A humorous travel anecdote that inspired a social conversation affecting women world-wide.
It’s not often that I sit down to write an article about my vagina. Actually, I’ve never done that — please don’t be surprised.
Yet, at this point I have no choice. It all started one day when I was in Ecuador. I had an ever-growing bush that was in need of some trimming. Okay, okay, it was more like a forest in need of some bulldozing.
Too lush to be bulldozed by my own inexperienced hand, I went on the pursuit for a fearless lady to do the dirty work for me.
And, alas, that was just what I found.
As I entered the graffitied walls of a salon, keyword being graffitied, I was welcomed into space that reminded me of the scene in legally blond. The one where the board review for Harvard Law School suggests that Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) “just woke up one day and decided to go to law school”. Now replace “go to law school” with, “start a beauty salon”.
However, the lady was a darling and I couldn’t bear to turn my heels in the other direction and stomp out with some half-assed excuse in my less-than-perfect Spanish tongue.
She quickly ushered me in, smiling broadly with a few missing teeth here and there. What a sweet lady! Patiently, she listened to my long explanation of the situation at hand and service I was after. Once we’d exchanged several serious, “si”, “si” and “por favor’s”, I was on my way up the rickety stairs and into the room where the vagina waxing would take place.
Little did I know (but should have guessed – I’m in Ecuador, after all), her vagina waxing workstation was code for the dining room of her very own home and was naturally, already in use. Her husband and two sons sat eating lunch at the table right beside the bed I was about to claim — probably bantering about the vagina of the last client that just came in.
But, thank my lucky socks, the darling lady commanded them out the door.
You boys shall not be seeing my vagina today, no sir.
With the still hungry boys out of sight, I looked up at the darling lady for guidance. Do I get naked now? Will she leave the room first? Will she put a cover over the mysterious stains on what I assumed was my waxing bed?
The answers became quickly apparent. Yes I should get naked, and hurry up about it.
No, she would not leave the room because that makes no sense anyway.
And, of course those stains won’t be covered up, how did I think they got there in the first place?
As I hurried to get off my clothes, nervously looking over my shoulder for any stray boys or men wandering about, the lady smiled widely at my newly exposed lady bits. And before I knew it and certainly before I was ready for it, she made a bee-line for my vagina.
Even though I didn’t realise there was an essential pre-wax ritual, I’m not one to say no to a freebie.
Rashly, she assumed a less than ladylike squat position, getting up close and personal with my bushy cuticles. It seemed she was examining them – what exactly she was looking for, I can only guess.
It was a good minute before she was upright once more and briskly announced that this was going to be tough — exactly the words of comfort I needed before the ordeal in front of me. While she declared herself unsure of how easily these bad boys would come out, she did promise to “do her best”, and that’s all a girl can really ask for.
That moment marked the beginning of the Brazilian wax from hell.
As I had particularly stubborn bad boys, it seemed only inevitable that I’d have to assume a number of provocative positions to ensure easy access and minimal pain. These position ranged, from being up on four knees (need I continue this reference?), to hugging my knees in a ball to one side (like one of the less dignified yoga poses,) to being up on my knees once more. I felt exploratory, to say the least.
At one point, she boldly declared my vagina had a “flailing” design, which she was very grateful for as it meant she didn’t need to hunt too vigorously for hidden hairs.
Despite the unexpected twists and turns, I’m surprised to tell you that this whole debacle made me think about something I’d never thought much about before, my vagina.
Never before had my waxing lady, or anyone else for that matter, given me any insight into my vagina. Yet, in conservative Ecuador, I was receiving revelatory insight into the design and construct of my vagina.
Why did it take so damn long for me to find out all this juicy stuff?
As you can only imagine, I started to think even more about my vagina.
What did it really look like?
Was it similar to other vaginas?
Are there attractive and less attractive vaginas?
How do other women feel about their vagina?
With one quick google search, I realised that I was totally oblivious of growing trends.
A study done in 2014 by the UK National Health Service revealed that the number of labial reductions (also known as labiaplasty or genital surgery) had increased fivefold over the past 10 years, and not just in women that have recently been through natural life stages such as pregnancy and menopause.
The reasons why women choose to pursue surgery vary. Some claim discomfort, whether it be during sex, doing exercise, or just wearing tight-fitting yoga pants. Others are looking for ways to experience more sexual pleasure.
While these examples might justify the decision to take surgical measures, there’s an un-ignorable truth that many women out there are not satisfied with the aesthetics of their vagina. When we consider the limited resources have available to explore the look and feel of different vaginas, it's not surprising that women would feel this way. Beyond pornography and similar style airbrushing, how else can we see how “normal”, “desirable” or “healthy” our vagina is?
To prevent inherent securities within women plummeting from bad to worse, I wondered,
What simple action could we take to help women feel happier about their lady bits?
With rising numbers of vaginal surgeries, I was by no means the first person that felt something should be done. Around the world, artists, filmmakers, tumbler enthusiasts and more have explored creative ways to showcase the vagina. Brought together by the common goal of changing the way women feel about their vaginas, they all agree that it's time to raise an educated and confident bunch of women that love their vaginas.
If you thought the Great Wall of China was a spectacle, you’ll be pleased to hear there's a highly superior doppelgänger out there. The Great Wall of Vagina is a nine-meter-long wall (just slightly smaller than China’s original), made up of 400 white, plaster vagina moulds.
The moulds were made with the help of women volunteers aged from 18-26, who all "donated" the shape of their vagina to the project. Headed by an English bloke, he too wanted women to fall in love with their unique vaginas.
It took a grand total of 5 years, aka a lot longer than it took for me to write this article, in which he stumbled across identical twins, transgender individuals, pre and postnatal women and pre and post-labiaplasty patients. All of them were happy to volunteer their vaginas in the name of art and female beauty.
With a simple mission executed with grandeur and a touch of humour, the The Great Wall of the Vagina helped many women discover more about their vaginas.
While I gave the Great Wall of Vagina a rave review, I never got to witness it first-hand (and I’m guessing you didn’t either).
When I stumbled across an online and all-revealing vagina exhibition on tumblr, it helped to answer a few lingering questions and grey areas.
More than anything, Vaginas of the World makes you realise just how many different kinds of vaginas there are.
Vaginas come in so many unique sizes, designs, colouring, skin and hair types, and anything else you could imagine, or couldn’t imagine until now. Backed up by a truly supportive community, Vagina’s of the world is an empowering platform that encourages women to share, engage and tackle vagina insecurity head-on. There’s no rules other than only be here if you get what this is about and, of course, no holding back.
Founded by a nonprofit organisation, Women’s Health Victoria, the Labia Library lives by the tagline, women living well: healthy, empowered and equal.
If you’re looking for something that is not only visual but educational, you’ve found a top-notch source, community and reference point. The Labia Library brings forth comprehensive insight into all things vagina.
Many of their visual material comes from the book, I’ll Show You Mine, which stands for a broader goal of promoting healthy body image for males and females. I’ll Show You Mine is a photo study of female genitalia and describes itself as, “a window into women’s experiences of their genitals”. The book has exactly 120 photographs of 60 women, all photographed within the same position. The photos are vowed to be 100% true-to-life, revealing the size and colour of Vagina’s exactly as they are.
Aside from taking an in-depth look into these truly valuable resources, how can you encourage women to be proud of their vaginas?
Remember, we’ve all got one and they’re bloody remarkable things.