Issues

Giving the vagina a voice…

What does a ‘normal’ vagina look like?

This might be a startling question for you, but when you really think about it, it is quite valid.

Unlike men who know about average inches and centimetres for their appendages, we women don’t really know much about our sexual organs.

This question came to me over the weekend when I had the opportunity to attend a sexual and reproductive health rights conference fittingly entitled ‘Sexpression’, organised by medical students at the Liverpool University  School of Tropical Medicine.

In one session, a speaker addressed the issue of female genital mutilation – an act that is still rife in Africa and which predisposes many young women to gender based violence and intrusion.

I therefore believed that the speaker would discuss the topic from this perspective and was completely taken by surprise when he instead began to speak about vaginoplasty and other forms of vaginal ‘mutilation’ that women in the UK are subjecting themselves to.

In short, vaginoplasty refers to any kind of plastic surgery carried out on the vagina – whether to improve its elasticity after childbirth, to change one’s sex (for male to female transsexuals for example) or simply for the aesthetic benefits that such surgery may yield. This is commonly referred to as the ‘designer vagina’.

It is this last type of vaginoplasty that we discussed in detail.

I learnt of cases of women – some as young as 17 – who go and visit plastic surgeons with pictures of the vaginas of porn stars and say that they want to have vaginas just like theirs because they feel that theirs are inadequate.

And so they have their labia (or vaginal lips) reduced or some or other surgery to ‘improve’ the organ’s appearance.

The question that therefore came up from this discussion was SO WHAT EXACTLY DOES A GOOD VAGINA LOOK LIKE?!

We women rarely look at our own vaginas, let alone anyone else’s – so how should we know?! Unlike men who have to interact with their penises each time they urinate or change their underwear, we women hardly ever pay attention to our vaginas. Besides, it’s not like it’s easy to get them in full view anyway. Mirrors and strange positions are required and this just adds to the awkwardness of trying to become knowledgebale about your own body.

And sadly, the only time many young women become aware about the appearance of the vagina is when they are forced to alter it from its own natural state. In many parts of Africa, the tradition is that young girls pull on their labia from an early age so that the lips become very long and prominent. The reasoning behind such practices is that the elongation of the lips will provide more pleasure for the man during sex.

And the other extreme situation that must be pointed out is female genital mutilation which entails the cutting off a woman’s clitoris – her most valuable source of sexual pleasure – and the stitching up of her vaginal opening so that she can not be penetrated sexually.

These are both still common controversial acts but I must also add that society plays a great role in re-inforcing the idea that the vagina is an ugly dirty thing that we should not celebrate. Just think of how people refer, rather vulgarly, to someone they do not like or feel is a nuisance as a ‘cunt’ – a derogatory term that refers to the vagina.

The meaning within that is that a vagina can be equated to something that is a nuisance and shameful. It is after all where menstrual blood and all other types of fluids that society gets squeamish about flow from.

And it is very sad that we women accept these stereotypes about ourselves. The vagina is a source of life and pleasure but we too believe that is an ugly thing we can’t discuss among ourselves.

Isn’t that really why we feel so inadequate when we see an air-brushed porn star romping about with a perfectly symmetrical vagina?

We need to stop being squeamish and open up. Well, we might not be ready to open up our pants, but we can open up our mouths and discuss these things.

Most of the surgery that these women are having is unecessary and born from feelings of inadequacy that are founded on misleading beliefs.

And the saddest type of mutilation is the one which we willingly inflict upon ourselves.

58 thoughts on “Giving the vagina a voice…

  1. Hahaha!!! Fuh, this is an intriguing piece.
    I must say, I am one of those women who can confidently pick out my beloved vagina in a police line up (if there was ever need to do so) as I have made it my business to know how the dear thing looks like.
    Of course you’re absolutely right about the mirrors and angles required to achieve this feat – but where there’s a will – there’s a way.
    Love reading you and I’m glad your blog keeps us connected because I miss you so much!

  2. Fungi, i am so proud of you. This topic is interesting i myt say. Its funny how one would go for vagina surgery. One needs to love their bodies. Whats funny to is in the shona culture, enhanced vagina lips increases sexual pleasure for both the woman and man. Why on earth would one want to alter the lips. Also the idea of sewing up my vagina opening is so wrong! Completely!

  3. Hmm, rather poignant!

    Good question though! How does one decide what a good-looking vagina looks like, particularly when the bearers of vaginas don’t even know what they look like. As you say, its sad that people only think about this when they want to mutilate themselves – or when an illness related to their vaginas sets in, and often it will be rather late.

  4. Women all over the world? Source pls? That asked, the issue about body image is from societal concept and it is bury deep into pple’s mind. I am not sure if there is any culture that teaches vagina as a beautiful place and this might be affecting the judgment of those going for plastic surgery. That is a mistake for real!

  5. Interesting Fungie. I think people obsess over petty issues without taking to mind that there are more important things to worry about out there. Insightful.

  6. :) For me from a male perspective the beauty of a vagina lies in that every single one is unique, just like every single woman is unique, and I’d not want that to ever change

  7. funny that you should mention it, I for one clearly wouldnt be able to spot my vagina were it put in a line up, I find it rather embarrasing to engage in the akward acrobatics just to get a sight of it…sadly because society taught to feel this way..regardless of my thots…however, despite this fact I am so proud of my vagina because its mine, whatever shape, size or colour…its mine and I love it!!

    Is sad that once again women have to find themselves having to alter the way they are in order to fit in with in a society dominated by patriarchal mindsets, attitudes and beliefs..women need to know that we are enugh..adequate as we are…hate it or love it..take it or leave it!!

  8. First I’m a guy.

    Fungai, usually I agree with your thots but apa wazoenderera a bit far neFeminism dzacho.

    Makambonzwawo varume vachiti “Lets give the penis a voice” and we talk about lining them up and identifying them etc…

    What society has ideas “that the vagina is an ugly dirty thing”. I’ve lived in Zim most of my life and that’s definitely not the society I know. We don’t regard it as ugly and dirty at all. We just regard it a private matter yemuridzi wayo neSpouse yake.

    “Just think of how people refer, rather vulgarly, to someone they do not like or feel is a nuisance as a ‘cunt’”.
    Fungai, people use the term “dick” in the same manner, or “Uri mhata yemunhu” for the anus, or even “uri imbwa yemunhu” for the dog.

    So what’s next, A “Giving the anus a voice…” article? and we show a picture ine 30 of them tichiti be proud of your anus?? Ngatizivei pekugumira veduwe.

    We might not be able to do anything about it tikakuona wakapfeka T-Shit iyo, but we’ll start wondering kana dzichirimo dzese. Unenge usina kumbosiyana nemunhu ari kuenda ku vagina surgery; a sign yekushaya chekuita nemari.

    and btw, my comment has nothing to do neFGM, which is just a bizzare practice not belonging to this era at all

    • But isn’t talking about or body parts part of normalising them?! The very fact that this post might seem vulgar is dierctly connected to the shame that we assoicate with discussing sex and sexuality.

      I do agree that we also call people dicks and other things – so I do take your poin there. Thanks

  9. No matter how strange it is.. I do Love my vagina. I just want to know what happens to these girls/women when they willingly change the look of their vagina’s, and how do they feel about themselves after surgery and during sex? Such madness needs to be prayed about.

  10. I know for a fact that in Zimbabwe and most African countries, the sexual organ is a taboo thing, but in the West a sexual organ is no better than an ear or a toy, something to play around with…and we are caught in between…

  11. Wow,u are a classic – makes me really want 2 hve a gud gud gud nxt tym.Bt thn I dnt thnk beauty is the issue,questn is IS IT ENJOYABLE!!

  12. Vagina.
    Its not as straight forward as a penis. It has different colours, different textures, interesting shapes and folds, it also changes. I think that this is a reflection of the uniqueness of women, there is so much to us, so much which is not readily accepted, appreciated or tolerated. I don’t know if all these ugly thoughts and perceptions about vaginas stem from the fact that it is hidden: something that is not immediately seen when a woman is naked? Rather, its something you have to take a close look at, in order to fully appreciate. We have never really liked the idea of looking closely at complicated things.
    As a woman, i too have fallen victim to this notion of perfection. I’ve come to the conclusion that the female body is a prototype, something which we feel needs constant improvement and perfection. Can a normal woman ever be perfect? Perhaps perfection is abnormal since it is not so common?

  13. Ok,iyi yakora iyi…’designer vaginas’,am glad I live in the so called 3rd world where these things are foreign(oh,wait a minute,I am in South Africa so definitely not safe)…but,on a serious note I remember even schoolchildren at primary school would fight when somebody scolded you ‘by your mother’s private parts’…heheheh,fists would fly after class,kwainzi ku ‘green grass’…even when we used to run after ‘madhodhabhini’ shouting at them about their classy job…(the garbage truck people),they would shout at us obscenities about our mother’s private parts..iyi yakakora Fungie…inotoda another Beijing Conference where Vagina Monologues is performed….

  14. Women have always looked at their vaginas relative to what men think and feel hence there has not been need to intimately know it. As long as the man is happy then woman is happy. Fungi you have adequately challenged women to look at their vaginas in a different way and to accept it as part of who they are; the uniqueness and diversity that makes the world go round

  15. Vagina. In Shona, nyini, mbutu, chinina, beche or mheche. Slang terms: seti, mamu11, mutsetse, mutsara, chinhu, zvinhu etc etc. Some simply conflate it with mhata. My favourite term is nyini. My whole point (as a man) is that the “uglier” it looks, the sweeter it is. Now that’s very important. My black sisters are you listening? End of story.

  16. In South Africa, most girl-teens worry about how the look outwardly, in order to attract the opposite sex. Only when they find out about some sexual sickness do some start reasearching about their bodies. I believe every woman should know and appreciate their body before allowing another to be the judge. Love yourself as you love your neighbour.
    Thank you very much for writing this article.

  17. Uum, my question is why did the creator put the vagina in that hidden position in the first place, considering that at one point the human being walked naked (until Adam sinned or even now for some cultures)….Is it because the vagina is easy to open and thus would end up getting infections from dust (but still upon sitting down awhole lot more dirt would get in….In fact I think that position was only necessary to make easy of penetration at copulation. Either side of the female body a penis can gain easy entry at that very angle.

    Surely not because at makes ease of abservation of cleansing by the bearer, more for the sexual intercourse orientation, so I think the Creator had it that the vagina is primarily for reporoduction- makes His job easier. If we want as we do now, to make it an object for entertainment, all the lot easier but with that has come the scourge called HIV/AIDS.

    In short idon’t think we can add or subtract anything from what the Creator had in His mind to do with the vagina. I think it is very beautiful and useful without mutilation- medical, cosmetic or cultural.

  18. its true everyone should know how every of their body parts ( not only the vagina)look like to easily identify the abnormalities when they occur. With some they know about themselves when the doctor asks them about how long they had a cyst or a mole or any abnormality. Half the time they will say Oh! l didnt even know l had it, or l just saw it there and yet they were not even born with it. So basically lets us just be interested in knowing our whole self. It shud be inner self but not carrying it around for everyone to see, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

  19. Imagine the Vaginas all seated at a pub sippin’ champagne,lagers and whiskey talking about their good & bad times- the abuse/pleasures they get,the name callings,in their younger days and the menstrual cycles,the (de)satisfactions,condoms and HIV/AIDS,sanitary pads vs tampons and all the dudes they have met and exchanging their numbers,networking like they aint no tomorrow. wow!!

  20. The vagina happens to be the only mode of transport from wherever we come from into this earth. From where do we qualify ourselves to call it names? I love and respect “her”

    Those who say its ‘ugly’ its ‘terrible’ tell or say how you wish it would look like.The fact that its a south poler dsnt make it bad or ugly if it were on our faces would we have the same opinion?

  21. Its crazy. i wld be scared shitless to do that kind of surgery for whatever reason. Things are the way they are for a reason. why fix what ain’t broken… I may understand surgery for medical reasons but imagine altering it and finding it don’t work the same… panick!!!!!

  22. Here in SA pple talk about their sexual encounters with their mothers or strangers who r old to be their parents.they call a spade a spade,im wrking with a 44yr old lady she told how she got it last night,im used to this i jus laughed ,now this woman is almost my mom”s age – say it like it is so we learn,we were mislead therefore experimented and sme got preggas b4 time.

  23. I think there aint no such thing as an ugly vagina,its like saying an apple is pretty,the vagina wears no mascara its all about taste,mean not like sugar,but heavenly good taste

  24. I once had a guy ask me how women determined what tampon size to use. He thought women all had different size vaginal openings! I had to explain that tampon size was determined by blood flow. I found it very amusing but I’m sure his curiosity is widespread out there. Personally, I don’t think the size of a vagina should be an issue. A vagina serves three purposes: to allow women to have sex, to menstruate and to give birth. A vagina is so amazing that an entire baby can pass out of it! I’m sure vaginas vary from woman to woman and rightly so because we are all different individuals! It is a ghastly looking organ but it is what it is lol!

  25. Interesting post Fungai. I definitely agree with the prior commenter’s comments about male sexual organs being used in a deragotory sense as well. I think that society as a whole does tend to see sex as this act that is sinful, but it’s not. Our bodies were created by God in His image. Sex is a natural act created by God and the parts of our bodies that are for sex can not ever be “ugly” in God’s eyes. So why should they be in ours???

    This whole issue just speaks to the growing discontent that people are feeling in greater numbers every single day with their own bodies. One can just look at the rise in cosmetic surgeries on a whole to see that. Also the greater incidences of people with anorexia, bullimia — people that are so unhappy with their bodies that they will go to the extreme lengths of almost destroying them to turn their bodies into their mind’s ideal for the human form.

    If only each one of us could see ourselves through God’s eyes, we’d never seek to change another hair on our heads. Maybe we wouldn’t even tweeze, pluck or shave anymore?? Ah but that’s a topic for another day. We need to stop the quest for the pot of gold at the end of the “rainbow” of our bodies, so to speak and embrace our bodies the way we would a rainbow… We can’t explain them, we can’t define them, we can’t make them bigger, or longer, or more streamlined… they all just ARE… beautiful and each different in their own rights…

    I’m logging off to go hug myself and the kids and tell them all how much I love them just the way they are. Thanks for another interesting post Fungai. LOVE your blog.

  26. Fungai wabva waisa with pics shuwa!!!! u crazy.
    Well i know my vagina well enough. come 2 think of it, i dnt knw n otha so i wldnt evn knw hw 2 have it altered evn if i wanted to. so to hell with surgeons – maybe if they can gv me an extra 1 (Simply 4 the double pleasure) LOL

    • Thank you for this provocative and TRUE piece about the ignorance, shame and bullying that corresponds with a woman’s birth-right, in more ways than just her sexual identity. Thank you for your humor and courage. And, yes, I too am one of those curious women that probably could recognize her ‘girl-bits’ (as my daughter sweetly calls them) in a ‘police line-up’!

      R

  27. I read the piece on the vagina talk..a poem from Susun Weed on the vagina..entitled the vagina..
    I am the sheath of the sword. I am toothed, armed, and ready to bite. I have the power to defend, to keep women safe. I am not passive, accepting, ready to be filled. I am aware, watchful, ready to reject what I don’t want and to seize what I will.

    Listen to me and I will tell you how safe we are, right now, in this moment. When we are secure, I am open and receptive, moist and inviting. When we feel threatened, I become cold and hard, hot and tight, irritated, and inflamed. If the danger goes on and on, I weep, I am overrun.

    In health and joy, I am a rich and thriving ecosystem: friendly yeasts, beneficial bacteria, and a generous assortment of slippery, slidey lubricants thrive in my tangy-tasting depths.

    I am stretchy. I am expansive. Fill me and I yearn for more. I am yielding; I melt, I surrender. Yet in yielding, I deliver. I am the victor. I clench my fist and grab the prize. Mine.

    Do you think that I drool? I do. Do you think that I dribble, leak, and flood? I do. I am messy. I push the boundaries. I am greedy. I am slick. I am sleek.

    I lie between what is shown and what is hidden. I am both public and private. I am not visible, yet I am the identity of a woman. By my name is woman named. By my power is woman empowered..

    Oh and ladies do not douche your vagina..causes infections..more or less leaves the vagina receptable to all kinds of infections..

  28. Pingback: Zimbabwe: Women’s Lib Online and Unplugged · Global Voices

  29. Pingback: From vaginas to pap smears: Zimbabwe women blog | ZWE ONLINE

  30. What does the vagina look like? Literally, it doesn’t matter, as it’s appearance does not change anything. But it’s what it represents that matters: It represents a woman’s power. Getting to a woman’s vagina means the whole world to some men and they are willing to do anything do get to it and some women have used this blind obsession to get ahead in life. It is also a lot of people’s (male and female) that a woman’s dignity, pride et cetera lies in her vagina and getting to a woman’s vagina is a victory over: That explains some rapes, men’s obssesion with sex – men don’t actually enjoy sex that much, but what it represents; it’s women who actually enjoy sex – if they allow themselves to relax a bit. Women can actually win more battles if they opened their legs less…

    http://www.mgcininyoni.blogspot.com

  31. Pingback: Zimbabwe: donne su Internet, senza tabù · Global Voices in Italiano

  32. Pingback: Zimbabwe: donne su Internet, senza tabù | VpS Volontari per lo Sviluppo

  33. Who said everything has to be beautiful, vaginas included? I know women with labia dangling midway down their thighs and they are just having the same sex and relationship problems the rest of the world has. Sigh* If the thing works, dont try to fix it!!! Love the way so many people commented on this one here

  34. Quite interesting stuff here. But wn it cms to Africa women forego such practices as female genital mutilation not because they wish to but because its part of their culture & religion,its rarely a matter of choice. Women in the urban areas r @ liberty to disagree with such practices whereas those in the rural areas where these cultural practices are still in this very day intact hv no choice to resist these practices. Its not a matter of judging them because this is what they are taught from a very tender age.
    Mmmmh still wondering what the ideal vagina looks like????????

  35. Them Vaginas are damn sweet. Keep them clean. They are the source of your power. your whole existence whether educated or rural. Get sensitised to keep it natural so that the ecosystem is not tampered with. None should decieve you that it its beauty is in the looks.. none at all… it is in its climate and its ability to change with the conditions.
    If it can not become slipperly and moistured when duty calls and harms the tools and equipment then it is not worth. Trust me its beauty is in its performance in the multiple roles.

  36. i love this artical. alot.

    i have, since i can remember, been self concious of my vagina.

    i always hated it and was embarrassed to be naked infront of ANYBODY because of it.

    later on in my life, i discovered a folder of pornografic pictures, all of amazing asses and seemingly flawless vaginas, on my boyfriends computer. it almost ruined our relationship because i just could not get over the fact mine did not look like them. i was always shy and timid during intercourse after that.

    he sat me down and told me he loved my vagina and to not worry about the fact mine was not like theirs… and i still was not totally over that self concious issue.

    i feel like this helpped me alot… so, thank you.

  37. Point of correction men always think theirs is smaller, because we tend to see the other guy’s from a different angle of elevation and I agree with prior comments about male sexual organs being used in a derogatory sense as well. However, I think it is a great theme (the feedback is testimony enough). I believe the problem with giving sexual organs voices is that they tend to live between categories and across discourses. Some discourses (religious and traditional) make them sacred while some categories (derogatory) may classify them as vile, some so I doubt if it will ever be one voice. “—the tradition is that young girls pull on their labia from an early age so that the lips become very long and prominent. The reasoning behind such practices is that the elongation of the lips will provide more pleasure for the man during sex—” do those with elongated lips think their vaginas are ugly? I know a good majority of men wouldn’t care less about short or elongated labia or even notice the difference. When these women willingly undergo surgery is it not in their power to have the vagina they choose?

  38. This is a message to the webmaster. Your website is missing out on at least 300 visitors per day. I have found a company which offers to dramatically increase your traffic to your website: http://voxseo.com/traffic/ They offer 1,000 free visitors during their free trial period and I managed to get over 30,000 visitors per month using their services, you could also get lot more targeted traffic than you have now. Hope this helps :) Take care.

  39. You really make it appear so simple with your introduction
    but I find this topic to be honestly one thing
    that I believe I’d not at all understand. It seems too complicated and extremely extensive for myself. However, I’m excited to see what else you have to say in later posts:
    hopefully I’ll be able to grasp it sooner or later.

  40. chokwadi e world is full of mad men,i cldn help bt laugh at hw ppl cld invest eir tym debating e appearance of a vagina,ts jes too cwazy!!i dont thnk vaginas cn be ugly or beautiful,really?cn ey be?and thoz hu culturally remuvd clits wer jes being brutal and thiz r cultural fetters wf nuin to do wf e appearance of e vagina.And fungi,to call a vagina a cunthole z nt derrogatory,dicks ve various funy names and pple hu r foolish r termed ”dickheads”i wld reali thnk e only reason u wld engage in acrobatics to ve a glimpse of yo vajayjay z only wen ere is an abnormality like a mole or a wart,otherwise u wld laugh at yoself f u tried tht…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s