I love eavesdropping. I am a nosy observer of human nature and adore catching the conversations people think no-one hears.
I overheard a tampon crisis in a university bathroom last week. At first listen I thought the poor girl had dropped her last tampon on the grimy bathroom floor so I started to search through my bag. (While still eavesdropping. I’m awful.)
“The whole thing?,” asked her friend outside the door.
“No!,” said the hidden stall girl. “The applicator! I don’t have the applicator to put it in! It’s on the ground. Iiiiick.”
I quietly dropped the OB tampon back in my bag.
Her friend became exasperated. “If you still have the tampon, just use your fingers.”
“EEEEWWW! Omhigod, no! I don’t want to put my fingers in there! Ugh, whatever, I’ll just fold up some toilet paper.”
The conversation baffled me. I hoped she didn’t want to stick her fingers in her vagina because they were dirty. I know that’s not why. She would have washed her hands and then dealt with it instead of shrieking in panic.
The applicator-less girl feared her own vulva and vadge. *facepalm* Ladies, aren’t we over this? No? No, no I guess not.
From the youngest of ages the land between our legs (Bonny Banks of Lochlabia?) is stigmatized. Dirty, dirty thing that, later in life, will ooze potentially embarrassing blood and possibly get you pregnant. The first time you have sex will probably hurt and whatever you have down there smells. Like itself. Gross. The only pictures you ever see are symmetrical, sterilized versions of the hair-covered, asymmetrical fleshy folds between your thighs.
The one redeeming quality is the clitoris, but only sexy lady magazines tell you that in passing reference to a new sex position to use. With your male partner sticking his ween inside your gross dirty place, possibly the only thing it’s good for aside from baby delivery.
No wonder that girl didn’t want to touch her own body part. Seems icky.
But it’s not. Our collective hyperfocus on the vulva and vagina as a hygiene issue and birth canal, respectively, leaves out the potential for pleasure.
Imagine a world where we tell girls about clitoral erections. Imagine a world where we discuss the pleasure that can throb between your legs, the heady rush of orgasm chemicals and how anyone can do this themselves with one (or two) hands.
This is not a world that we need to fill with Vulva Merchandise: charm bracelets, plush pillows, necklaces, paintings. I see no need to make merchandise out of any human body part. That’s just weird. And, no, the first step is not checking it out in a mirror. The first step should be touching your vulva. Touch it, really. I’m sure it’s all kinds of warm and slick and soft.
But we do need to stop freaking out about periods. Understand the pleasure potential of our entire bodies, including the vulva and vaginal walls.
Maybe we can start by pointing out that vulva (outside) and vagina (inside) are two different things.