yes, someone got out a ruler and measured 2981 women). Only 1.8% of women have labia longer than 1 ½ inches. But remember, every vulva is different and special. Some lips hang down. Some are tucked up neatly inside. Some are long. Some are short. Some are even. Some aren’t. All are beautiful. You’re perfect just the way you are.
- While hair on your head can live up to seven years, pubic hair has a life expectancy of about three weeks, which is why it only grows so long. So don’t worry if you opt not to groom your pubes — you won’t need to braid them any time soon.
- The word “vagina” comes from the Latin root meaning “sheath for a sword,” which may explain why some women simply hate the word. So if you don’t like the word “vagina,” pick your own name for your girly parts. Just call it something and don’t be afraid to talk about it.
- Only about 30% of women have orgasms from intercourse alone. The clitoris is where the action is. Most women who do orgasmduring sex have figured out how to hit their sweet spot, either from positioning or from direct stimulation of the clitoris with fingers.
- Increasing evidence suggests that the G spot feels good because it lies right over a deep part of the clitoris. Although experts describe the G spot as being inside the vagina on the anterior wall, just under the urethra, the crura of the clitoris actually runs right there. And a recent study demonstrated that vaginal orgasms may actually be deep clitoral orgasms. But who cares? An orgasm is an orgasm. Appreciate it, regardless of where it comes from.
- Vaginal farts (some call them “queefs” or “varts”) happen to almost all women at one time or another, especially during sex or other forms of exercise. So don’t be embarrassed if your hooha lets out a toot. You’re perfectly normal.
- Some women do ejaculate during orgasm, but you’re normal if you don’t. The controversial “female ejaculation” most likely represents two different phenomena. If it’s a small amount of milky fluid, it likely comes from the paraurethral glands inside the urethra. If it’s a cup, it’s probably pee. Many times, it may be a little bit of both. But don’tstress out about peeing on yourself. Put a towel under you and surrender to the experience.
- Safe sex (or even just orgasm alone) is good for you. Benefits include lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke, reducing your risk of breast cancer, bolstering your immune system, helping you sleep, making you appear more youthful, improving your fitness, regulating menstrual cycles, relieving menstrual cramps, helping with chronic pain, reducing the risk of depression, lowering stress levels, and improving self esteem. So go at it, girlfriends!
There you go. There you have it. It’s important to know this kind of stuff, because you can’t truly love all of yourself until you love and understand your girly parts. We talk about the eyeball or the elbow or the big toe. Why not talk about the vagina? Plus, the vagina is way more interesting than the pinky finger or the belly button. The vagina is the creator of life and the portal of pleasure. But it’s also where we carry many traumas – menstrual cramps, childbirth trauma, molestation, rape, abortion, and painful gynecological exams. If we don’t release these traumas, they back up and manifest in a whole host of health conditions like depression and chronic pelvic pain. We must talk about our girly parts to liberate them.
The more we know, the more we’re empowered to live life out loud, love fully, and really rock this life.
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