At 4-years old, I’m told to call it a “monkey”as the word “vagina” is a bit too vulgar for my otherwise liberal mother.
At 8-years old, my older sister’s favourite insult is “close your legs, you’re attracting flies.”
At 11, I realize that my vulva had changed, and I convince myself that I somehow damaged myself through masturbation.
At 12, I learn that virginity = purity, and the best way to be “good” is to not act at all. I start realizing that society thinks the state of my vagina has some bearing on who I am as a human being.
At 13, I hear the boys in my class talking about “beef curtains”, cementing my belief that my vulva will turn off boys forever.
At 14, I become interested in seeing what other women look like “down there” and find my way into the world of internet porn. I realize I do not look the same as porn-stars, and I become ashamed.
At 15, I learn about labiaplasty and seriously consider the logistics of saving up for it.
At 16, I have my first internal exam. I sit with my feet in stirrups convinced the doctor will tell me there’s something wrong with my genitals. When she doesn’t mention anything, I think she’s just being polite.
At 17, my boyfriend “jokingly” tells me my vulva is hideous.
At 19, I tell my new boyfriend about I how I know his disinterest in performing oral sex on me comes from him being disgusted at my genitals (rather than my own lack of interest), I cry, a lot; he tells me I’m being ridiculous and that there’s nothing wrong with me.
Later that year, I listen to my roommate insult a woman he doesn’t like by saying she has a “fat hairy pussy.”
At 20, I confess to a soon-to-be sexual partner that I’ve been putting off sex because I’m terrified he’ll hate my vulva.
At 21, I sit completely naked in a room full of other young women and confess that that years of hurtful comments from loved ones, friends, strangers, and the media have made me have serious amounts of shame about my vulva. I spread my legs and show them what I’ve got. Afterwards, one of the other women approaches me, looks me straight in the eye, and says “you have a beautiful vagina.” I try not to cry. I start to believe her.
At 21, I’m just now learning not to hate my genitals. I realize that this culture of shame surrounding the vulva and vagina stem from deep-seeded misogyny, and — really — has nothing to do with me. I have wasted far too much time being ashamed of my perfectly normal, perfectly functioning genitals because of people like these politicians in Michigan who tell me that my body — by virtue of being born female — is offensive. So offensive that its name shan’t even be uttered, lest their ears fall off and their delicate sensibilities are offended.
To them, and to the people like them who are so terrified of my vagina that they feel the need to legislate what I can and can’t do with it: fuck you. My vagina belongs to me. My vulva is perfect the way it is. My body parts are not offensive.