Ask Me About My Vagina

Graphic by Ariana Magafas.

I’m worried about your vagina. I’m worried about all of our vaginas. However, I’m most worried about the inconsiderate and ignorant people who consider a vagina gross.

    I recently finished “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler and throughout the book, readers were introduced to women who were out of touch with their vaginas. There was a woman who was 72 years old and had never looked at her vagina. She met a corporate woman who was too busy to look at her vagina and she participated in a workshop filled with women who had never thought to really observe their vaginas. It’s not that women aren’t interested in that part of themselves; it’s that American society trains women to be afraid of themselves so a whole industry can benefit from their discomfort.

    Commercials advertising vaginal or menstrual products don’t use the word vagina or uterus. I recently saw a tampon advertisement that didn’t even say menstruation or the word period. When people are uneducated about a subject, it often creates a fear that turns into a stigma. This public shame around the female reproductive tract allows for misconceptions to thrive and it becomes a never-ending cycle of women internalizing a feeling of shame surrounding their vagina. I am constantly hearing stories, mostly on TikTok or Instagram, about people with vaginas feeling pressured by their significant others or society as a whole, to shave their pubic hair or drink more pineapple juice to appeal to their partners’ preferences. I was prompted to write this article because I heard a group of people without vaginas talking about how gross they think giving oral sex is because of the hair, taste, smell or whatever else you could think of. 

    One of the most pervasive lies our society feeds us is that you must remove your pubic hair. According to this study, 84 percent of American women over the age of 18 either shave, wax, pluck or otherwise remove their pubic hair. We all know people who remove their hair, and some of us may even know people who have cut themselves and got an infection or a gnarly ingrown hair from it. Another study found that two percent of people who remove their pubic hair have severely injured themselves and ended up in the hospital. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you are part of that two percent, you might feel differently. Removing your hair can be harmful and anyone who claims that being hairless is more hygienic is a liar.  

    These falsehoods start spreading at the most unlikely sources, such as a book I have sitting on a shelf back home: “Is this normal?” by American Girl. This book is aimed at pubescent girls and, as a mother finds, it tells girls that they should shave their pubic hair if it is visible sticks outside of their swimsuit. Though American Girl is not alone in perpetuating this unfair standard, every single female-presenting person I see in almost any form of media is perfectly hairless. From a young age, people see hairless women on the covers of magazines, in movies and on TV shows. Sports Illustrated and Victoria’s Secret do nothing to dissuade the harmful notions, that’s for sure. 

    What’s the point of hair? Humans evolved to have less, what’s the matter with removing the rest? Humans have hair on our heads in part because it is attractive. Humans evolved to keep their pubic hair because it was attractive as well. It is a sign that you have matured. If your partner prefers you hairless, start a conversation about why. You should be able to be in your natural state if you prefer it that way. If you prefer removing your hair, it is your choice, but try going without removing it for a month and see if you still prefer it. Continuing the hairless ideals is hurtful to future generations. 

   I’m certain we all remember the Cardi B song “WAP.” Some of us might also remember Ben Shapiro claiming that anyone who experienced vaginal secretions upon arousal was suffering from a medical condition. The fact that so many people blindly supported that idea is truly indicative of the lack of sex education in America. Only 13 states require medically accurate sex education. Almost every single vagina-having person on this Earth experiences discharge daily, and it is healthy; yet, people still believe Shapiro. Though vaginal discharge is different from the arousal fluid that Cardi B was rapping about, the point stands. Because of my lack of sex education, when I was first experiencing discharge, I truly thought I was dying because I had no idea it was normal. As I got older, I stopped blaming myself for my bout of ignorance regarding the vagina, because no one was talking about it. Because no one is talking about it, some people feel like they have to wear a liner every single day to hide/hinder their discharge, but this can cause serious problems if your vagina doesn’t have a chance to breathe. If you were worried about drips, would you constantly have a tissue stuffed up your nose? Would you maybe do that if society villainized drippy noses? 

    When it comes to arousal fluids, I have heard people without vaginas comment on how bad vaginal fluid tastes, smells, etc. The most startling comment I heard was about how they could smell a girl’s fishy vagina just by sitting next to her. That’s simply not true. I have a good sense of smell. I am exceptionally sensitive to strange smells. I have spent most of my time on this planet surrounded by people with vaginas. Never once have I smelled anyone’s vagina unintentionally.

    Women are pressured to alter every part of their vaginas and pubic area. There are even medical procedures to change the look of the labia. 12,000 of these procedures were performed in 2016. When will our society stop telling people with vulvas that everything is wrong with them? 

   Without vaginas, not a single one of us would be here. So, I simply won’t stand around and let people ignore them, let alone call them gross. Ask me about my vagina and, hopefully, we can talk about yours too. We can all talk positively about vaginas and together we can reduce the stigma surrounding vaginas.