Sometimes when my close female friends and I get together, we end up talking with gleeful fascination about the penises we’ve encountered—their length, their girth, and whatever euphemisms we could think up to describe them. (Don’t act all holy. You do it, too.) But I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with my girlfriends where we compared notes about our own genitalia.
You might think that’s NBD; out of all the topics of significance in the world, surely women hesitating to talk about their down-there parts is hardly a cause for concern! But if we’re more willing to talk about penises than our own sex organs, something’s not right there, and it could have implications for our own health and sexuality.
I’m sure many of you will agree that our vaginas feel like these deep, dark secrets we’ve never been encouraged to talk about—not in childhood, and not in adulthood. It’s ironic: The vagina plays a big role in conventionally identifying us as female, being the first thing medical professionals and parents look at to distinguish us from roughly half the other babies born wailing into this world, yet once we grow up, it’s taboo to even discuss it.
For this reason, I recently tried to have the hooha conversation with two friends—let’s call them Jessica and Sherry. When I told them I wanted to get vocal about the vagina, at first their faces registered a mixture of amusement and discomfort, but they went along with it.
My friends and I all agreed that one big factor that feeds into people’s reluctance to talk about the vag is the patriarchal thinking that prevails in society, with male pleasure just being, well, more mainstream. As Jessica pointed out, “Even when there are more instances of female nudity in the media and elsewhere, it’s still intended to satisfy the male gaze.” The female’s sexual pleasure has long taken a backseat to the male’s, which also explains why men the world over are still asking if the G-spot is real and not some hazy myth women made up to mess with their heads. (Answer: YES. And anyone who asks probably needs more practice.)
Another factor we discussed was our Catholic upbringing and how it has influenced our ways of thinking. We were raised on stories like that of Eve leading Adam into sin and fed constant reminders that virginity = purity = the greatest gift you can give your future spouse and a virtue you can never ever (EVER!!!) recover once lost, that from a young age, any attempt to understand, much less master, our lady parts would fill us with terrible feelings of sinfulness and ang-dumi-dumi-ko shame.
And then there’s the factor that’s so simple yet no less true: The V just isn’t as visible to the naked eye as the P is. It’s easy to feel a sense of familiarity with a body part that stares you in the eye when you so much as look down, but when it’s hidden where the sun don’t shine, well, out of sight, out of mind, right? “Hindi ko siya masyadong iniisip kasi hindi ko din naman nakikita,” agreed Sherry. “Ang boobs pati butt naman kaya ko pag-usapan.”
Meanwhile, in stark contrast, the ever-present penis not only pops up in a man’s line of sight, but dangles, moves, and possibly even lifts weights to remind its owner that in case he forgets, it does, indeed, exist.
It is also because of this fact of anatomy that images and depictions of the V, whether in the media or on vandalized walls in your barangay, are less common than those of the P.
Porn, as unrealistic a reference point for body parts as it is, is one of the few places where vajayjays are flashed with no shame, but it has caused many women to believe that a V should be a pink, plucked mound of flesh to be desirable—anything different from that, as many perfectly normal vags are bound to be, is some mysterious sci-fi monster that should be left lurking in the darkest of depths.
No wonder Sherry said with a grimace, “I feel like mine could look better.”
And still another factor that came up in our conversation was this: We feel conscious about the vag’s smell, which is why we’d rather not talk about it. You may not have heard it yourself personally from a man you’ve slept with, but chances are you’ve heard some version of a story where some asshole goes off about some girl’s smells down there, which makes you worry that you smell down there, too. This worry can be traced back to a lack of understanding about our lady parts, because if we only understood our Vs better, we would know that smells down there are normal, and any guy who expects to be greeted by a field of sampaguita when his own balls smell closer to a row of dumpsters is not worth our time.
Over the course of that conversation with my girlfriends, I noticed something wonderful happen. The more we talked about the V, the more we just kept talking about it. From worries about its appearance and smells to the mindsets that held us back, we talked about UTIs and other common infections. We talked about pain down there during sex. We talked about discharge. We were talking about all that stuff, and it was a start.
I had set out to have that conversation and write this piece with some big goal in mind, but the goal escapes me now. What I do know is that it feels good to be able to talk about the vagina—just doing so is like coaxing that sci-fi monster out of the dark depths it’s been lurking in and bringing it closer to the light. (Kidding. Of course all vaginas are beautiful and not monsters—no matter what porn would have you believe.)
And if this piece gets you talking about your own vagina the next time you’re with your own girlfriends, then I will have done my job.