The Vagina Talks

Why is it that I feel squeamish about saying “vagina” in public? I didn’t realize how much of an issue this still was for me until about a month ago when on a crowded plane, my boyfriend cracked some joke with a punch line ending with the word “hoo-hoo.” Immediately turning into a word monitor, I looked at him and said “SHH!!”

As I turned to make sure that the little girl seated in the row behind me didn’t hear what he said—I caught myself. Why am I freaking out?

 

It’s not like my boyfriend actually even said the word “vagina”… although he was clearly referring to one. Even if he had—”vagina” being the correct anatomical name for this female body part—so what? And why did I feel guilty by association as if we had been on the verge of corrupting a minor? Come to think of it, I would have felt just as embarrassed even if only adults were around.

Female Body

I know I’m not alone in this discomfort. As a little girl in the Philippines my yaya would only refer to the vagina using the word “flower.” Be sure to wash your flower! Put your panty on your flower! The few times my closest girlfriends and I have ever talked about the vagina, you can be sure we never did this while at a Starbucks or any other public place.   

In 2012, Rep. Lisa Brown, a Michigan lawmaker, was barred from speaking in the state’s House because she referred to her own vagina while debating an anti-abortion bill. Last year, a Wisconsin newspaper X-ed out the word “vagina” when running an ad promoting a local production of the play The Vagina Monologues. I understand that there are cultural, religious, and political reasons for why there is such a charge around this word, but should this be the case?

If you think about it, half the population has a vagina and the other half—the male half—most likely has been in one at some point (if not many times), whether during birth and/or sex. Seriously, where would our civilization be today if it wasn’t for the vagina?

Still, many people go around shrouding the vagina in code word or whispers—almost as if the vagina is the “She Who Must Not Be Named” of the muggle world, not unlike Harry Potter’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

A couple of years ago, I performed one of the pieces from The Vagina Monologues in acting class. The monologue, titled My Angry Vagina, is about a woman expressing how mad her vagina is that the manufacturers of gynecological exam instruments, tampons, thong underwear, and other female products didn’t bother to consider what actually might feel good to a vagina when making said items. The monologue ends with the character telling the audience about what her vagina really wants and needs, which is also what the woman wants and needs.

Here is playwright Eve Ensler performing My Angry Vagina:

Working on the monologue as an actor felt liberating for me in that I got to embody a character that has no problem ignoring the cultural taboo around saying “vagina” (24 times!) in public. It also got me thinking about my vagina and whether it’s communicated any strong messages.

During my early 20’s while in a relationship I didn’t have the heart to end, my vagina took control by making it impossible for intercourse to happen. Looking back, I now see that this was my vagina’s way of saying what I couldn’t: I don’t want to be in this anymore.

Rather than following its lead and breaking up with my boyfriend, I freaked out. What’s wrong with my vagina?! When I went to see my gynecologist, he told me that physically everything was fine and the problem was emotional or psychological.

The doctor was right. When I finally ended the relationship, my vagina relaxed on its own.

My vagina has also proven to be a better judge of character than me. During one relationship that on the surface seemed great but felt wrong somehow, I found myself seated on the bathroom floor—my body flooded with all this anger that seemed to be coming directly from my pelvic area. Apparently my vagina was very pissed off because we had just experienced some very one-sided sex. After that it became harder to pretend the relationship was working.

Then there was that first time with the man I am with now when everything about what was happening, in my body and with him, felt 100% right. If it could have my vagina would have given me a high five and danced around the bedroom.

Turns out that my vagina is shameless (and intelligent) when it comes to articulating its opinions and desires. This leads me to believe that my shame around talking about the vagina (or any other female body part) doesn’t come from my body but is a by-product of cultural conditioning. If so, then this is something that can be unlearned.

Like my vagina, I have a lot to say.

Related Blog Posts: 

WANTED: My Own Desires

Freeing the Female Orgasm

The Power of the Period 


58 Comments on “The Vagina Talks”

  1. You are the Wordsmith Idol of Blogging. That’s like what American Idol is to singing. I literally hang on your every word. Terrific points made with pithiness and poignancy (And humor). I saw Vagina Monologues and had to look down a lot, finally went to the restroom pretending something was in my eye. And I saw it with other women! Man, I need to start by just reading this blog of yours aloud! Thank you for expressing yourself with far more clarity than my … ahem “down there parts” could ever articulate.

  2. What an awesome post! I think we must have all gone through this “transition of acceptance” of the simple word. I have to laugh also because my 12 yr; old son just had a sex ed class lecture. He was very excited to tell me he won extra candies because he was the only one who knew that the answer to one question was labia! Times are a changin’.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Robyn! I LOOVE that your son knows about the labia…. and that he got a prize for it. (I’d bet having you as a mom has something to do with his awesome awareness.)

  3. lacarpintera says:

    Never thought I would start my day with vagina talks. Funny though! I think it is admirable you just dare to write it out and share it now!

  4. aqilaqamar says:

    I am still reading this but thank God you did not name this “If My pussy could talk” like this person who wrote this because that title still made me laugh hhhahhahahahaha

  5. KP says:

    You *know* I love this, Diahann! I enjoyed the image of the vagina high-fiving you. I wonder what the reception of The Vagina Monologues was when Monique Wilson produced it in Manila a couple years ago.

  6. Audrey says:

    I don’t have a problem using/saying the word vagina. It’s all the words used instead that refer to it in either euphemistic or violent ways that bother me. This is an excellent piece, Diahann, a wonderful exploration, and brings up a lot of thoughts and emotional responses. We are women. We all have vaginas, yet as a society we are taught that it is unacceptable to even refer to them as they are or to acknowledge that we have one. I have a lot of heat around this topic!! I too, love the image and idea of your vagina high-fiving you. From hear on out, I am going to high five my vagina every day. I am going to celebrate it, rather than have shame about it. Thank you for bringing this conversation into the light.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Audrey!! All the charge around the word really causes me to think that the vagina is pretty powerful- otherwise, why would so many people be triggered by her?

      “From hear on out, I am going to high five my vagina every day.” Love that!

  7. soloish says:

    “My vagina has also proven to be a better judge of character than me.”

    That’s great!

  8. Anikke says:

    I want to dance around the room and high five my vagina!!!!

  9. jakijoyner@aol.com says:

    Good on u. Seems like ur having no probs putting stuff out there…don’t it feel good? So proud of u.

    Sent from my iPhone

  10. I love your post and your sense of humor and your honesty. I also like the line “My vagina has also proven to be a better judge of character than me.” Great.
    It’s also interesting how in your relationship where you wanted to break up but couldn’t your vagina had “broken down.” Goes to show that the body doesn’t lie.
    Thanks for posting.

  11. Ralph says:

    Your post makes a lot of sense Diahann. One is always hearing about “listen to your heart not your head”, ” I’ve got butterflies in my stomach”, “…..before you were a twinkle in my eye” and so on. Body parts do talk so why not the vagina ? Great post !! Ralph xox 😀

  12. aqilaqamar says:

    In a SVU episode recently, season 15, they showed how a girl had continuous orgasms while being raped and how she could not have it with the boy she loved so much. Being a teen and not understanding her body but having sex with a boyfriend more worried about himself that he was angry at her for “enjoying” the rape. What got me pissed off was this — the vagina was designed to also help in times of need like a penis. Seeing her pain and humiliation her body decided to shudder orgasms minor or major so that her passage would be wet enough so that internal damage could be reduced and the orgasms the gang rapists was high fiving about were just like coughs clearing your throat and lungs nothing at all intentional. But what got to me was that her boyfriend blamed her like guys don’t come even if another guy sucks them off. Also in the end the guy was being valorized though he was being a coward and pinning all the blame on his girlfriend so that he wouldn’t have to feel bad about himself about having some info that his so-called buddies would gang rape her. Yes, they were gang members and yes he was scared but then admit the fear don’t well blame your girlfriend.

    The episode made me connect and your article how female sexuality is so undermined by patriarchal body forces where even involuntary orgasms mean she is a slut or whore but guys have morning erections all the time regardless even if they were dreaming about their moms and dads so why is it that one organ’s reflex is taken as natural and the others isn’t? Vaginas are amazing and like any genitals have more uses than sex so guys of both sexes read up on both your little buddies and your partners. Don’t live on the knowledge that every organism means desire and that every shudder means an orgasm.

    Sorry Diahann needed to say these words 😀

    • diahannreyes says:

      I agree- sounds like her vagina was taking care of her by responding the way it did. And an orgasm means what it means to the woman and her body-and just because she doesn’t have one doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing either.

      Yes- our body’s intelligence and innate amazingness is pretty out of this world. And I think more and more women are starting to embrace that. thanks for sharing 🙂

  13. David Kenyon says:

    Again – excellent article! Impossible to start one of your posts and not finish it – surely the mark of a unusually gifted writer. Very interesting what you say about the vagina having a mind of it’s own and dictating the actions of the body. It sort of explains why, with ex-girlfriends throughout my life, the sex has ended long before the actual relationship – in most cases without the girl appearing to know, acknowledge or accept that the relationship was at an end. (I seem to have been always the one to end relationships – to say the actual words. But from my point of view, it was never my choice. It always seemed to me as though, indirectly, the girl had ended it).

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, David! I agree that it is so interesting how the body has a lot of innate intelligence and often knows the deal before we ourselves are ready/willing/able to admit/take action. I think if all of us could live our lives by listening to and following the intelligence of our bodies– it would be a very different world.

  14. Pravèén Chunara says:

    don’t know but its awesome post i really impressed 🙂 and i don’t know what to say about it… but it’s great

  15. I think there’s a place for modesty. Which is why most of don’t walk around nude and do cover certain parts at the beach. But there’s something to be said for acknowledging something that is a beautiful — and intelligent — part of our design.

    Talking vagina. Its lips saying the NO that the lips on your face should have.
    Holistic. Our body is holistic.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Agreed, Diana! There is a time and a place for everything- and modesty is not the same as shame.

      Yes- beautiful and intelligent! And absolutely-our bodies are holistic! To know and own and listen to the parts that make up the whole is important and powerful.

  16. Haha this strikes at the very core of how I became “ThePoliticalVagina” !!!
    I too used to be squeamish about saying the word “Vagina” (even in private).
    Then one night playing pool with a bunch of friends – it happened, someone told a joke or something but it ended up with us all saying “Vagina” out loud at sporadic times throughout the night just for no good reason at all but to say it out loud. It was so funny and so very liberating.
    When I began blogging as ThePoliticalVagina I’m sure there was a definite perv element come to check it out, hoping for titillation and juicy sex stories. Oh I am much more than that! All my life I have been extremely curious and amazed that the possession of one should barr me from some activities, enable those without one to legislate against me, for me….discriminate against me…or should I say us? Why?

    • diahannreyes says:

      I love the story of how you reclaimed the word– and that everyone had so much fun and felt empowered saying it… more evidence that the vagina is about pleasure and power— the latter being why I suspect there are those who fear it.

      • Disempowering women is all about control. The Patriarchy needs control. That ‘need’ in turn disempowers them – hence the fear they are not as omnipotent as they’d like to think they are.
        Whenever one person seeks to control another they are not paying attention to the things within themselves that need addressing.

        • diahannreyes says:

          Well said. I truly believe that those that seek to rob others of power do so because inherently they feel so powerless. The patriarchy disempowers women and men and thank goodness more of us are beginning to wake up to the spell and saying- here is the deal and no thanks!

  17. Initiator ;-) says:

    Human gateway to come in this world….!

  18. BroadBlogs says:

    Interesting how much discomfort surrounds the vagina. Yet cock is downright cocky.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    Great post, Diahann! I’m a big fan of using the “correct” word for pieces of our bodies so I don’t mind the word “vagina”. It just feels to me that we shouldn’t minimize our bodies because they are so powerful, as you point out so nicely.

  20. BroadBlogs says:

    By the way, did I tell you what a great title this is?

  21. weavergrace says:

    I greatly appreciate your asking such questions as the ones you raise in this post. I am glad people are talking about some of the bizarre paths our societies have wandered off on. It’s like looking at some of the laws that are no longer enforced, and wondering, “what were they thinking!”

    I’m glad you and your vagina keep talking! Another vote here for your high five!

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Grace! You are right. Hopefully, we’ll come to a place in history soon where some of these laws about women and their bodies will cease to be part of the present and just appear as the answers on some new version of Trivial Pursuit. And yes- she and I are in constantly dialogue these days 🙂

  22. Katalina4 says:

    Great, bold topic – wonderful.
    Reminded me of a memoir I read recently – Joyce Maynard’s “At home in the World” about being a young woman who was seduced by a much older J.D. Salinger, but her vagina had other ideas…

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Katalina! Interesting that you mentioned Maynard. I was reading a book about how she got a lot of flack from other writers for writing about her relationship with Salinger. I will have to check out her book.

  23. I am genuinely grateful to the holder of this site who
    has shared this enormous article at at this time.

  24. Aquileana says:

    Interesting and eloquent as always…
    I think that in our western society we women feel more confident with our sexuality… Overall it has all changed in the last few decades. A sort of bodily revolution, and hedonistic culture more focused on pleasure… Pansexualism , bisexualism, Homosexuality are not so much taboos these times. Regardless we still have problems to give the vagina the status it deserve… Are we still in a phallocratic culture… Even a dildo is a penis somehow, unless it is a mere vibrator… When I am not comfortable with someone not only I don’t work as expected sexually but emotionally. I think that one thing leads to the other. So next time, just blame the other person! (It is a relief and you deserve it at the end!).
    All the best to you, Aquileana 😀

    • diahannreyes says:

      Aquileana, I love your name, btw. I agree- being comfortable with the other person definitely plays a big part for me too. Your advice about blaming the other person definitely put a grin on my face. I’m discovering more and more that as women, we have a right to pleasure and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

      • Aquileana says:

        On the contrary, good things might come from the fact of releasing pleasure, I think 🙂
        All the best to you Aquileana 😀

        PS: good to know that you like my nickname!


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