Our orgasms depend on it.
I recently bumped into someone who, although we’d never previously met, felt the need to tell me she was ashamed to see such articles as this one, explaining why my editor sometimes wishes she didn’t have a vagina, on SHESAID. In her words, it was “objectionable” to talk about “women’s private parts” at all, let alone in the public sphere.
I found this funny yet sad. This was someone who, on all accounts, openly voices her opinions on ‘dicks’ and uninhibitedly uses sexual innuendos when it comes to the male form, but when it came to her own pleasure organ, was seemingly all business.
Before she could get on top of her milk crate, microphone in hand, and start yelling absurdities such as “Masturbating is a sin!” and “Our private parts should only be used to pleasure men and bring new life into the world!”, I chose to walk away and get another drink. After all, we don’t need to give her kind any more attention than they already get. I know that sounds harsh, but you have to consider the facts: creating shame around our vaginas isn’t just disappointing, it can also create serious health and wellbeing issues.
Not talking about our own incredible organ disconnects us from our bodies, and, more importantly, our sexual selves, which our vaginas are intrinsically linked to.
If you’re one of those women who are able to achieve orgasm, kudos. If not, it may surprise you to learn you’re not alone.
“Female sexual dysfunction, which encompasses the inability to orgasm, is very common – as high as 43 per cent,” notes nurse practitioner Lisa Stern.
Add to that the fact that 47 per cent of women are embarrassed when the word ‘vagina’ comes up in conversation, and that more than half the women surveyed in a 2015 study by Vagisil, said they feel the need to replace the v-word with another, and we’re in really big trouble.
Without discussing vaginal and sexual health issues with our closest friends, it’s easy to pretend they don’t exist; which is so upsetting because, in such an incredible age of technology, with the advent of procedures like vaginal rejuvenation surgery, there’s no need to suffer in silence. But, thanks to our largely narrow-minded society when it comes to the topic of women’s bodies, even doctors are having trouble getting the word out there.
When Dr Patrick Bowler, founding member of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine, tried to launch FemiLift, a non-surgical laser treatment to help deal with problems associated with sex and urinary incontinence, he went straight to media outlets with a wealth of information – but, initially, none of them would run the story.
“With men’s health – erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer, urinary hesitancy – there’s not an issue out there that isn’t talked about,” says Bowler.
“And yet, when it comes to the business of lady parts, we suddenly seem to get very shy indeed.”
Then, finally, a website picked it up, and the response Bowler and his team received was incredible.
“We had hundreds of calls from women who told us that they’ve often thought they were the only one who lost sensation during sex, or who wet their knickers from laughing too much. That isolation is crazy when you consider one in three women suffer from stress urinary incontinence.”
Doctors and scientists are fully aware of the issues we face, which is why they put millions of dollars into creating things to help our vaginas help us. But if we remain close-lipped (pardon the pun) about it, we could be doing ourselves a huge disservice; why would doctors invest their time and energy into something that won’t be used, even though it really does need to be?
“Women in particular tend not to want to speak about their intimate health, even with their healthcare provider or pharmacist,” explains psychologist Dr Rebecca Spelman.
“As a result, painful or uncomfortable health conditions – which are usually relatively minor and can clear up quickly with the right treatment – are often left for way too long.”
“The fact is,” adds Spelman, “we live in a culture that has long affiliated sex and, by association, our reproductive organs, with shamefulness and sin – so we often find it hard to think about these parts of our body without the oppressive burden of centuries of thinking about these negative attributes.”
If you’re reading this, it’s probably safe to assume this isn’t the first SHESAID piece you’ve read, and I believe there’s a reason for that: because you’re not someone who is willing to just accept the way society lives; because you want to make your own well-educated rules. We write stories to empower you in your own body and remind you you’re not alone in feeling flawed; we share your struggles, embarrassments and weird fantasies.
When I was younger, the only way I could feel less alone was by reading Cosmopolitan – but even then I felt completely out of place; was I even cool enough to have it in my hands?
After all of the effort our foremothers have gone to throughout history to empower us and every part of our body, to give us the right to decide what happens to it and encourage us to strive for better, there are still so many of us who have made our own bodies dirty and shameful. Let’s stop that, right here, right now.
Let’s teach our daughters that their “downstairs area” is called a vagina, not a “private part”. Let’s stop calling people “pussy” or “cunt”, like it’s a bad thing. And let’s proudly acknowledge that if the term ‘vagina’ offends someone, it’s not because it’s dangerous or ugly, it’s because it’s powerful.
Comment: Do you feel more comfortable around women who have no limits on what they chat about, or do you think women should be seen and not heard?