Saturday, April 21, 2012

What rhymes with vulva?

Measures: 5" L x 3-1/4" W x 1" D
Wt: 3.5 oz.

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Well, OK, and I'm sorry about that title. Sorry to use such a "dirty" word, but the original was worse, a word that nowadays is only heard when someone wants to talk about "tweet" and has a slip of the tongue.

Not that tongue has anything to do with it.

OK, I have a beef (I can't seem to use neutral terms here!). Sometimes at night, I have a habit. It's a very bad habit and I am deeply ashamed of it.

I watch old reruns of Sex and the City.

This is when I'm really desperate and my PVR recordings of  those wonderful History Channel and National Geographic shows have run out. When I can no longer stand to watch, for the 17th time, Adolf and Eva: A Love Story or When Aliens Attacked the Pharaohs.

I just want something to help me make it through the night, or make it from 9:30 to 10:15 (for the unedited version runs something like 29 minutes sans ads, a very awkward length).

It's like an archaelogical dig, in a way, seeing people with cell phones the size of a loaf of bread, talking about Y2K (and by the way, what was that anyway?) and pondering whether to start using some strange new invention called email.

The sexual stuff now seems rather silly, though I guess it did break some ground and shatter some taboos. But seeing Samantha endlessly groaning and shouting as a series of nearly-identical men pound on her in the missionary position gets old in a hurry.

None of this is about eroticism. It's about screwing. But never mind, that's not what I'm here to tell you.

I'm here to tell you that I'm a little tired of hearing women refer to their genitalia in the WRONG WAY.

There's just one word for everything below the belt: vagina.

Maybe it started with The Vagina Monologues, some sort of bizarre harpy-fest in which a whole lot of fading celebrity women, eager to prove themselves hip like actors making guest appearances on Batman, sat around and dished and jived about their VAGINAS.

Yes, women have them. But in a funny sort of way, a vagina "isn't". It's a hole, a tunnel, a non-thing. What women do have, the part of them that most often responds sexually, is a vulva.


You heard me.


A lot of women do not even know what a vulva IS, because no one ever tells them, but what it IS, is (are?) the external genitalia that includes the labia majora, labia minora, and that pearl beyond price, the clitoris.

But we don't talk about any of those things because, let's face it, they're "dirty", and besides they don't exist anyway. We have vaginas, and that's it.

The one word does for everything, doesn't it?

But does it?

If men talked about their prostates, and only their prostates, as describing their entire sexual paraphernalia, would it be accurate? Uh.

My feeling is that all this external stuff, which for many women is the locus for most of their sexual pleasure and release, is still considered dirty, smelly and secret.

It's "down there", the same "down there" we learned as children and later deodorized and shaved and ignored.

But hey! We've come a long way, baby, because now we have VAGINAS. Which are tunnels. Yes, it goes in, but it also comes out (though we won't go there). 

I have never once, in my life, even on Sex and the City, heard a woman refer to her vulva, her labia or her clitoris, either on TV or in a movie. Not even in a book (except for my novel Mallory - buy a copy now on Amazon! - in which a girl struggles with the social implications of her "abnormal" genitalia).

These words, the names of perfectly respectable body parts, body parts that are known to have given limitless pleasure to countless women, are considered so deeply taboo that most people don't even acknowledge their existence.

You may have heard of female circumcision, a barbaric rite practiced in parts of the Muslim world (and it really is, so please don't call me anti-Muslim, though I am definitely anti-female-circumcision). In its most extreme form, a young girl, a prepubescent girl, is attacked with a dull instrument which removes every trace of external female genitalia: vulva, labia, clitoris. All those things. They don't remove her vagina because they can't, though they do sew the ravaged opening shut so tightly that only a tiny hole remains.

On her wedding night, the girl (probably only a teenager) is cut open so that her husband may be admitted to the bridal chamber. One can only imagine what childbirth must be like.

So her "?" is mutilated, even removed. Her "?", which she doesn't need anyway, because she still has a vagina, right?

Heard on a news story when a woman was humilated during an airport pat-down: "He touched my vagina." OK. He must have done more than touch to penetrate a physiological tunnel. "My vagina is depressed" (Charlotte on Sex and the City, having been diagnosed with a condition called vulvodynia, an unexplained pain in the VULVA NOT VAGINA).

There was a time, and maybe that time isn't over yet, when you could say "penis" on TV, but you could not say "vagina". Why not? It made people squirm to say "vagina". It reminded them of gynecological exams and speculae and tampons and feminine deodorant spray and all that swampy stuff. 

Then suddenly, after the taboo-shattering celebrity girl friend sit-around called The Vagina Monologues, you suddenly could say vagina, it was suddenly cool and hip and funny-in-a-good-way to say vagina,  and in fact you were expected to say vagina any time you referred to anything that lived between a woman's legs.

Vagina, vagina, vagina! Say it loud, say it proud.

But what about that other language, which is far more accurate? Let's try it on. "He touched my vulva." (Excuse me while I run for the bathroom!) "My vulva is depressed." (Excuse me while I run for the police!)

I'm not saying anything unseemly here. At all. Can't I name body parts? Can't I say "liver", "colon", "upper respiratory system" or anything else?

"He touched my body." "My body is depressed." Oh, but "body" may be just too squirmy and uncomfortable and taboo. It's got all that mushy wet stuff inside it, you know. So let's just say my "you know". My "mm-mm".

"My whoozis hurts." "He touched my snickerdoodle." "My jimjam is depressed."

THAT is how we empower ourselves, girls. By telling it like it is.

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