This week my husband bought a new car; he named it Fergus. This week I took a class specifically designed for me to improve my relationship with my vagina; I named it Helen. It took me a couple of days to land on the name because the only one coming to mind was Sally — and I’d already named my uterus Sally (before she became medical waste).
This is week one in a four-week self-directed course called Viva la Vagina. Viva la Vagina is designed and executed by one very lovely Courtney Davis of Calgary, Alberta (Canada), where it was a balmy -10º C today.
No. NOPE. That’s not a temperature for humans.
Anyway. I stumbled on the class via a mutual Instagram friend. I asked you, our readers, if I should take the course; 100% of respondents said yes. So, here I am —naming my vagina.
I wouldn’t have considered my relationship with my vagina complicated or fraught with tension. I am sexually progressive. I am 43 so I’ve got plenty of experience with sex. I’ve had six babies. I am, for the most part, comfortable with my body.
But watching Courtney’s videos opened me up to some realities I hadn’t considered.
Including the following:
1. Is your relationship with your vagina complicated by past trauma or unmet expectations? (Yep.)
2. Are you honoring her sexually by waiting until she is well-lubricated with her self-made moisture? (Nope.)
3. Have you taken a good, long look at her. (I’m sorry, what?)
Had I even considered that I might be holding tension in my vagina as a result of years of painful sex? Was I angry with her for the complicated birth I had with my fifth child? What others ways do I subconsciously believe she has “let me down”?
The videos gave me a lot to consider intellectually, but the homework really changed the whole thing. It was what I would consider the most vital component of this first week: Yoni Gazing.
(For those of you not familiar with the term “yoni,” here you are.)
I postponed my yoni gaze for the first three days. The time didn’t present itself. I wasn’t alone. I was deprived of sleep or not in the proper state of mind.
Also, I was avoiding it.
I did not know what I would find. I was not sure I wanted to find it.
Yesterday, I got what my great-grandmother would have called a “bee in my bonnet,” and decided to give myself a good ol’ fashioned hot wax. I’m not a professional, but this isn’t my first coochie stripping rodeo. Armed with just enough knowledge and experience to NOT third-degree burn my labia minora, I set about the task.
Why do I see the bodies of other women as beautiful, but my own as lacking?
First the sides. An inch or two off the top (Why does pubic hair migrate up? WHAT IS IT LOOKING FOR ON MY STOMACH?). And finally the underside all the way back.
Even if my stomach wasn’t a curtain for my pubic hair, I wouldn’t be able to see what’s ALL the way down there because I’m neither a Chinese Acrobat nor my very limber six-year-old son. My full length mirror is connected to the wall with some kind of Herculean screws so I was going on pubic hair braille to decide where to spread the (hopefully-not-scalding) wax. I managed to do this mostly successfully except for the strands of hot wax that have since turned to cold wax and adhered themselves to every surface of my bathroom.
Helen waits — red from the wax, oily from the post-wax removal — ready for her big reveal.
And I look.
I’m not going to bullshit you because A. I think you probably relate (or will eventually), and B. I just don’t have it in me to try to make my vagina out to be some Georgia O’Keefe painting. I am 43; my vagina has wrinkles. Wrinkles. More than my face. My inner thighs are dense with dark stretch marks — the product, I’m sure, of many pregnancies and the physics of chafing. My labia minora are on the small side and mostly hidden, so at first glance I don’t know what might be waiting for me in there.
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I wish I could say I saw Helen and immediate feelings of love and gratitude washed over me, but no. The feeling was more akin to terror. My god my husband has definitely SEEN THIS MESS. I’m not saying I hate Helen, I’m just saying I was NOT prepared for what the ravages of age were going to do to her.
Despite my initial discomfort, I sat with the feelings. I sat with my mirror on my bathroom floor. I sat with the shame I have around my body. I sat with my sexual history. The sexual trauma and over-sexualization I experienced as a child made me sexually knowledgeable and sexually repressed, simultaneously. I began to see her in a new light.
Courtney had suggested that, if we felt comfortable, we might consider pleasuring ourselves during the gazing session. And why not? I let my fingers explore the softness that is her. I questioned my held beliefs around body image.
Why is another woman’s body such an incredible expression of nature, but my own is a source of anxiety? Why do I see the bodies of other women as beautiful, but my own as lacking?
This all felt very unexpectedly transformative to me, so I talked to my partner. I explained the class videos and assignments. I told him all about the waxing circus I had engaged in earlier. I told him about the yoni gazing. But most importantly, I told him about the feelings I had. Because I trust him deeply with these tender thoughts, I was able to honestly share and ask him frankly, “What does my vagina look like to you?”
His response was as I expected — tender and genuine.
It’s beautiful. It’s part of you. It has given us amazing children. It has provided us both with lots of pleasure. It has taken me to the heights of ecstasy.
Heights of ecstasy, you guys.
When we had talked all we could about my vagina (ahem, Helen), he laid me back and took a look. And then he gave me the best oral sex of my entire life.
TMI? YEAH, PROBABLY.
But this is incredible, and I am serious as a heart attack. This all happened in the matter of a few days of starting this course. You should know that, because my college boyfriend was kind of a prick, I have some issues around oral sex that really make it hard for me to relax into it. But after talking about all of this material with my partner, I was able to release the anxiety and just enjoy the tenderness of the person I love the most. I was able to experience an ecstasy that prior to that evening had alluded me.
Bless you, Helen. I can’t wait for week two.