My oldest memory of my vulva takes me back to when I was three or four years old. I had been playing with a shiny plastic beaded necklace made to mimic pearls. For some reason I decided to hide the beaded necklace in my underwear and I discovered that this was pleasurable. My dad caught me with it and demanded I remove it, “That’s dirty!” he said. As I grew older, the completely normal occurrence of vaginal discharge led to a slight discoloration in the crotch of my white cotton underwear. Upon discovery of these in the laundry, my dad pulled me aside and said that this was “unclean” and that they were “soiled” and made me scrub all my underwear in the sink. I was completely humiliated and totally confused. I knew that I was clean. I had good hygiene. I wasn’t a ‘dirty’ person. But then why was this happening?
The myth that genitals, especially women’s genitals are inherently dirty, gross, unclean, toxic, dangerous, and shameful is one that appears in many forms throughout the world. Many words that refer directly to the genitals are used as some of the most profane and degrading insults. I am glad that more and more people are stopping to stand up and say there is something wrong with this! One of the most influential and body-positive things I have found and been empowered by is VulvaLoveLovely. Vulvas are not gross, or ugly, or dirty, or shameful. They are beautiful and unique and powerful.
I was thirteen when my first boyfriend tried to force his hand down my pants. I told him no and tried to stop him but he kept pushing and he forced his fingers inside my vulva. My body’s response seemed immediate and uncontrollable. Even though it initially started against my will, I felt such physical pleasure I seemed to forget that I hadn’t wanted it in the first place. After that he was always trying to convince me to have sex, but I refused and we broke up. I had sex for the first time at age fifteen, with my boyfriend at the time. We used protection. And it was incredible. The pain was brief and quickly gave way to intoxicating pleasure which ripped through my body like nothing I had ever felt before. From then on, we had sex at every opportunity. We broke up when I had to move to another state. The night of my senior prom, I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend at the time — the dumbest thing I have ever done. Turns out he had an STD. He had developed no visible symptoms. But I did. I stopped seeing him completely. I got treatment from my gynecologist and the symptoms cleared up completely. But for a long time, I felt horrible about myself, and about my vulva. I viewed myself as ‘damaged goods’ and thought no one would ever want me. And I hated myself for making such a huge mistake. I have always been a strong advocate and believer in sexual education and safe sex, yet I stupidly didn’t stick to my own rules and ended up with an STD.
I graduated high school and got into an art program for the summer. But I was still miserable. I had never been so depressed in my life. I started cutting myself. Towards the end of the summer, I started to feel like maybe I could move on. I decided to stop hurting myself. And then I met my next boyfriend. I would be going away to college in just a month, but we spent time together every chance we got. We maintained a long distance relationship for all of my four years of college. I would come visit at the end of each semester. It was with him I had my first orgasm. He is now my wonderful fiancé. He accepted me completely. He never once tried to change me or tell me what to do. He knows many of my deepest secrets and fantasies. We have been together for six years and I am deeply in love with him. He loves me and he loves my vulva. And I finally love my vulva too.