Alright! We are going back in time this week and re-posting an older blog. It’s one I love, is still relevant, and it’s been five years since I published it- definitely time to revisit.
One thing I want to add to this post is that I think it’s really important that we know the names of our body parts so that we can have a common language among other women, with our sexual partners, and with our health care providers. Proper names provide that. (Pet names are also fun! More on that below.)
I think it’s also really important to know and use proper or pet names for things so you can stay in touch with your own parts. I listen to my body and its communication like a hawk. It is always telling me something helpful, and sometimes keeping me from danger. Do I talk to my Pink Parts? Yes, I do. And I also listen, because our lady bits have wisdom, too.
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Intimate Geography: A Review
Or, the one where we talk about shaving your vulva versus shaving your vagina.
There have been a couple of things in the news lately that have caused me concern about women and what they know about their lady parts. Which we shall kindly refer to here as “The Pink Parts.”
A couple of weeks ago, I heard about actress Busy Philips (from CougarTown- I don’t watch much corporate TV, so I don’t know it very well) who was discussing her pubic hair situation.
She mentioned that after her first daughter was born, she didn’t like to “shave her vagina” anymore. Because she realized that pre-adolescent pubic areas (like her toddler daughter) had no hair, but that mature pubic areas had hair. And she wanted her Pink Parts to be recognized as mature. (and good for her!*)
First off, I don’t know why it’s now vogue for celebrities to discuss their pubic hair situation (Gwyenth Paltrow also did this, apparently), but I wish it wasn’t.
However, Ms. Philips discussion brought home an important point- we need to know the proper names and placement of our Pink Parts.
Because she got it waaaay wrong.
The vulva (in particular the front of the vulva) is where most women shave, if they’re going to. Because that’s where the hair is.
If you shave your vagina – which is an internal structure- it’s going to be very, very painful. And there isn’t a lot of hair there, anyway.
Ms. Philips ignorance as to the correct names of things in her body caused me concern. If we don’t know where things are, or what they are called, how can we really have a good relationship with them?
You wouldn’t call your partner by the wrong name (well, you could…but there are consequences). Your Pink Parts deserve at least that much respect and recognition.
So, it’s time for a review.
We are going to talk about names and there will be tasteful pictures. Perhaps you haven’t done this since junior high, and if you haven’t – it’s a great chance to brush up on anatomy.
Let’s re-introduce you to your Pink Parts.
It will take you 46 seconds to read this, and it’s worth it.
(And if you think “I already know this,” or “I don’t want to know about ‘down there’,” then you need this review the most.)
If you’d like to have a picture (because it’s worth a thousand words, especially in this case), please click here for a tasteful picture of your lady bits. There is also a smaller version further down.
Vulva – the external female genitalia are collectively referred to as the vulva. All of the names listed below are part of the vulva.
Mons pubis or mons veneris – (called ‘the hill of love’ after the roman goddess of love, Venus) is the pad of fatty tissue that covers the pubic bone below the abdomen but above the labia.
Labia majora – The labia majora are the outer lips of the vulva, pads of fatty tissue that wrap around the vulva from the mons to the perineum. These labia are usually covered with pubic hair, and contain numerous sweat and oil glands.
Labia minora – The labia minora are the inner lips of the vulva, thin stretches of tissue within the labia majora that fold and protect the vagina, urethra, and clitoris. The appearance of labia minora can vary widely, from tiny lips that hide between the labia majora to large lips that protrude. Both the inner and outer labia are quite sensitive to touch and pressure.
Clitoris – Visible as the small white oval between the top of the labia minora and the clitoral hood, is a small body of spongy tissue that functions solely for sexual pleasure. Only the tip or glans of the clitoris shows externally, but the organ itself is elongated and branched into two forks, the crura, which extend downward along the rim of the vaginal opening toward the perineum. (<- did you know that? I only learned recently!)
The clitoral glans or external tip of the clitoris is protected by the prepuce, or clitoral hood, a covering of tissue similar to the foreskin of the male penis. However, unlike the penis, the clitoris does not contain any part of the urethra. The size of the clitoris is variable between women.
Urethra – The opening to the urethra is just below the clitoris. Although it is not related to sex or reproduction, it is included in the vulva. The urethra is used for the passage of urine. The urethra is connected to the bladder. In females the urethra is 1.5 inches long, compared to males whose urethra is 8 inches long. (Which explains the UTI problem women have!)
Introitus – is the entrance to the vagina.
See? You did it!
If you’re wondering if your vulva is ‘normal’ check out the Labia Library (in Australia) with information and pictures about other vulvas.
Proper Names & Pet Names
Several years ago it was popular to refer to the vagina as one’s “va-jayjay.” As an educator, I’m a big fan of knowing the real names for things. It creates a common language that we can all use to share our experiences and thereby connect with one another.
But as a human, I think silly and pet names can be helpful. For instance, when my daughter was small, she began to realize that touching her clitoris was pleasurable. We now call the clitoris “The Happy Button.”
We talk about keeping the Happy Button clean and…happy, and how to do that. (Which, by the way, is “gentle washing and gentle touching,” which I think sets up a good template for all future interactions with her clitoris, be they from herself or others.)
The point here is that while you should know the proper names for things in order to speak clearly about them, it’s also fine to use other names that help you feel more comfortable with them. (For instance, ‘pink parts.’)
Please just don’t misname them.
Is it weird to talk about your Pink Parts again, after all these years of taking care of them? Maybe.
But it’s also really important to know what is what. Knowing where things are located, and what they are called is a big help in creating a clear, healthy connection with those parts of your body.
You could tell someone to “go to that big box hardware store in the next town,” but it’s so much clearer to say “You want to go to the Lowe’s in Springfield.”
Oh! Now I know where I’m going and what I’m looking for.
Same with your Pink Parts. When you have the proper names and locations, you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going. And you won’t accidentally shave your vagina.
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* I have a little rant on shaving your pubic region, especially for women. Read at your own discretion.
Here’s the thing: when you shave (or wax or remove-in-whatever-way) you are effectively making your pubic area look pre-pubescent. When a woman does that to her mature private areas it suggests that bare pink parts are more sexy than furry ones. And then there is a link created between “sexy” and “bare pubic areas.” And that link, in part, for some people, fuels the desire for young girls as sex partners.
It is not a direct link, but it is a pertinent one.
While some men will find young girls sexually attractive no matter what, the “sexy ’cause it’s bare” link aids that process. I believe that shaving, waxing, whatever (which is damn uncomfortable – both the removal and re-growth process) further sexualizes little girls, in a society that’s already quite willing to do that.
I have a daughter and a son to raise, and both of them will know that mature people have pubic hair and that they should only be having sex with mature people (i.e. people with pubic hair).
Here’s the other piece of this, though. Research says that pubic hair removal is mostly done by women under 30 who are having frequent oral sex and are not in a monogamous relationship. In other words, they shave because it’s more pleasant for their partner (or, they think it is). Wouldn’t want him/her to get hair in their teeth when they go down.
Women have been on the short end of this stick for a long time. (pun intended)
You don’t see men running out to shave their testicles for our pleasure when we give blow jobs, now do you?
No, you don’t.
(Honestly, though, gross. I don’t want to be anywhere near shaved man parts.)
So, if shaving your vulva is painful, contributes to negative experiences for young girls, potentially fuels an illegal sexual preference, and is more about your partner’s pleasure than yours- WHY DO IT?
Get some ovaries.
Be proud of your Pink Parts Puff.
Leave it intact.
Love it. And be loved for it.