Oct 112013
Women are listening to what we say about their bodies when we discuss this shirt.

Women are listening to what we say about their bodies when we discuss this shirt.

When we talk about this shirt, we’re talking about vulvas.  We’re talking about our culture’s values around vulvas, masturbation, and pubic hair.  And the things we say not only reveal our internalized issues with those natural things; our words are impacting everyone who listens.


I will begin by getting the distracting things out of the way.  I am not a fan of American Apparel’s advertising, and often times not a fan of the company itself.  I’m especially pissed about their approach to fat potential customers.  I hate that their t-shirt sizes run really small compared to other companies, and that the fabric is cheap and disposable.  There, now that we have that out of the way lets refuse to be distracted by our thoughts on this this company so we can focus on this t-shirt, ok?

Recently American Apparel started selling this t-shirt, and the internet and news media went into their predictable meltdown as though this were bigger than global warming, international conflict, and the US government shutdown all rolled into one.  What was the outcry?  I won’t include links because these folks are getting enough press already.  The summary: the shirt is disgusting because (1) it’s a big naked vulva (2) it’s not naked/young enough; it has pubes (3) it’s menstruating.  For much of the mainstream media it was just too taboo to include (4) the vulva is being pleasured by a hand on the clit.

Whether you or I would wear a shirt like this doesn’t matter to me one bit (spoiler: I would), nor does it matter to this discussion.  What I care about is what we’re saying to each other and the world when we comment on this shirt.  When we talk about this shirt, we’re talking about vulvas.  We’re talking about our culture’s values around vulvas, masturbation, and pubic hair.  And the things we say not only reveal our internalized issues with those natural things; they are impacting everyone who listens.

This is a line drawing of a real vulva, drawn from a vulva selfie taken by one of the artists who created this image.  (The blood was added later, if you’re curious.)  If you’re interested in learning more about the artists and their thoughts on the brewhaha about the shirt, this is a great interview.  Although every vulva is different, there are plenty of vulvas out there that look like this one.  The simplicity of the line drawing means it can represent a particularly wide variety of vulvas, to boot.  When we say nasty things about this vulva, we’re disparaging a real person’s vulva and we’re saying awful things about the vulvas of many people.  By labeling certain things that nearly every vulva was born to have (pubic hair, menstrual blood, labia, masturbatory pleasure) as disgusting in this image, we are enforcing the idea that vulvas and sexual pleasure are something to get all “ew, gross” about.

A happy vulva is a fucking gorgeous vulva, with or without hair, with or without blood.  That includes mine, yours, hers, theirs, his (genitals do not equal gender), and that one over there.  If we’re gonna get our collective undies in a twist over the need for more positive body images, then lets start with our own language right here and now.  I surely hope none of us would turn to our child, sibling, parent, best friend, our partners, or ourself and say “your vulva is nasty.”  When we put down the image on this shirt, that is one of the messages we’re sending, whether intentional or not.

The vulva in this picture is lovely.  

The pubic hair is natural and attractive.  

The fact that the person in the image is pleasuring themself suggests that they and their vulva are happy together, and that’s fantastic.  

I love this vulva.

I love that it is proudly displayed on a shirt.  

And I adore your vulva even more.  I hope you do, too.

Feb 132010

credit: www.Copyright-free-photos.org.uk

The hottest new product is here, dominating my inbox with press releases, reviews, and debate.  Perhaps you’ve heard of this new series of pussy cosmetics, too, with its promise of 2 or 3 days of fresh, feisty and colorful labia for an irresistible, new pink vulva.  Who can resist your bright and bold little lady now, eh?  Let’s dive in and see what’s up with the newest trend in sexual enhancement.

My New Pink Button is marketed as a “temporary dye system”, never tested on animals, developed by a paramedical esthetician,  available in four shades of red (light pink through maroon) and… ooh la la… it’s distributed out of France.   It’s made to look natural and promises that it won’t rub off on clothes or partners.  Sounds great, but in the midst of all this I’m left with one unaddressed concern: I didn’t know that a natural pussy wasn’t already an optimal color, at least not until this product came along to fix it.

That’s how big pharma and the cosmetic industries work, after all.  It’s no conspiracy theory, it’s just success marketing: find a legit concern that a small portion of the population experiences and that your company can address with a product.  Then describe and raise awareness of the problem in such a way that the symptoms sound like they’re meant for a much larger ground of people than those for whom the product was actually made.  This awareness raising should make large numbers of people feel as though they have what is actually an uncommon problem, thus re-defining normal as problematic.  If the advertising works really well, people will start throwing the word or phrase around like salt in a snowstorm and it will become part of common lexicon.  What if your natural, normal functioning is actually erectile disorder, vaginal odor, chronic acne, ADHD, a missing or under-developed G-Spot, uneven labia or *gasp* a dull and unsexy-colored pussy?  With hordes of people suddenly aware of their new “problem”, thanks to unethical scare tactics, shaming and overly broad definitions, you now have a ripe consumer base for your fabulous new solution.  Tada!  A winning product is born.

Clearly I’m no prude and I’m all for spicing things up in the boudoir, but I’m sure you hear my thundering bias already.  So, allow me to step aside from addressing My New Pink Button as a specific brand of coochie make-up and instead venture into the underlying issues: what color is an attractive vulva supposed to be, and does a “new” vulva look somehow better than a “used” vulva?

Meet Your Vulva, Thanks to Scarleteen.com

Meet Your Vulva, Thanks to Scarleteen.com. Click to learn more.

Myth #1: A healthy, sexy vulva should be a specific color, and a bright one at that. Not true!  Cheesy as it sounds, it’s absolutely true when I say that labia are like flowers.  They’re meant to come in a range of delightful colors painted across variety of naturally attractive shapes.  It is normal and attractive for vulvar skin colors to include: black, grey, silver, gold, tan, brown, pink, white, red, purple, olive, blue and more!  Skin tone in the vulva need not match other areas on a woman’s body, either.  It’s a special place with unique skin tones.  So which colors are the sexiest?  Some people are used to seeing colors in the light, bright pink range, as Photoshopping and chemical skin lightening are rampant in porn industry.  However, remember that in spite of whatever photographers have decided shows up best on film, humans are naturally wired to like natural bodies.  The colors of natural pussies are evolved to be the utmost in sexy as-is.  While decorating can be icing on the cake, a deliciously moist and luscious cake is what really gets people interested.

Myth #2: A “used” pussy looks different; you can see when a vagina is worn out. It’s the word “new” in the product title that’s getting me as much as the idea artificial crotch coloring.  Vaginas and vulvas change naturally with age, this is true.  By the age of 30, or after child birth, the vaginal muscles have a greater ability to subsume (or expel) larger items than younger women.  This does not mean that older women are less tight – that’s all a matter of genetics and vaginal muscle tone.  But let’s get back to the visuals.  Healthy, happy sexual experience does not change the shape of her vagina, labia, clit, anus, or mons.  Clearly, changes in the presence of a hymen can be seen, but today most women are missing all or part of their hymen long before any consensual experience with penetration.  Coloration may change across the lifespan as the body matures; however, there is no particular color associated with an “old” vulva.  So, there is no need to make one’s “button” or anything look different or “new.”  Color does change when she gets aroused and blood rushes to the area, often making her natural colors deeper and more lush.  It’s likely that this is what the product was really shooting for, but they didn’t want to be quite so bold as to say “you can fake being already turned on with our product!”  This leads us to myth #3…

Myth #3: Using a product that mimics sexual arousal will enhance your relationship. I’m a complete lube snob and I stand proudly by that title, as long as it is used as a pleasurable tactile enhancement and condom safety enhancement, never as a form of faking being turned-on.  How in the world does it help our sexual communication and relationships when we fake our arousal?  As a relationship coach and sex educator, I work hard to help people communicate their sexual desires, as well as read each other’s body language.  Often times I meet people who are working hard to impersonate what they want, hoping it will somehow transform into the real thing: orgasms, trust, intimacy, confidence and more.  While looking aroused is sexy, it’s hottest (and most honest) for everyone involved when you look turned-on because you are AND when you or you and your partner take joy in working together to get there.

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Aug 222008

Every Friday we post a fresh and sexy suggestion for increasing your pleasure. Got a hot tip to share, or a burning question? Send it to ExploringIntimacy (at) Gmail (dot) com

Mmm, Comfy Vagina Couch Featuring Clit Pillow

Comfy Vagina Couch Featuring Clit Pillow

Do you know where the most sensitive part of the clitoris (clit) is, and how to stimulate it?

Find out, after the jump!

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