The Sex Doctors , Dr. Brian Parker and Dr. Trina Read, discuss the difference between men and women's genital image.
Dr. Brian's Point
So Trina, we've already discussed that 80 per cent of women aren't happy when they look in the mirror, but what do you chicks think about your vulvas?
Research shows that you girls don't dig your precious as much as we men love our tools. Twenty-two per cent of you don't like the smell of your privates, while only 3 per cent of guys think their wiener smells like "mouldy cheese." And, plenty of you buy into the douching routine. In fact, a study sponsored by Summer's Eve (hello?!) found that women have better genital image if they had control over their bodies' freshness.
Studies have also found that a lot of you girls don't like the texture and amount of your pubic hair. What the heck is happening down there ladies?
As a man, I can't blame you girls for thinking your genitals look "weird." Society perpetuates this myth, does it not Trina?
When we compare slang words for penis and vulva it is easy to see that a guy's piece (dong, dick, stick, sword) is powerful. Slang for a woman's tender regions aren't so positive: beaver, box, beef curtains, and bearded clam don't sound too appealing. As a male, I think it is important to note that it is mainly men who use these slang terms and the ones who keep these myths afloat.
Most men connect daily with theirs and we know that women do that a quarter less then men. A dude's tube is external whereas most of your nether region is internal. A boy gets to know his pee-pee at a very early age. For you ladies out there who have seen a baby boy get his diaper changed you've probably noticed that the first thing little Johnny grabs is his junior. Why you ask? Because it is full of nerve endings and it feels good.
Boys also learn to touch their stick when they get potty trained. He becomes very familiar with his dingle-dangle by puberty. Weekly, he'll check himself out in the mirror and see what's happening down there. How many of you girls have taken a good look at your mid-section?
Trina, when are you girls going to stop worrying about being stinky or having an afro jetting out your shorts? Us men don't care and neither should you.
Dr. Trina's Counterpoint
This is a difficult one Brian, because there's a lot of "rah-rah, love your vulva" literature out there. But I believe it's going to take a generation (or 10) before women can start claiming this message as true.
When The Vagina Monologues burst onto the scene in the 1990s it was big news. Women naming their vaginas was weirdness itself. Those women reclaiming the "c" word to make it acceptable were just plain on the fringe. Women left that play in droves feeling empowered to love their vulvas.
Somehow, sadly, not much has changed with how women feel about their va-jay-jays. And it really doesn't help that hugely influential people like Oprah can only say "va-jay-jay" -- it perpetuates poor body image and puts the cause back into the dark ages.
In past workshops I've asked women to draw their vulvas. Besides looking at me like I've lost my mind, participants thought the exercise rather gross. Brian, women drawing their vulvas shouldn't be any different then, say, drawing another body part like their hand.
The late Mary Calderone, PhD, called it a woman's "doughnut hold sensibility." That is women tend to ignore their vulvas until it's time to have sex.
Or on the other end of the spectrum are those women who are self conscious because their inner and outer vaginal lips aren't symmetrical. Many have considered surgery. Heck, I'm not sure there is such a thing as a symmetrical pair of lips on any living female. But I digress.
There's myriad other ideologies that stop women from having a healthy relationship with their privates including: negative socialization, lack of education and exposure when young, stigma when admitting they masturbate -- in fact, most women can't even call it masturbation, they have to call it "self-pleasuring" -- and the list goes on and on.
Vulva stigma is not something that will be solved overnight; rather, because vulva loathing runs so deep it must be chipped away at over time.
Take heart Brian, a new generation of moms is taking a mirror into the bathtub and showing her daughter her vulva. Explaining what it is and letting her take a good look. These moms aren't calling it "wee-wee" or "peach" but rather its proper biological name. These are small steps that will make a huge impact when her daughter grows up.
Bottom line: until the average gal can have a positive relationship with her vulva, enjoying sex to the maximum will probably be out of her grasp.