Don’t Be Ashamed Of Your Body – It Is Your Temple!

Don’t Be Ashamed Of Your Body – It Is Your Temple!

By: Grace Alexander (Guest Columnist)

Recently we published an article about a female representative in the Michigan House being banned from the floor and prevented on voting on upcoming bills because she used the word “vagina” when talking about reproductive health. The men in the room accused her of being foulmouthed, saying that the word was not fit for mixed company.

Why is vagina such a dirty word? More importantly, what does acting like the vagina is dirty teach our young girls and women? It’s a very innate part of being female, so why do we want them to think their very bodies are somehow unacceptable or unclean?

Aside from keeping it clean, the vagina really doesn't need our help

Aside from keeping it clean, the vagina really doesn’t need our help

Take a good hard look at the feminine products aisle next time you go to the supermarket or pharmacy. Most of the products are focused on eliminating the evidence that a vagina exists. There are wipes, sprays, douches, scented tampons and fragrant maxi pads. We are teaching girls that “down there” is stinky, dirty and bad.

There are hair removal products as well. As women, we are pressured into removing as much hair on our bodies as possible – from our legs to under-arms to our eyebrows to between our legs. Why?

Actress Louise Brealey (who plays shy Molly Hooper on BBC’s  “Sherlock”) wrote about an experience she had when playing Helen of Troy on stage – naked. She opted to let her armpit hair grow out to match her bush for the scene, and nearly every man in her life (including an ex-lover) made sure to tell her how utterly disgusting it was. (Seriously, pop over and read Louise’s story – it’s a fantastic look at the pressures put on girls and women to be “perfect”.)

Back to the topic. Must vaginas have a certain appearance and scent to be acceptable?

Let’s talk about appearance, first. Do you really need to be shaved into prepubescent smoothness to be attractive to potential lovers? That’s actually kind of creepy. I’m not saying having a shaved vagina is a bad thing, or anyone who finds it is attractive is a potential pedophile; I’m just saying that an unshaved vagina is not automatically a sign of nastiness or poor genital hygiene. The decision to groom, trim or shave your vagina should be up to you, not forced on you as the “preferable thing to do.”

While we’re talking about hygiene and grooming, let’s talk about smell. A healthy vagina has a mild, natural scent. It’s not bad. It may be slightly metallic if a period is due. It may be musky when a woman is aroused. The vagina does not, however, stink – unless it is infected. The most common source of infection? Messing with its natural PH – by using scent altering products like douches or scented sprays and wipes.

Vaginas are also not “dirty”. They are kind of amazing, in fact. The vagina has a self cleaning and lubricating system. If you leave a healthy vagina alone, it will normally stay healthy. A little soap and water around the exterior to wash away any accumulated sweat and you are good to go.

Sadly, young girls are taught to be ashamed of their vaginas. It starts with mandated euphemisms such as “down there”, “coochie” and “hoohah” in girlhood and is reinforced by society’s propensity to call anything bad a vagina – “you’re such a pussy”, “don’t be a twat”, etc. The worst insult in the English language is to call someone a girl.

You have to love and accept yourself as you are before anyone else will - and that includes your body

You have to love and accept yourself as you are before anyone else will – and that includes your body

Add to that the fact that sex is made out to be dirty, and you have a lock on vaginas being unsanitary, shameful, and bad. Many women never have an orgasm because their vagina is a “no-exploring” zone, and they never get the chance to figure out what feels good. “Touching yourself” is something that “nice girls” don’t do. Most women don’t even have the faintest idea what their own vagina looks like!

This attitude towards vaginas leads to sad consequences for young girls and women alike. Products are sprayed on, shoved up and flushed through the vagina to make it more acceptable, often resulting in infection. (One poor teenager stuck a Mentos candy up her vagina so her boyfriend would think she smelled nice and fresh. You do NOT want to know what a poor vagina looks like after being literally burned by a Mentos!)

We need to STOP this cycle that tells girls and women that their vagina is bad. Have you never looked at your own vagina? I urge you to sit down with a mirror and take a peek. (Those small vanity mirrors that have a little stand are perfect – you can sit on the bed, lean back against the headboard, prop your knees up and apart, and set the mirror aimed at your crotch – leaving your hands free. Don’t be ashamed – it’s your body!)

Look up vaginas online and scroll through some images. Not all vaginas look alike. They can also change over time, thanks to aging, childbirth, etc. Pick up a book about vaginas next time you go to the bookstore or library – again, don’t be ashamed! Learning about your vagina is a GOOD thing!

Understand your body and you will better understand yourself

Understand your body and you will better understand yourself

Masturbate. No, seriously! Learning what makes your vagina feel good is important if you ever want to have a healthy and enjoyable sex life. Don’t be scared to tell partners what you like – if they really care about you, they want you to enjoy the experience too. Check out some toys or use your fingers – just remember to wash before and after. Your vagina may be clean, but a dildo stored under the bed or hands that have been wiping snot from a toddler’s nose all day might not be.

Do you have a daughter? Talk to her about her vagina. Encourage her to ask questions and to do exploring of her own. Don’t let her grow up scared of or disgusted by her vagina, or hiding an infection she’s ashamed to tell you about because she got it experimenting with putting things in her vagina. If you have a son, a vagina crash course might be appropriate as well – teach them to respect it like they would their own penis.

I have a lot more to say about vaginas and girls’ self image and sex and society, but this article is getting long. Bottom line – vaginas are NEAT. I’m glad I have one. My partner is, too! Don’t let people make you ashamed of your vagina, and do your part in making the word AND the body part non-taboo.  (And vote women into office. We should have a say in regulating something only we have!)

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  1. Tracy M. says:

    Well said Grace! We can say bladder or kidney or pancreas, but not vagina? Thank you for saying it like it is and speaking up for those who can’t look you in the eye or even mumble “vagina” under their breath. This should be mandatory reading for everyone! :)

    • Grace Alexander says:

      Thanks, Tracy! I have a teenage daughter and have been considering this stuff for several years now in context of what society tells her and what I want her experience of life with a vagina to be. It’s so important that we fight the notion that vagina = bad or shame or fear.

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