Society isn’t very nice to vaginas.
From a very young age, we’re taught that vaginas are somehow bad or wrong or dirty.
Much of this socialization happens through our very ideas about language, sex, and even principals of basic hygiene.
But the fact is: Vaginas are the objects of a cultural hate-fest.
And, sure, haters gon’ hate. But what if we could fight back against that hate, through sex- and body-positivity, and turn haters into lovers?
But first, we have to understand where vagina hate comes from.
1. We Use Vaginas As Insults
Think about the most insulting, offensive word in the English language, according to the average person.
What do you think they would come up with? Do you think it’s a word they would even be comfortable muttering?
Got your word?
It’s probably cunt.
Cunt is so offensive to most, that even saying it means going to another level of insult.
Sure, “bitch,” “motherfucker,” and “asshole” pack a punch (not that these aren’t problematic in themselves, but that’s a different article), but cunt is the verbal equivalent of knocking someone out.
Think about the implications of this. Cunt, a word literally meaning vagina, is the most offensive word you can hurl at someone.
And don’t even get me started on the common use of pussy to put a man down.
Vaginas are offensive. Vaginas are dirty. Vaginas are insulting.
Being associated with all of that? What could be worse?
Nothing, apparently, according to society.
And yet the average person doesn’t even think about this, doesn’t even make the connection.
This shows the sexism engrained in our culture.
This shows the misogyny we are taught to accept.
2. Vaginas Are (Seen As) Passive
Vaginas are talked about as receiving sex.
That means, according to language, that they are not in control. Furthermore, our society views the controller, the dominator, as the socially valuable role in giving and receiving relationships.
In fact, there’s even more curse words and phrases dedicated to this aspect of vagina hate.
Think about “Fuck you” or “Go fuck yourself.”
We may not always actively think of it this way, but think about what this literally means: You are telling the person on the receiving end of this exchange that to be fucked, to be the one receiving penetration, is shameful and so much so, that it’s insulting to suggest that one be in this position.
Because this role is usually associated – in our heteronormative, cissexist culture – with women, saying “Fuck you” translates to “Be the woman and the vagina in sex.”
And that’s supposed to be one of the worst things you can tell someone.
Pretty easy to see the misogyny and vagina hate there.
3. Vaginas Are Ugly
Outside of feminist media, when do you ever hear anyone talk about how beautiful vaginas and vulvas are? how their various shapes and sizes possess fascination and power? why it’s important to love your vagina and that, no matter how it looks, it’s perfectly healthy?
Yeah, probably nowhere.
Most of the conversation, if any, revolves around women’s insecurity about how their genitals look and feel – particularly for the enjoyment of men.
We’re told that vaginas are ugly, unsightly, and gross. They’re dirty, dark caves that aren’t to be discussed. Eve Ensler even jokes about it in The Vagina Monologues!
We’ve created an entire culture around what vulvas are “supposed” to look like, leaving a huge portion of the vagina-having population feeling less-than.
4. Your Vagina Had Better Be Groomed
Vaginas are assumed to need alteration, even if only slight.
There’s immense pressure on people with vaginas to shave, wax, or otherwise get rid of their pubic hair.
And the reason for that is that if you have pubic hair, you’re assumed to be unhygienic.
Well, last time I checked, your choice of hairstyle (on your head, I mean) doesn’t make you an unclean person, so why is hair on your genitals subjected to such scrutiny?
Generally because there’s a question about what constitutes a clean vagina.
So let’s talk about douches, cleansing sprays, and bleaches.
These products feed into the manufactured insecurity that you need to do something about the natural odor of the vagina. They promise to leave you feeling “clean and fresh” and to “absorb odor and moisture for intimate freshness you can count on.”
As if vaginas aren’t supposed to produce odor and moisture.
Don’t buy into them.
The products are selling you a lie.
5. Vaginas Exist for Penises
Simply, vaginas are assumed to be there for heterosexual sex.
People with penises are taught that vaginas are there for them to penetrate, that that’s their purpose. They are there to be sexed.
Even from the time we’re young, vaginas are off-limits.
When we were young, we all discovered that touching or rubbing our “private parts” felt good. We were probably then soon after (or even before) given confusing messages about this.
But these messages were probably gendered.
Sure, there are guidelines as to where and when you can indulge in the pleasures of your penis, but generally it’s not frowned upon, given appropriate circumstances.
A boy masturbating is seen as normal.
A girl masturbating, however, is seen as shocking and obscene.
Women are told that touching themselves is neither normal nor acceptable and that doing so is dirty and shameful, as are their bodies.
And this same double standard plays out later in life where young people actually wonder – sometimes aloud – whether or not women masturbate.
Men, though? No one ever asks. It’s just assumed.
The thing is: While girls are being told these terrible things about their sexual desire, about how important it is to hide their period, about how vaginas are for sex with a man when you’re married and later, to push out babies, there’s not a whole lot of discussion around how to get pleasure out of your vagina for yourself. It’s always the object of someone else’s desire.
If that’s not vagina hate, then what the hell is?
So the question is: How to we combat it?
And honestly, I could give you an endless list of ways to directly fight against this ideology, but I think there’s a much simpler answer that would sum it all up:
If you have one, treat it with respect, explore it, and get to know it. Have a torrid romance with your vagina.
Not sure where to start? Try here.
If you don’t, learn more about vaginas, respect them, explore them if you so choose (and are given permission to), and fall in love with them.
Start checking your own vagina hate, especially since much of it is probably just socially induced. And don’t buy into it, literally or figuratively.
As we all know, love tends to be contagious.
So just by loving vaginas, you’re going to encourage others to love them, too. You’re going to make them question vagina hate. You’re going to spread the love, far and wide.
So go on, start loving.
Erin McKelle is a Contributing Writer and Online Community Manager for Everyday Feminism. She’s an e-activist, video blogger, student, and non-profit advocate and has launched several projects including Fearless Feminism and Consent is Sexy. In her spare time, Erin enjoys reading, writing bad poetry, drawing, politics and reality TV. You can find her blogging at Fearless Feminism, Facts About Feminism, and Period Positive. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMckelle and read her articles here.