children

Media Release: Parents invited to bring children to vagina exhibition

Media release: 29/9/2013
Parents invited to bring children to vagina exhibition

There is so much in the media these days about children learning about sex and sexuality through pornography, and about the startling rise in women and girls seeking out labiaplasty, yet very little is put forward by the way of alternative information and education sources.

The 101 Vagina book is not about sex per se, nor is it an educational manual. However, it is about women’s sexual organs and their relationship to them, and presents a perspective which is honest, candid and often very moving.

The black and white photos are a frontal view in standing pose. They are not intended to shock, nor as a detailed lesson in genital anatomy, they simply show that “normal” is a broad range, rather than the narrow view presented by mainstream media.

In this way 101 Vagina aims to break down the taboo around genitalia and body image shame generally. It celebrates diversity and the sharing of story and wisdom, and intends to generate debate and greater acceptance of our bodies and our sexuality.

As if to highlight the taboo, police visited the exhibition in Sydney in June due to complaints and requested that the gallery windows be covered. They also suggested that minors should be kept out of the exhibition. The project creator and photographer, Philip Werner, responded by writing an article called “Children come out of vaginas but are not allowed to see them?” published in Ciao magazine.

Such real, unedited photos, and candid messages about women’s relationship to their bodies are uncommon for children to come across, yet it’s important that the distorted view presented by the mainstream is countered somehow.

One women had this to share about bringing her three year old daughter to the exhibition in June: “… I was thrilled to bring my 3 yr old daughter along, and set her on the path for having pride of her vagina, her self, her future pleasure, her body and it’s life giving abilities & to make sure she’s empowered! …”

Children, growing into teenagers, don’t naturally develop shame about their bodies, it is taught to them by us adults. They are naturally curious, trying to understand the world around them, which means they’ll find information one way or another. Therefore it is up to us adults to guide them through the misinformation in the culture we’ve created.

Attending the gallery Werner said: “Several teachers have come through the exhibition and said how great it would be to get school groups through here, or get the book in to school libraries. I’d love for that to happen. More than one woman in the book wrote about considering labiaplasty as a teenager. This is such a great antidote to that.”

The 101 Vagina Book Exhibition is part of the 2013 Melbourne Fringe arts festival as is up for another week until Sunday 6 October.The exhibition is free and open to the public (rated PG), though donations are appreciated to help pay for costs.

101 Vagina Book Exhibition

Dates: 25 Sept to 6 Oct
Times: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat-Sun 12-5pm
Venue: Colour Factory 409-429 Gore St Fitzroy

Melbourne Fringe event page:
http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/101-vagina-book-exhibition/

101 Vagina project website:
http://101vagina.com

Contacts:
Philip Werner (project creator): philip@philipwernerfoto.com
Colour Factory Gallery: www.colourfactory.com.au

 

QR code vaginas a hit at Sydney Fringe Arts Forum

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The QR code censored vaginas were a hit at the opening night of the Sydney Fringe Arts Forum in Leichardt on Friday night.

Read here why the images were censored in the first place.

This is the first time that 101 Vagina images and text had been exhibited in a setting that was not exclusively about 101 Vagina. This meant many people came face to face with it who were not expecting to be.

It made for some interesting reactions. Some people straight away engaged in various ways, others walked past pretending not to notice, apparently feeling embarrassed. More often than not it is the men who seem to feel too embarrassed to look and read. I suspect that this is due to an unspoken cultural attitude that looking makes you some sort of pervert. No wonder internet porn is so popular, since people can look without anyone seeing you looking.

I think I also overestimated people’s comfort and skill levels with their smartphones. Many people made no attempt to scan the QR codes, and may not have realised that there was more to them than met the eyes (though it was explained clearly on an information page).

Still, many people got out their phones, scanned the codes and read the linked articles. Now as before I am always fascinated to watch people engage with the 101 Vagina project. Always there will be people who are touched and moved and deeply appreciative of the work and the message.

Interestingly, the venue manager, who had initially said that the images could not be displayed, and then said that they need to be censored, came up to me afterwards and expressed her support for the project. She said that she completely agreed that it is not children who have problems with nudity, but their parents, who then impose these problems on their children. She had just been concerned about complaints from parents to council etc and didn’t want to have to deal with any kind of fallout. Fair enough. Just goes to show that projects like this are still needed to remove these taboos.

The group exhibition at the Italian Forum is still on until the 29th Sep, Wednesday to Sunday 2-6pm

Now I’m looking forward to the main event, the exhibition at Tap Gallery.

 

Below are the URL’s linked to by the QR codes:

http://www.101vagina.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/MG_9852-640s.jpg
http://au.artshub.com/au/news-article/news/visual-arts/police-monitor-vagina-exhibition-195868
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/13/apple-itunes-censors-vagina-penis-references-okay_n_1879197.html
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/15/michigan-politician-banned-using-word-vagina
http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/why-australian-law-demands-all-vaginas-be-digitally-altered-nsfw/
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/22/honi-soit-vulvas-censorship
http://www.101vagina.com/2013/08/16/censorship-at-sydney-fringe-2013/

Media Release: Vagina censorship at Sydney Fringe 2013

Media Release: 16 August 2013

Vagina censorship at Sydney Fringe 2013Censored vagina 123 sThe 101 Vagina Book Exhibition will be part of the Sydney Fringe this year (2013) and was also selected to be part of the Sydney Fringe’s Fringe Arts Forum, a visual arts showcase. (Fringe Arts Forum 11-28 Sept: Opening night 13 Sept 6pm)

However, months after arrangements for this were made, the Italian Forum venue owners decided that the images could not be shown because they want the venue to be “family Friendly”.

Regarding this question, Ciao magazine published an article, titled “Children come out of vaginas but are not allowed to see them?” on the question of minors viewing the exhibition’s content. This followed the police’s suggestion that minors should be kept out of the recent 101 Vagina exhibition in Sydney in June. The police also requested that the gallery windows be covered, leading to a front page article in MX newspaper with a large headline “Hide the Vagina”. Arts Hub also covered the story in a bit more detail.IMG_20130701_211204

After frustrating communication attempts the venue decided that the images could be shown, but only if they are censored such that no genitalia is visible.

This presents an excellent opportunity to raise the issue of censorship and explore the taboo from another angle. The audience will find themselves engaged in a multimedia censorship bonanza, where each “offending” genitalia will be covered with a scannable QR code that takes people, via their smart phones, to a censorship related website, article, image or simply the original, uncensored photo.

In a related issue, the media recently picked up on the “scandal” caused by the Sydney Uni Student magazine, Honi Soit, who published 18 vaginas on their front cover. Something went wrong with the black censorship boxes not sufficiently obscuring the genitalia and all heaven broke loose.

Vagina related taboos, and body image shame generally, are connected to the staggering increase in women and girls seeking out labiaplasty, to which Australian censorship laws contribute.

The main exhibition at Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst will still host all the uncensored images, from 17-22 Sept. 2013.

101 Vagina will also be in the Melbourne Fringe from 25 Sept to 6 Oct 2013.

 

101 Vagina Book Exhibition (Sydney Fringe 2013)

At the Fringe Arts Forum (only a few of the images and censored)
Dates: 11-28 September: 2pm till late
Venue: Italian Forum, 23 Norton St, Leichardt

Main Exhibition (Entire exhibition)
Dates: 17-22 September: 12-6pm daily
Opening night: Tuesday 17 September 6-9pm
Venue: Tap Gallery, 45 Burton St, Darlinghurst

Contact:
Philip Werner
philip@philipwernerfoto.com

Event: 
(Postscript: This issue lead to a frontpage article by Cuty Hub about vagina censorship)
City-Hub-September-19

I was thrilled to bring my 3yr old daughter along

“This exhibition is so important to challenge the shame, doubt & insecurity for women in a misogynist culture where the very place of pleasure & bearing of life is treated as the most degrading thing of all!

I was thrilled to bring my 3yr old daughter along, and set her on the path for having pride of her vagina, her self, her future pleasure, her body & it’s life giving abilites, & to make sure she’s empowered!

Just beautiful!

Her joy at seeing all the vaginas was the best example to me to be empowered also, and to step away from that shame & embrace that inner feminine in me!

Thanks for doing this & showing the world our vaginas are to be celebrated! xx”

Anonymous.

Story submitted at the Sydney 101 Vagina exhibition 27-30 June 2013.

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Children come out of vaginas but are not allowed to see them?

[An edit of this article was also published in Ciao newspaper, July 12 2013]

When the police visited the 101 Vagina Exhibition and Festival of the Vagina in Redfern a couple of weeks ago they also suggested that we should be keeping minors out of the gallery.

Then, after 101 Vagina was selected to be part of a group exhibition as part of the Sydney Fringe, the venue refused to allow the images to be shown, saying that they want the venue to be “family friendly”. So I censored the images with QR codes that lead people to various vagina censorship related articles.

Why? Why should children not see, talk about, hear different words for, draw and reflect on vaginas? Are vaginas bad? Are penises bad? Mine isn’t, is yours?

The younger the children are, the more recently they have themselves just emerged from a vagina, after having been conceived through one. But in spite of this there seems to be a cultural fear around children and anything sex related coming within proximity of each other.

Of course, children should be protected from sexual predators, but somehow, the valid and important concerns about sexual abuse have resulted in sex being given a blanket label, bad. The act that led to their existence is labeled bad. What are the two most forbidden words in the English language? Fuck and cunt.

How unfortunate! They should be words of celebration, exuberance, joy, pleasure, freedom & love.

Our culture is severely hobbled by sexual repression and suppression. The worst manifestation of this is sexual abuse and though it may not be the only cause, I believe we will never rid culture of sexual abuse without first dealing with the sexual repression and suppression which underpin it.

Guilt and shame does not arise naturally in us as children, it is taught to us by adults, whether directly or indirectly, through judgement and fear. It is adults who teach children that their bodies are to be hidden, not to touch themselves and not to say certain words. This means that it is up to us, the adults, to reverse this trend.

One of the best ways to reverse guilt and shame is through open discussion and direct engagement. A child who has had open, honest and respectful discussions about their bodies and sexuality is far less likely to end up with feelings of shame and guilt about their own. It also means they will be less likely to fall victim to externally imposed shame from various media or abusive comments.

Imagine if, instead of learning about sex through porn, children were from infancy taught to respect their own and other people’s bodies; that they are the masters of their own; that no part of it is shameful; that pleasure is a birthright, and that sex can be a beautiful act of bonding, joy and pleasure?

Fortunately there is a growing and international “sex positive” movement which is working to remove the negative stigma around bodies and sexuality and the 101 Vagina Exhibition and Festival of the Vagina are proudly part of that movement.

Breaking taboos can be creative fun and no one needs to get hurt in the process. In fact, years of hurt can begin to be undone in the process.

Here is an excerpt from one of the messages written and deposited in the “Write your own vagina message” box:

“… I was thrilled to bring my 3 yr old daughter along, and set her on the path for having pride of her vagina, her self, her future pleasure, her body and it’s life giving abilities & to make sure she’s empowered! …”

 

Children come out of vaginas

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101 Vagina is for all ages

[This article was also published (slightly shorter version) in Ciao Magazine in print on online here:]

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The 101 Vagina Exhibition and Festival of the Vagina, both on in Sydney this week, are all ages events. Both children and adults are welcome to attend and yet some people may feel that they are not suitable for children. Why? Why should children not see, talk about, hear different words for, draw and reflect on vaginas? Are vaginas bad? Are penises bad? Mine isn’t, is yours?

The younger the children are, the more recently they have themselves just emerged from a vagina, after having been conceived through one. But in spite of this there seems to be a cultural fear around children and anything sex related coming within proximity of each other.

This is peculiar considering that children are the result of sex. We all are. We are all walking, talking, breathing sexual beings from birth to death.

Of course, children should be protected from sexual predators, but somehow, the valid and important concerns about sexual abuse have resulted in sex being given a blanket label, bad. We are inadvertently teaching our children that sex is bad. The act that led to their, all of our, existence is bad. Consider, what are the two most forbidden words in the English language? Fuck and cunt. Followed by dick, wanker, fuckwit, etc.

How unfortunate.

They should all be words of celebration, exuberance, joy, pleasure, freedom, love, etc.IMG_20130627_162739 640px

I personally believe that our entire culture, at a personal and societal level, is severely hobbled by sexual repression and suppression. Sexual and bodily guilt and shame arise out of judgement and fear. Importantly, I believe that this is causally related to sexual abuse. Not the only cause, but one of them. What motive would someone who is truly satisfied and comfortable in their sexuality have for imposing themselves sexually on anyone else? Rape is not an expression of sexual freedom, but of sexual repression.

The kind of guilt and shame so many of us walk around with about our bodies and sexuality does not arise naturally in us as children, it is taught to us by adults, whether directly or indirectly. It is adults who teach children that their bodies are to be hidden, not to touch themselves and not to say certain words. This means that it is up to us, the adults, to reverse this trend. We can’t expect the next generation to be free from sexual hangups and free from sexual aggression if we ourselves continue to act from this place.

Oh, and in case you think there isn’t a taboo around vaginas or penises, try talking openly about your own on a crowded train. If you can, without feeling even a tinge of discomfort, you’re in the vast minority.

One of the best ways to reverse guilt and shame is through open discussion and direct engagement. A child who has had open, honest, respectful and broad discussions about genitals and sexuality is far less likely to end up with feelings of shame and guilt about their own. It means they will be far less likely to fall victim to shame externally imposed from media, advertising or passing comments on the street. The knowledge they have about what’s normal acts like a shield which will keep the bullshit at bay.

But how are our children currently being initiated into sexuality? Through porn! Imagine if, instead, children were from infancy taught to respect their own and other people’s bodies, that they are the masters of their own, that no part of it is shameful, that pleasure is a birthright, and that sex can be a beautiful act of bonding, joy and pleasure? We’ve got a long way to go to get to that point.

There is a growing and international sex positive movement which is working to remove the negative stigma around genitalia and sexuality and the 101 Vagina Exhibition and Festival of the Vagina are proudly part of that movement.

What messages will children and adults alike come away with from these events? That vaginas are nothing to feel ashamed of and it’s ok to use the word vagina; we all look different and we’re all just fine the way we look; there are as many different experiences of our bodies and sexuality as there are people on the planet; we all still have a lot left to learn about our very own bodies.

Breaking taboos can be creative fun and no one needs to get hurt in the process. In fact, years of hurt can begin to be undone in the process.

Here is an excerpt from one of the messages written and deposited in the “Write your own vagina message” box:

“… I was thrilled to bring my 3 yr old daughter along, and set her on the path for having pride of her vagina, her self, her future pleasure, her body and it’s life giving abilities & to make sure she’s empowered! …”

The center of my being, is she…

“The center of my being, is she…

My lovely lady bits have been quite the cause of some trouble and blessings…

She was my own personal play thing until the age of 16, when another form of play was found.
Girls, boys and toys each had their share, until her primal design was put to use, when, three times, my singularly unique vagina brought my children into the world.
Her narrow canal being stretched and pulled to unimaginable shapes and sizes, only to remarkably snap back to true form.

She has been the cause of envy, temptation and desire with many questing after her and the body to which she belongs. She has stretched her tendrils into my mind and whispered gently in my ear willing me to travel to faraway places in the quest of satisfaction.
Jealousy over the desire shown by others caused a breakdown in a long term relationship, but freedom was gained, and my oh my, did she drink from the overflowing cup of attention.
Through boyfriends, girlfriends, lovers, a marriage and several swinging sessions, she has never let me down.
She has kept all my secrets. She has been my honest center of feeling. She never lies about whom I love or desire.

I am a Mother, a Lover and a Girlfriend. She will never leave me. She will always please me. We know each other so well.
She is beautiful, special and there will never be another like her.”

Joanne Hayes