Today, I'd like to talk about your vagina. All of ours, in fact.
Of course, we probably shouldn't say that.
In an article in the Style section in this past weekend's New York Times, Stephanie Rosenbloom examines the acceptance of the newly introduced slang, "vajayjay."
It appeared on Grey's Anatomy. It's tossed around casually between friends. Hell, Oprah used it!
But, there's a little bit of a problem here, I think. Yes, it's catchy, playful, even F.C.C.-friendly, but, more than anything, it's avoidant. And it connotes that our vaginas are. . . not so acceptable to us (or anyone else).
It seems, according to the article, that the folks at Grey's were forced into vajayjay territory after using the word vagina one too many times in an episode script. Apparently, there's a limit to the number of times you can say vagina on tv (which, incidentally, appears to be lower than the number of times you can say penis), and thus vajayjay was introduced into our current zeitgeist.
Which saves us, thankfully, from having to utter vagina. Or worse, yet, vulva, labia, or clitoris.
But, the less we say these words, the more problems we introduce. The Times quotes Eve Ensler, of "The Vagina Monologuea" years back: "'. . . what we don't say becomes a secret, and secrets often create shame and fear andmyths.'" Ensler refers to vagina as a word "'that stirs up anxiety, awkwardness, contemmpt and disgust.'" Kinda makes me want to say vagina, over and over again, in a classic exposure paradigm. Given that Ensler's work focused largely on sexual trauma, I'm also wondering the effect that cutsey words like vajayjay have on women's sexual rights.
My doctoral dissertation focused on sexual communiation, conversations prospective partners have with one another about sex. The upshot is that people are much more comfortable having sex than talking about it. This doesn't bode so well for protecting ourselves against sexual assault, disease transmission, etc. Vajayjay is just another way out from having to face the truth.
And, what about how acceptance of our vaginas is linked to overall acceptance of our bodies? It reminds me of a talk radio episode I heard several years back while on the way to work. The topic was some variation of eating disorders/body image in young girls, and the discussion focused on how parents (mothers, in particular), in an effort to encourage body acceptance, should teach their daughters about "down there." What? Down where? We should be teaching our daughters about their vaginas! Because, if we avoid the words (and therefore, the topic), they will, too. I'm with Dr. Carol Livoti, an ob-gyn quoted in the article, who states: "'It's time to start calling anatomical organs by their anatomical names. We should be proud of our bodies.'"
We should. And, we shouldn't be reduced to calling a part of our body something different, something more acceptable to others. Because the more likely we are to do that, the more likely we are to feel the need to mold other parts of our anatomy, our thinking, feelings, and behavior, to others' expectations.
So, here's to your vagina, the glory of your vulva and all it's parts, because it's one aspect of our anatomy, that simply by using its given name, we can make significant strides toward sexual empowerment and body acceptance. And, that's a large part of why we're all here. . . .