[This article was also published (slightly shorter version) in Ciao Magazine in print on online here:]
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.
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! …”
Top 10 Tips For Your Vagina
By Jacqueline Hellyer - www.jacquelinehellyer.com
A friend asked me recently what my top 10 tips for a vagina would be. Good question, I thought. So many women feel disconnected from their genitals, don’t have a good feeling about them. We don’t even have a decent word for them, often using the word “vagina” to apply to the whole genital area. So here I use the word ‘vagina’ to apply to just the vagina, and as to the whole of the genitals..? Well, read on!
- Honour It. The female genitals are the source of life. Other than a small input by the man at the start, the whole process of creating life takes place in the female genitals. That would have to be the most awesome thing in the entire universe!
- Name It. For such an awesome part of the body, it’s incredible that we don’t have a decent name, other than ‘genitals’. Even in casual talk there are not a lot of strong gorgeous names. We often refer to our ‘bits’, ‘down there’, ‘private parts’ or ‘nether regions’. It’s difficult to relate to an area of your body that you can’t even name! So give it a name: it’s my fanny or my quim, my yoni, qualia, bajingo, honey-pot, cinnebar crevasse….Even my cunt, because originally the meaning of the word cunt was “to beguile a man with one’s feminine charms”, which is rather a wonderful concept.
- Understand It. I think one of the reasons women don’t feel so good about their quim/farfalla/bajingo is because they don’t know how incredible it is. Women are built for extreme sexual pleasure! The anatomy, the physiology, the energetics. Once you understand that, and realise what you’re sexual potential is, then wow, you’re going to love it. Do you know how big your clitoris is? Most of it is on the inside! Do you know how much engorging material there is down there? How orgasms work? How you can go beyond normal orgasm to an orgasmic state? All thanks to your amazing bajingo.
- Incorporate It. It’s part of your body, so feel it as part of your body. Close your eyes and and go over every part of it in your mind, both the inside and the outside. Explore it with your hands and fingers. Take a good look at it in the mirror. When you can recline in front of a mirror with legs wide apart and look and say to yourself “Mmm, that is gorgeous!”, then you’ll know it’s part of you.
- Pamper It. Our bodies love and deserve to be pampered. It’s so good for the soul. Your honey-pot is part of your body and deserves that pampering too. So if you’re in a hot bath, part your legs and allow the warmth to wash over it. If you’re in the ocean, part your legs and allow the salty sting of the water to caress it. When you apply creams to you body, slather yourself all over (no creams or oils on the inside though). When making love with your partner, request/invite/allow it to be touched/massaged/embraced.
- Pleasure It. Our genitals are made for pleasure. The clitoris has no purpose at all, other than to provide exquisite pleasure. The mass of nerves, engorging material, lubricating and wetting functions, all conspire to show that our fannys are meant to be used for pleasure. So do so. With one another or on your own. Particularly on your own. The womanly art of self-pleasuring is so important to self-loving and self-honouring. See my video on self pleasuring if you need advice on how to do this (www.jacquelinehellyer.com/info_videos.htm).
- Listen to It. This is particularly in relation to having sex. One of the biggest problems I’ve noticed with people’s sex lives is that they move too fast. You have to listen to your body and in particular to your quim to know when you’re ready to move on. So you don’t start to kiss until your mouth is drawn to your partner’s. You don’t allow your breasts to be touched until you feel them lifting and moving towards your partner, wanting to be touched. You don’t allow your qualia to be touched until you feel your hips raising and your legs opening. And you don’t allow your partner to enter you until you feel your cinnebar crevasse yearning for his jade stalk, your yoni invites in his lingam, your cunt is dripping with desire for his cock… If you’re not really feeling it, don’t go there.
Now some tips on keeping it in good shape:
- Squeeze It. There’s a band of muscle that goes from your pubic bone to your tail bone. It’s important to keep it toned as it does some very important things. Firstly, it holds all your internal organs in place. If you don’t keep those muscles toned, your vagina might fall out when you get old. I kid you not, vaginal prolapse can happen to older women. Secondly, the contraction of these muscles is an important part of orgasm. The more toned the muscles, the better the orgasm. So ladies – squeeze! And squeeze some more! Imagine you’re stopping urine from flowing, those are the muscles to use. Squeeze rhythmically, then squeeze and hold a few seconds, then squeeze progressively tighter, keeping your abdominal muscles relaxed.
- Rest It. Rest is such an important part of health and well being. It applies to your vagina too. It’s good to give it a rest. Particularly during your period. In many traditional cultures women would take time out during their period to relax and rest, often with other women. This is not as many anthropologists have interpreted it because the women were considered ‘unclean’ at that time, but because it was a sacred time for a woman to go within. We modern women would benefit from doing the same. Take it easy during your period, especially the heavier days. Avoid exerting yourself, be peaceful, and avoid genital stimulation, especially intercourse. Get into the rhythm of your cycle, be aware of the ebbs and flows of your energy and work with those flows, rather than ignoring them or fighting them.
- Let it flow. And finally, on the topic of menstruation, let it flow. I do believe modern women try to hide to ignore and hide their cycles excessively. Tampons have their place, but if you let the blood flow, you’ll get more in touch with your body. So rest and let the blood flow during your period, and you’ll find more energy and more intuitive flow in the rest of your life.
To get more in touch with your feminine sexuality, attend one of my Luscious Woman workshops: www.jacquelinehellyer.com/luscious-woman
Great idea! :)
I would love to be involved, both by being photographed & by writing a short piece or paragraph.
It took me many years to feel comfortable with my vagina - to even look at it, properly, in a mirror. I used to think it was vulgar & something taboo, to be hidden & ashamed of. Much of that was to do with my early childhood sexual experiences - against my will.
I now think it is beautiful - a work of art :) MUCH healing has taken place for me over the years. I am 37 this year. It has only been approx 5yrs since I became more aware & proud of & in touch with my sexuality, and sexual organs.
What an amazing & empowering experience!
I highly commend you, for this magnificent idea! Women all over, even without any experience of sexual misconduct, are often shameful & afraid of their luscious womanly ‘parts’.
Such a book will bring awareness, self confidence - and probably a giggle :) to women - and men alike.
I am in!! :D
(Email published with sender’s permission)
“When I first had a boy see my vagina, I was 14. After our experience together he spread a rumor around that I was too hairy! I was totally mortified! I also thought my labia minor were uneven and not very attractive or ‘neat’ like what you see in the Pornos! I’d didn’t think about it too much, but a few years ago I was at confest and a workshop caught my eye called ‘Genital Appreciation’. I felt immediately confronted by the concept and realized, with that kind of reaction, there was probably something I needed to address with my vagina! So off I went.
The workshop was a ‘show and tell’ kind of set up and was really healing, to just speak about my insecurities, experiences and hear others sharing similar feelings was really quite amazing. Having spaces to open up a dialogue around sexuality issues is powerful stuff as we so often keep our intimate, vulnerable thoughts and feelings hidden inside where they play out in other ways. Shame is very insidious..
So, since my first not so positive vagina experience, I have had other lovers who have shown great appreciation and love for my vagina! It is still a little uneven and a little bit hairy, but it’s a passionate and powerful part of me and I appreciate it for all it’s uniqueness. I’ve even taught it to do some new tricks and she’s becoming more and more confident as we grow and learn together :)
101 Vagina is an awesome idea and I am proud to be a part of it!”