Why is c*nt the naughtiest word in the English language? I know the British love to throw it around with particular vigor. Yet as a Californian, I quickly learned that this word was the reigning queen of vulgarity: she-who-must-not-be-named.
I was in the seventh grade when Zachary was dared to utter the worst curse word he knew. I expected to hear him mutter a word that rhymed with duck. Instead, he quickly spat out a different four-letter word.
Can’t? Is that what Zack said?
I immediately asked for clarification, desperately equating maturity with knowing naughty words. A harrowing silence fell, no one wanted to answer my question. Finally, one of the boys divulged that cunt means vagina.
This was my introduction into a terrifyingly normal aspect of our culture: hating the vagina.
Really, I should say vulva, as the vagina only refers to the birth canal. It’s the vulva people are really referencing when conjuring the image of a vagina.
Whatever you like to call her, I learned something monumental that day. Vulva’s are contaminated and unspeakable, any normal person will have an aversion towards seeing or hearing about them. Being young, I equated what was ‘normal’ to what was true.
If the word cunt was unspeakable, then it must be best to never discuss my vulva either.
So, I developed a casual disregard for my own genitals.
When I got my period, I snubbed her by learning how to use tampons without glancing between my legs. If I had the urge to self-pleasure, I taught myself how to feel good without using my hands. For such an active part of my body, I barely touched her at all.
The worst part, our culture constantly reinforced these subtle actions. Growing up, the films I saw only showcased sex as heterosexual penetration that mainly focused on the penis. When my friends discussed sex, the focal point was how to give a good blow job; we rarely discussed our own pleasure.
Then there was the time I was IM-ing my crush and he admitted that he never planned to go down on a woman unless it was his wife, and she begged him. “It’s so gross!” He typed, with no consideration for who he was speaking to.
Vulva-shaming was subtle but consistent. I didn’t even realize I was being conditioned to passively disassociate from my own body.
This is where the problems arise, minuscule social cues that cause us to make small daily decisions. When I realized the disdain I held for my vulva, I quickly began to backtrack. As I came out of the other side, I traced how certain myths taught me to dislike one of my favorite body parts.
Myth #1: Your vagina is ugly, full stop.
By the time I’d entered college, I knew dozens of terms used to denote just how unsavory vulvas were.
Phrases like ‘fat vagina’ that caused me to view my vulva as repellent, or ‘roast beef pussy’ which referenced how unsightly the vaginal lips were.
Each phrase had something in common. They taught me that a decent looking puss was one who was petit, and whose lips kept the hole hidden from view. Essentially, a cute vagina was skinny and quiet — sound familiar?
It’s no wonder that it felt easier to want to hide my vulva than to love her.
Today, I equate vulvas to orchids. Both come in every shade and size. Like vulvas, orchids are exceptional flowers known for their rare and delicate beauty. Did you know that there are almost 30,000 different breeds of orchids? Vulvas are also diverse, they should be celebrated for their beauty and variety. Of the seven most expensive flowers in the world, three of those slots belong to orchids. Orchids, like vulvas, are prized possessions.
The best part about these luxurious and treasured flowers is that they almost exactly resemble a vulva. So if you needed any more proof, here it is, your vagina is beautiful, full stop.
Myth #2: Hairless is best.
It is quite the oxymoron that vulvas are considered ugly yet these kitties are also required to regularly visit the groomer. Sadly, it was women and men who taught me that society expected my vulva to be clean-shaven.
Girls are meticulous, keeping an eye on how we are all maintaining the status quo. Gossip is a way we’d police each other’s actions. When I was in junior high, all the girls were quick to privately shame anyone who didn’t shave their legs, let alone other places. If I wanted to continue fitting in, I needed to make sure that I never became the topic of that conversation.
Then there were the lovers (men and women) who would bring up that they preferred clean-shaven girls. I quickly learned that audiences favored hairless vulvas. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized I’d never asked myself what I liked best.
Here is the truth: whatever makes you feel sexiest is the best hairstyle for your vulva.
Myth #3: Vaginas are a passive cavern
Perhaps one of the most insidious myths of all.
Only too often do vulva’s conjure the image of an apathetic and indifferent hole. Its walls are unfeeling and the treasure (g-spot) is imagined to be deep and unpenetrable.
Actually, the vaginal wall is profoundly active. It is a muscle layered with elastic fibers that allow the vaginal canal to expand during sex or childbirth. That’s not all. Each day the vaginal wall is undergoing a hormone-related change in accordance with the menstrual cycle. Most often, you can find the cells of your vaginal wall storing glycogen. This glycogen is constantly being used to break down harmful bacteria or fungi that could disrupt the vaginal pH balance. The vaginal wall literally cleans and protects itself.
Function isn’t all the vaginal wall is used for, located about an inch from the vaginal opening is the g-spot. That’s right, this infamous source of pleasure is located on one of those “passive” vaginal walls. Specifically, the g-spot is on the upper vaginal wall. If you (or someone you know) are having trouble finding her, try aiming for the belly button next time a finger, toy, or other phallic object slides inside the vulva.
Don’t forget, the vaginal wall is also a muscle. During a climax (g-spot or clitoral), those muscular walls will immediately begin contracting. This repetitive squeezing and expanding will give any object that may be inside the vulva a series of pulsating hugs that can actually be felt.
I even heard in a sex workshop that the vaginal muscles are so strong, they can break a human hand. While I can’t back that up scientifically, I imagine that a muscle with enough brute strength to push out a tiny human can achieve many mind-blowing feats.
The main lesson we should all take away is this: do not let anyone underestimate your vagina, not even you, because pussies are not passive.
Myth #4: The vaginal g-spot is the only spot that matters
The vaginal g-spot, arguably one of the most hierarchized sexual body parts aside from the penis.
The vagina g-spot takes up so much of the limelight that many don’t know another g-spot exists. This lesser-known g-spot is also located in a special cavern: the rectum. Anyone with a penis will also have an anal g-spot.
Another element of miseducation that results from hierarchizing the vaginal g-spot (and penis) involves the clitoris. Did you know that the average clitoris is actually four inches long? In fact, research shows that the clitoris and the penis are organs that almost exactly resemble each other. Clitoris’ even become erect during arousal.
Why then do we glorify the penis and vaginal g-spot while ignoring the clitoris? Perhaps it is because the clitoris will empower the vulva out of her presumed inactivity.
Sex is usually defined as a penis penetrating a vagina, with the focus on the vaginal g-spot as the pathway to orgasm. With this equation, there isn’t much wiggle room for the vulva to be an active agent in the pursuit of pleasure. She is being happened to, dependant on the penis’ activity to achieve orgasm.
Not only does defining sex in this way assume that the penis acts while the vagina receives, but we are also solidifying heterosexuality as the sexual standard.
Don’t let society’s glorification of the g-spot fool you. While the g-spot is delicious, our bodies have more than one orgasmic hot-spot and sex can refer to a myriad of pleasurable acts.
Myth #5: Vaginas exist for the penis
I was in Chicago visiting friends when I heard the term ‘poof-gina’ for the first time. It was a colloquial term my friends from the Chi had created to refer to a common phenomenon.
In their definition, poof-gina happens during hetero-sex. It’s when you are about to be penetrated but your vulva isn’t wet yet. However, since women aren’t taught about their bodies and men often know even less than women do, the sexuation keeps going. The man’s erection signals to both parties that it is time for the big act. Despite the vulva’s lack of natural lubrication, both parties go forward with penetrative vaginal sex. By the time he’s climaxed (it’s pretty hard for a woman to climax during dry sex because it is painful) the lips of the vulva are sore and swollen. Poof-gina.
I instantly knew what my friends were talking about. When I first started having sex, it was mostly with men. I thought that sex was the sole act of a penis entering a vagina. As a result, I rushed through sex and had poof-gina after every sexual encounter. Becoming tired of painful sex, I started educating myself about my body. My biggest take away was how society had convinced me that my vagina was designed for two things penetration or birth.
While our culture is changing, it is still not uncommon to feel like vaginas exist for the penis. Your vagina exists because you exist, which means that you are in control.
I cum second
Every myth I internalized about my vulva led me to this conclusion. If I’m being honest, I learned that my pleasure and needs came second before I’d even started having sex.
When I did begin to engage in sexual activity, I prioritized the penis because I assumed it was my job to please a man. If I did my job correctly, then I would experience pleasure. Representations of sex in film didn’t help either; mainstream media made it seem like women would experience ecstasy once something phallic slipped inside them. So, I idealized penetration and would wait patiently for my partner to climax thinking at some point I would too. When this wasn’t my experience, I thought something was wrong with my body.
My second-rate belief system continued even when I started dating other genders. I’d focus all my energy on my partner, and assumed that we should prioritize penetration.
When I finally took a step back to educate myself, I realized that I was having sex I did not enjoy because I had never prioritized myself. I believed I came second.
I Love My Cuntry
Learning about sex takes time, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for that. Pleasure is political and bodies are complex.
While we continue to grow as a culture, one thing still remains to be true: loving your vulva is a simultaneous act of rebellion and acceptance. Vulvas, like the bodies that carry them, are a literal force of nature.
They are self-sustaining, unbelievably strong, and always up for a good time. I love my cuntry, she might just be my favorite body part of all time.
Nadège is a sexuality scholar and spiritual mentor who uses her knowledge to bring warmth to heavy topics. Stay up to date with all her sexy new discoveries here.