This is a fascinating book, and not just because of the pictures of naked lady parts - which is pretty interesting, I must say. It's fascinating because of the variety of women's experiences with their genitals and the motivations of the writers to show women (and men) what "real women" look like. Most importantly, it left me with a personal question about sharing the book. It's a great educational tool, but should I share it with my sons? My local library? Am I pushing something my husband will consider porn on them? Will I be a hypocrite if I don't?
Warning: Explicit (though tasteful) language and pictures below.
One might ask, "why take pictures of vulvas and put them in a book?" for any number of reasons. You might think it's weird, or kinky, or boring or pornographic or just... unnecessary. But after thinking about it, reading the stories of the women, and learning about the increasing use of plastic surgery on our pussies, I'd have to say that there's a very good reason for women to know what other women look like. Namely, we all look normal, no matter what we look like.
The authors of this book make the point that the prevalence of pornography on the internet is doing to Pussy what Barbie did to Boobie. Most of us that grew up before the Internet tend to think of female beauty as something off the magazine cover - the Barbie look. Of course, real world Barbie is physically unhealthy and many of the models that perpetuate her look in the flesh are unhealthy too. But that doesn't stop us from wishing we were just as "beautiful."
Prior to the Internet, most of us probably didn't think too much about Barbie's pussy. But now that porn is so readily available (the authors of this book say that "among young people, nearly 100% of boys and 75% of girls have viewed pornography by the age of 18"), the perfectly sculpted little hairless, lipless porn pussy is all the rage. So much so that women are going to plastic surgeons to get their pussy sliced. Eeeesh. Lissa feels strongly this is a bad idea and I do too. Robertson says that this trend is even picking up in the stripping community, adding vaginal rejuvenation to breast implants as the lengths strippers will go to in order to look like a stripper is "supposed to."
So why show what normal pussies look like in a book? Well, where else will you get a chance to see them? It's not like most women run around naked and spreading their legs for their girlfriends (at least not in my circles). (Actually, there is another place to see them, which is on the Great Wall of Vagina art project, which is very cool too.)
The book is billed as a "unique public resource - the only book available that accurately and objectively displays the beautiful diversity of the female genitalia." It's not air brushed or even filtered. The women each discuss their vaginas in real terms, mixing in visions of their self image with their sexual experience. Some are empowering, others are heartbreaking. Many are both and all are interesting. There is, for example, a touching story by a Male-to-Female transexual (including a picture of her cute little cooch) where she explains the surgery and celebrates her joy at no longer having a penis, loving her body and enjoying sex now more than ever.
The book is about variety in women's bodies and it does a beautiful job of showing all sizes, colors, hair-lengths, lip-lengths, piercing options and exposures of our lady parts. I have to say, being a porn watcher for reasons I'll explain in another post, that I found the pictures eye-opening - particularly on the subject of the length of inner labia lips. I found Lissa's post Love Your Vulva wonderful and informative, but the picture there wasn't nearly as clear as the pictures in this book. I've also read her posts on knowing your pussy parts (have you gotten out the mirror?) and 20 things to know about your vagina but I can't say I could ever visualize exactly what longer labia lips actually looked like. Now I finally really understand what she was talking about when she said that some inner labia lips are long. Mine aren't - and neither are the ones in the porn films I've seen - so finally it was this book that helped me understand what that means. I feel so enlightened! And in fact I find the longer lipped look quite interesting. It turns out that (to me) longer labia actually look like mature sexual organs instead little baby girl parts.
The book is not prurient. It does not promote a particular lifestyle as far as I can tell. Heterosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, sex workers, transexuals, married women, unmarried women, black, white and brown - we're all represented there equally.
I came away from the experience of reading the book feeling good about it. I thought, "this is a good education tool and if I had daughters I'd share it with them." Then I remembered all the stories the women told about how the men in their lives had so strongly affected their view of themselves and their genitals. And I realized that I, too, had developed a relationship with my pussy very much as a result of how the lovers in my life had reacted (luckily all the positive response outweighed an abuse incident as a child and the general "shhhhhhhhh" attitude of the culture I live in.)
That's when it occurred to me that perhaps I have a duty to share this with my two teenage sons. Not as porn or prurient interest (though i suspect there might be some whacking off after the fact, which is fine with me.) I mean, if 100% of boys have been exposed to the Barbie Porn Pussy by the time they're 18, shouldn't they see what real women are like and what they're likely to encounter? They took a year long sex ed course (offered by our UU Church and highly recommended for 13 year olds!) so I'm pretty sure they've seen stuff like this before. But should I rely on outsourced sex ed? Is this my duty as a mom to make sure they get healthy exposure to normalcy? Hmmmm.
This isn't a unilateral decision I can make. I plan to bring it up to my husband sometime soon and suggest it. Should make for some interesting conversation. I'll report back however it goes.
I also am wondering if I should donate the book to the Library. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when they consider THAT book! Hmmm. Maybe I'll request a meeting with the librarian and present my case. If I do, I'll report back on that too:) More than likely I'll donate it to the Church's sex ed program.
BTW: Out of curiosity I just shaved closer than I ever had. I was curious about what my lips did look like. Even though my inner lips are pretty short, one does slightly peek out when I"m standing straight. It's kinda cute. I think I look most like Kelley:) Tonight we'll see what hubby thinks. (Note: He liked it!)
What do you think? Would you read this book? Would you share it with your kids - girls or boys? Would you have posed for the book (no faces or last names)? What does this bring up for you? Feel free to share anonymously in comments below or to me via email at jessiefano at gmail dot com.
Researcher of WTF? Questions You'd Ask Your Sex Therapist If Only You Had One? Got a question? Ask me! (Twitter @JessieFano)
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