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Vagina is probably one of the least used words in our vocabulary. But why, even when it plays such an important role? How do we talk about the vagina?
“The heart is capable of sacrifice. So is the vagina. The heart is able to forgive and repair. It can change its shape to let us in. It can expand to let us out. So can the vagina. It can ache for us and stretch for us, die for us and bleed and bleed us into this difficult, wondrous world. So can the vagina. I was there in the room. I remember.” ― Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
We talk about our hearts, then why not about our vaginas? It is a human body part just like the heart. But talking about the vagina is a taboo. It is demeaning to even mention the word as if it was god’s mistake to provide it to the girls. May be it was a mistake to provide men with penises to go out and mess with girls and ruin their lives. Vagina is the purest and the deepest thing that a girl has for herself, yet, she has to entrust someone with it. In fact, it serves the whole mankind and the society to flourish. It is not only as pure as the heart, but also as sensitive as the heart. To be honest, not all men can be satisfied with just one of these two. Wreck none!
Our society tells young girls to sit with their legs crossed and chests scooped inside. This, as a social etiquette is fine, but what we conjure about a person in the absence of this habit is too judgmental. Societal norms have taken these habits to such a rigid form that girls are constantly made to worry about them and they start harboring a feeling of shame associated with these areas. Instead of understanding their body parts and taking care of it, they are taught to be ashamed of it. It’s no surprise that many girls never try to express their discomfort due to a genuine problem or out of their curiosity around any of these body parts. Our society has made our own body parts subjects of taboo. We need to fix this and mend it. We can start by providing proper and right education at the right time, and by talking more openly about it.
We need to include sexual education in our schooling curriculum. But even before doing this, we need to change the perception of both – learning and teaching, in our society. The goal of teaching biology should not be to make a doctor out of every child, but to teach every child about his or her body; to love his or her body and how to take best care of it. We need to understand that talking about sexuality doesn’t make one appear sexually more desperate, but showcases your concern for others’ well being. I wonder if it is the topic or the lack of right approach and educational tools? The main reason for this is the lack of our own understanding about the implications of talking about sexuality. We always see the bad implications of telling kids or young adults about sexuality, and assume that they will misuse the knowledge. We fail to foresee the benefits of providing them the knowledge about the right sexual behavior. Knowing our own body will not only teach us and our children about appropriate sexual relationships and interpersonal skills, but also about safe sex practices and how to avoid harmful practices. It can potentially reduce many rape and child molestation cases. It can also help in spreading awareness about someone being a transgender and reduce the curiosity of many people towards them. However, apart from many other advantages, knowing and loving your own body is most needed. We need to understand and preach to others that none of our or anyone’s body part is ugly or shameful; every part is natural and has a function, and every part needs love, care and nurture just like the heart.
Menstruation is one such natural process in every girl’s body. It deals with her private body organs and sexuality. Many mothers tell their daughters that they are going to have periods every month, but not necessarily the reason or the biology behind it, and they are always ashamed to discuss the vagina. Most young girls don’t know from where they bleed every month and why they bleed. They don’t know if they are the only ones bleeding. Even the elderly women in the household refuse to touch the menstruating girls and wash their bloodstained clothes. Girls, who are so young and delicate, are told not to talk about their bleeding as if something is wrong with their body. A girl starting her menstruation around the age group 9-13 years feels embarrassed of bleeding like how a girl of age 3-5 years feels when she pees in her pants/skirts by mistake. They both shy the same way. This mental inhibition goes a long way and many girls even hide about their irregular periods just because they are ashamed to talk about it.
Many girls are ignorant about the existence of something known as the clitoris, let alone masturbation. Masturbation is another topic, talking about which in public is scandalous. It is just one healthy habit for physical relaxation, and emotional and psychological venting out. Especially when marriage or sexual activity is happening quite late after you attain puberty, masturbation is one of the best and harmless pleasures. But most women are either unaware or shy about masturbation. Not many girls are aware that if you are a girl and you are normal, you would masturbate and it is not shameful. It does not make you a slut as it is stereotyped for. Also, it is not just for the boys but also the girls, and it is harmless and healthy for both. However, there is no one to tell them. They have to sneak in with their friends or strangers to get to know about it. It is indeed not easy for women to learn to masturbate and have an orgasm in the right way. It is even harder if they believe that it is the job of their partner. It is difficult to find people who are absolutely fine to discuss such things or who have a healthy attitude towards it. It is like living more than 19-20 years of your life in ignorance about your own body and its needs.
Girls should not be shy, but should share their concerns, problems and knowledge with other girls of their age or older to them. Young girls need people to talk to; people who will not see them as girls who are desperate for sex, but be there for them, as a friendly and caring community.
“I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas– a community, a culture of vaginas. There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them – like the Bermunda Triangle.” ― Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
Stated above is another vaginal monologue that presented this concern very beautifully. We don’t have this community and no one can bring it to our next generation except us. It needs to be built by us; we girls who breathe and bleed the same way. We need to provide the young girls with that community to talk to, read, learn and feel good about being a girl. Girls of all ages should know about their bodies and know why they are bleeding or not bleeding. They should be well educated and well aware that the vagina is not something to be ashamed of. And it is something with whose help this society will grow, but only on our own will – not by force. It is just like a bleeding heart that can bear pain, as well as give us pleasure.
Image of a word cloud via Shutterstock
Garima is a Bioinformatics PhD candidate at the University of Missouri, USA. Her research focuses
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