"It's really time for us to grow up and discover our vaginas." –Loretta Swit
For all the sexual freedoms we claim in our culture, the amount of real conversation about all things sexual is almost non-existent. Formal sex education is limited to body part naming if it exists at all; in many states kids don't even get that. Adult entertainment content is the substitute for real sex education for most kids and even most adults. Our collective discomfort about the mystery of our sexuality is proportional to the lack of both language and meaningful conversation about our sexual selves.
While joking about genitalia may be acceptable among select friends, consider the last real conversation you had about your vaginal anatomy or the traumas that you may have sustained within that anatomy. Whether from childbirth, forced and/or painful sexual encounters or just a healthy dose of cultural shame associated with genitalia, a frightening majority of women carry the burden of unspoken conversations about their vaginal life. Emotional issues that live in our bodies often manifest as physical illness when they are silenced and suppressed for years. Even if you can't personally link chronic pelvic pain to the lack of real conversation about your vaginal experiences, at the very least, opening up a dialogue could add a great deal of mileage to your experience of sexual pleasure.
I was 47 and selling love products for years before I learned about the remarkable clitoral organ system and complex anatomic structures that literally rock my inner world every time I orgasm. This from a woman who believed herself to be sexually open-minded and educated. I am not alone in never having gotten a full tour and understanding of the complex neural network and the multiple organs that work in harmony to make sexual pleasure the amazing symphony of sensation that it is. In fact, until about ten years ago with the advent of books like the clitoral truth, much of female anatomy was not understood or taught even by/to physicians.
Couple this lack of information for decades with a lingering fear to look at and/or explore our private parts and it is easy to see how so many women have had so little access or experience with their pleasure centers. In my new favorite book: The Women's Anatomy of Arousal, author Sheri Winston (a midwife for 20 years) describes the layers of female sexual anatomy as a journey to a sacred temple. She also provides clear hand-drawn images that she did herself, which show both the separate parts and their relationship to each other. Reflecting on how the world would be different for millions of us had we all been privileged to her compassionate and straightforward anatomy lessons is like imagining a true revolution in self love.
The truth is that building a working vocabulary for our most intimate physiology is foundational to developing the more expressive capacity of our language to communicate about what feels good when, how and where. Acquiring the terms that define the physiology of the visible vaginal parts- the mons pubis, labia major and minor and clitoral head and hood is the starting point to fully grasping the erectile wonders of those same body parts and their connection to the complex internal organs they arouse. Sheri devotes an entire chapter to understanding the intricate physiological cause and effects that transform arousal into orgasm for both women and men. It is a fascinating anatomy lesson for both genders to recognize how our arousal mechanisms are similar in capacity while having intriguing differences in location that make all the difference to our experience.
Allowing oneself the privilege of understanding one of the most complex and highly enervated areas of the body is one way to access the pleasure capacity we are all born with. Giving both voice and names to the vagina might just be one of the most sexually respectful acts we can commit in our lifetime and is sure to awaken your curiosity and capacity for pleasure.