I’ve just re-read your note and really appreciate you writing this, Mary.
Allison Washington

Allison, I learned to keep silent and ashamed about my vulva and the physical pleasure it brought me when I was a little girl at the same time my brother (1 year older) was happily learning all the things he could do with his penis (pee standing up! wiggle against the floor!). I learned the lesson so young, that as I matured, I never felt I could say anything about my vulva. I felt such anxiety the first time I went to the gynecologist because part of me anticipated being informed that I was deformed in some way, even though I had been given “out bodies ourselves” for reading at the age of 13 and knew all the parts and what they did.

Even today, the only sanctioned conversation about the vulva is a shaming one and women are the biggest enforcers of this rule. Internalized misogyny is brutal. Thank goodness for the internet so that women can privately explore and see for themselves all the different shapes, colors and configurations of these hidden parts of ourselves. As for the women who accused you of being salacious, please know that there are likely thousands of women and girls who might read what you wrote and feel a little bit of relief and more self acceptance because you dared to draw attention to the embodied experience of being a woman.

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