A few years ago, I went for the first time to watch The Vagina Monologues. It was the first time that it had ever occurred to me to consider my vagina and my relationship with it. And when I did look at “her” and the story of our life together, I considered that there may be some healing we both have to do.
The first actual memory I have of my vagina is pinching it as I tried to hop in the tub over a sliding glass shower door as a child. I was at my grandmothers house. My second memory is that, in her quest for cleanliness, she rubbed her with a rag and soap as a part of my assisted bathing. It may actually be my earliest memory. And can I say, youch?
I’m not sure how, but at that age I new that my vagina was something to be ashamed of and guarded. I was nervous when she was touched and I was more than a little irked when a doctor needed to “peek inside” when I had a yeast infection. I wasn’t curious about her. I didn’t wish her gone, but I was certain that no one should know about her.
This made it all the more peculiar when she became so fascinating to the men in my life. When I was eight, an older boy offered a jaw breaker or similar treats to see her whenever we were alone. I rarely gave in.
Four years later, in an confusing moment, another boy I knew wanted to put fingers inside of her. Until this moment, I had no idea that she was capable of receiving anything- had no idea she was a portal into myself. And I had no idea how this arrangement benefited either of us.
The story of my vagina and I blares on through the next decade. I learned how we could feel good together, but no one else seemed to understand us. I found the path to pleasure on accident, like many women do. I had read a teen magazine article that recommended practicing kissing your pillow. A few moments later, I had learned by accident the most terrifying and beautiful thing I’d experienced until that moment. “What other secrets do I have?”
In spite of having the pleasure aspect handled, we dived into relationships with other boys and later those boys would become men. I wish I could explain what it is like to have something everyone seems to want and having no idea why. Being a religious teen, I was taunted by my sex drive and my ability to pleasure myself was alarming at its easiest moment. I was committed to my virginity until marriage. I felt guilty about everything I ever “did” with boys. Their desire to see, poke, explore and grind against was confusing to me. And it seemed we confused them as well.
Men may weird promises to my vagina- “I’ll just rub the outside” they’d say. “It’ll make you feel so good.” or “Before I’m done, you’ll scream my name seven times.”
When an explorative finger didn’t offer waves of untamable pleasure, the odd finger was never questioned. But my vagina was suddenly scrutinized. When she was untrimmed, she was wrong. When she clenched, she was wrong. When she did not clench, she was wrong.
It’s not the purpose of this blog to explore where the messages men get about vaginas come from. Instead, I’d like to say what it was like to have a vagina. And here is what it is like:
Having a vagina is like loving a B-side Queen song. When you confess to loving Queen, everyone conjures images of their favorite song, asks you about yours and waits… anticipating comradery. But when you offer that your favorite song is “It’s A Kind of Magic” or “The Show Must Go On”, you suddenly find yourself stuck singing their songs with them. No one KNOWS “Magic”. They know “The Champion” or “We Will Rock You”. The conversation turns to what they know, keeping it fun for them. And you get to remain in it in some way- you brought up Queen, after all. But really, it has progressed to being no longer about you at all.
This is the lesson I learned in the ten years while men performed a variety of vagina related science experiences with my vague cooperation.
The message women hear about their vaginas are numerous: “Your vagina doesn’t know what fun is!” “Your vagina is difficult!” “Your vagina is stinky!” “Your vagina is confusing!” Never wanting to disappoint, we behave in response as if the men in question are our friend who believes he is funny and laugh politely.
This is what I considered earlier this week, as M moved my foot in a way that reminded me, like a lightning strike, of the first man who attempted pleasing me orally. He had been so terrible- holding me down when I became uncomfortable and needed to move my leg- that even M lovingly moving my leg for angle reasons caused me anguish.
I curled up and cried. I hadn’t thought about that moment for five years. And then it was out. I wept, naked and feeling hysterical, having interrupted beautiful oral sex. And M, a lover and student of vaginas, stood confused as a pain waved over me.
We have a collective story, the vagina and I. M was only recently welcomed into it. He has attempted to get to know her and understand her, sometimes finding us both frustrating and sometimes fascinating in turn.
When you approach a vagina, know that she is filled with memories and emotions. She is complex, she is both beauty and chaos. And she is deeply tied to the soul of a woman.