It is judged ugly, too fragrant, cracra … The vulva shocks and disgusts some, who make it more publicly known. We tried to understand why so much hatred towards our glorious crotch.
In January 2021, Juliana Notari, a Brazilian artist, divided her country with her new creation: a gigantic sculpture in the shape of a vulva, posed at the top of a hill. The work is controversial, part of the population is shocked and explains that the installation is awful. An epiphenomenon? Not at all. This is not the first artist to be controversial about representing the female sex: from censorship ofOrigin of the world, from Gustave Courbet, to the Japanese artist Rokudenashiko, arrested by the Japanese police for obscenity, because she represents vulvae, scandals abound. Yet, the omnipresence of the phalluses in art does not shock anyone. This Wednesday, January 20, 2021, Mickaël Youn was even able to release the clip of a song where he invites men to "shake their package", without the "bwerk" (its elegant dance movement) making a fuss. And we will not even talk about the controversies related to simple advertisements, like that of Nana with her campaign "Viva la vulva", at the end of 2019.
In such a context, getting to know and love your gender as a cisgender woman can be challenging. Why such a difference in treatment and this relentlessness on the vulva?
Hide that vulva that I can't see
Before even speaking for good or bad about the sex of cis women, we should first … dare to show it. "This is the problem with representations of the female sex: for a long time, we wanted it to be ignored, explains Laura Berlingo, obstetrician-gynecologist and author of the new book A sexuality to oneself, freed from norms. A good example is the clitoris: it does not come within the reproductive norm, so we do not show it ", she continues. This is where agnotology comes into play, that is, the study of the cultural production of ignorance. An essential human science for anyone interested in what cisgender women have between their legs, namely one of these objects of knowledge "ignored because the dominants don't want it to be known". "Feminine" organ par excellence, it could not be otherwise for the vulva: it was obviously going to be shunned by those who dominate them, that is to say the cis men equipped with penises.
Double trouble for our sexes, they are internal organs. This has allowed theorists to claim that the vulva is little represented or that it frightens because it is … hidden. A cardboard excuse, according to Laura Berlingo, who denounces a deliberate choice, falsely explained by biology. "It is a way of justifying oneself in a naturalized way. Biologizing allows us to say that it is normal not to talk about it, but this justification is false: the mouth, the heart and the brain, we have many representations, everyone has seen them, although they are also internal organs. "
It is understandable that the denial of the female genitalia stems from a society where the "feminine" in general is devalued. It is for the same reasons that the vulva is associated with an unpalatable place. Whereas if you think about it, a rod is not much more pleasant to look at or smell … Laura Berlingo elaborates: "Same logic as for the absence of representation: to say that it smells bad, or that the losses are dirty, is a way of justifying not to touch or lick it. There are biological justifications for a social refusal. and therefore, we take the problem backwards. " So let's put the things of life right.
Let's talk about sex
If girls are not born in roses nor boys in cabbages, received ideas are born from the lack of representation. First representation to correct: there is no such thing as "normal" sex, whether it is a vulva or a penis! Dr Berlingo reminds us that this obsession with normality mainly concerns the genitals. "We rarely wonder what a normal ear is, she laughs. In addition, if we trust the figures, anything is possible: the vaginal opening is between 6 and 75 millimeters, the length of the labia majora can vary from 12 to 80 millimeters … " Haro on normality, in short, to use one of the chapter titles of the specialist's book.
This continues: "What is particular about the vulva, is that we tend to idealize a" perfect "sex of a little girl, with lips not very prominent, not very moist, smooth … It questions a lot about the relationship to pedocriminality, especially since the perfect penis is exactly the opposite, an adult male penis ". Another misconception that comes up regularly on social networks, in "teen movie" mode: the more partners a woman has, the more her vulva and vagina would widen. "There are two things behind these representations of deformed vulva: first, we do not say that the penises wear out because their owner has had lots of intercourse. Then babies can go through it, with an average of head circumference of 35 centimeters ". Quick conclusion: if a vagina and its extension, the vulva, return to their original size more or less after childbirth, the number and size of penises that will penetrate it will not change anything at all, no offense to the misplaced ego of some.
However, if you want to show and speak correctly about the sex of cis women, you have to be pragmatic. Indeed, the appearance of the vulva changes over the course of life, "and that's okay, reassures Laura Berlingot, because all other organs change over the course of life. Depending on age, or if there have been vaginal deliveries … This organ is made of human tissue, skin and mucous membranes. Let’s accept the evolution of our body and the marks of life! ” The excellent news is that while the appearance of our vulvae change, they remain functional nonetheless. "The evolution of the body does absolutely not prevent fulfilling relationships, confirms the doctor. Studies that show that during menopause, women have intercourse and have super-fulfilling sex lives. " Which does not necessarily go through the traditional penis-vagina coitus, from which we should finally get out … Yes: if there is indeed a standard that feeds the clichés on the vulva (the "perfect" because very tight, the one that widens galore, that which flows too much …), it is indeed the sacrosanct penetrative sexuality, as hegemonic as it is toxic and boring. Do we get out of it by learning how our body works?
Look to get to know each other
As a person with a vulva, how do you get out of the wrong representations that you always have in mind? Laura Berlingo recommends observing yourself. "The reappropriation of the body goes through knowledge and in this area, I am a big fan of auto-gynecology. It is based on theory and practice. I therefore advise on the one hand, to read on anatomy, physiology, popularized scientific books (taking care that it is well represented). And to go on a practical discovery, I recommend the mirror, at any age of life, to observe your vulva: know where is the clitoris, if we can see the hymen, etc. "
And let's not hesitate to rediscover ourselves at different stages of life, explains the gyénco, who also recommends observing yourself after childbirth. "We have the impression that we have a gaping hole but we realize that it heals, that the body is well made, that it is recovering; we see the evolution smoothly with rehabilitation. Same at the time of menopause with its mutations: white hairs, falling tissue, drier vulva … It is tame and it's normal. We see her face change, it is the same with the evolution of her vulva! You can also go to the discovery of her cervix with a speculum, which you can find in pharmacies or ask your health professional, gynecologist or midwife ".
Regarding outside help to get started, Laura Berlingo advises in particular the book by Clarence Edgar-Rosa, Know thyself, and the work of the Flux collective, which gives advice on auto-gynecology. "It is a complementary practice to classical gynecology, there is no competition, insists the specialist. S'observing lets you know when to go for a consultation: when you feel that your throat is sore and your tonsils are swelling, you go to the doctor. As healthcare professionals, we also need to listen to what our patients tell us when they feel that their bodies are not as usual, because they know each other! " Bottom line: don’t listen to miso gossip that would prevent you from loving your own sex. And don't forget: if your vulva is smooth and smells of roses, you are probably a plastic doll …