Growing up I understood the world a bit differently than most – though at the time, I thought that was how it was. I’d come to the conclusion that everyone – of any gender, age, race, sexuality – should be equal, unless they’ve done something to be undeserving of as much respect as others. I also concluded that sex was quite a lovely, fascinating activity and was curious to one day experience the real deal for myself.

I grew up some more and realized I wasn’t exactly right about my conclusions – sex is amazing and everyone should be equal, but women (among other minorities) can hardly be considered equal professionally or in society. It appears the world is trapped in a misconception of what a woman should be. I myself fell in the trap, finding myself ashamed of and unwilling to tell my peers the number of people I’d taken to bed, afraid of what that number would say about me. I regretted all my blunders, watching the numbers rise and my opinion of myself fall.

But now I realize that I had and still have nothing to be ashamed of. I am the only one who can decide what I am not OK with, and if I’m not compromising my integrity, I shouldn’t feel ashamed for doing anything. I don’t need anyone to give me permission to fuck, fight, love, or do anything.

What I’m now finding is that there are still women out there who are trapped in these misconceptions. There is a saying that the first person you’ll hear calling a woman a slut, is another woman. As if it’s not bad enough already, we have to oppress each other too! It makes my heart hurt to realize how much self-hate has been instilled in our mentalities, that we are the first ones to put ourselves on the chopping block. We must not let what society deems is right to overrule our own opinions nor create a divide between us.

This is where I am today: aware of these restrictions put up against us, and trying hard to fight them. I still sometimes feel shame or regret towards my past but I know I can only accept what already is, and move on. I am still somewhat secretive about how my sexual history, but it’s because it’s my business and no one else’s. I try not to judge others, and I try to remind myself that I should do what I want and not what others think I should do.

After receiving Jessica’s email, I immediately posted about it. One of the responses I got was along the lines of, “When someone makes art of a vulva, everyone says it’s beautiful; when someone makes art of a penis, people say it’s vulgar”, and it got me thinking. As much as that has some truth to it, I noticed that it was a very distorted perception of what is really true: we see, hear and talk about penises all the time in the media — yet we must say va-jay-jay instead of vagina. You look at the walls of your bathroom stall, and find a penis that has been shittily scrawled staring at you — no vulvas. The fact that most people — even women — believe “vagina” is the word for the entire female lower regions… It all underlines the fact that the vulva is rarely ever even talked about, let alone seen in art, the media or everyday life. Yes, vulvas are more inclined to be deemed beautiful when represented in art, but I can personally only think of a handful of instances of vulva art, whereas penises — whether considered vulgar or beautiful — are practically everywhere. Even the mere fact that one is so quotidienne that it is hardly considered art and the other is so uncommon that it is, proves the imbalance in mentalities that they represent.

So to me, being a part of Vulva Love Lovely is my incredibly empowering contribution to the feminist/equalist movement. I hope my story and the art created of my vulva will inspire other women to embrace their sexuality and to be fiercely proud of their bodies. I hope it will pioneer the way to a society where we acknowledge its existence, where I’ll walk into a bathroom stall and find a shittily scrawled vulva staring back at me.

So women, stop oppressing yourself and your peers. Judge not before hearing all sides and peering through all perspectives. Be true to your heart and your greatest desires, while trying your best not to oppress the desires of others. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about your body, or your feelings, or anything else we are told we shouldn’t talk about because at best, it is beautiful and at the very least, it is the truth.

Lastly, I want to make a shout out to Frederick, the beauty mark on the top left of my vulva: thank you for making me even more beautiful, I love you so much.