Laura Dodsworth has done something ground breaking. She photographed women and heard their stories about how their vaginas and vulvas have shaped their lives, and then she put in on Channel 4.
The show 100 Vaginas was aired on Channel 4 this February and it completely smashed taboos. We saw images and heard stories of FGM, miscarriage, childbirth, cervical cancer, periods, sexual assault, lack of sex education, vaginismus, body hair, pornography, pregnancy and all that’s in between.
And although, rightly, many argued that the show should have been called 100 Vulvas, cue a Twitter debate lead by a man who got promptly corrected about the difference between the vulva and the vagina. The reality of the situation was that if the show had been called 100 Vulvas, lots of people wouldn’t have known what it was about, and as a result it wouldn’t have made such an impact.
This might sound crazy but previous research from The Eve Appeal found that 60% of women didn’t know where the vulva was.
The vulva is the external female genitalia, including the labia, entrance to the vagina, entrance to the urethra, the clitoris, the labia and the Bartholin’s glans. Yougov also conducted research which revealed a widespread lack of anatomical knowledge about female genitalia among both men and women with 52% of Britons not able to identify or describe the function of the vagina when asked to label a diagram of the vulva to the best of their ability.
This just demonstrates the reality of the situation about the huge lack of education we have not just when it comes to sex, but about our bodies.
As a foundation level of knowledge, and as a part of basic health we should understand how our bodies work and what comes from where. How are we meant to identify if we think we have a problem or if something is wrong with us if we don’t even have an accurate level of what our personal ‘normal’ is? And on top of this, learning about pleasure and the functions of how the body can work in this way.
We have seen work like The Great Wall of Vagina, made up of plaster casts of women’s vulvas and how it critically demonstrates the uniqueness and individualness of the human body; and Laura Dodsworth has taken this one step forward by attaching the images of the body to personal stories.
We appreciate the difference in others every day, their hair, eye and skin colour, their height, shape and way that they move and use their body. We also see how people style themselves with fashion and accessorising. But when it comes to genitals we most regularly see a more limited representation, either through online sources such as pornography, or more medicalised examples of when things go wrong or there is pathology.
The Bare Reality book, and accompanied 100 Vaginas TV show have made a huge contribution to normalising. Seeing a range of women, how they appear, and how they feel about their more intimate body parts which is also largely impacted by how society sees this part of our bodies in general, or what is expected of them. This feels like one small, but big step in bringing the vulva into the mainstream.
Pic1:Linascheynius – Pic2/3: Natureyoni