December 1, 2014
As a man, I’ve had a varied relationship with the vagina. The first decade after I emerged out of one, I really didn’t think about them much. (I was under the impression that babies came out of ladies’ butts.) Then I did start to think about them, a lot, like disembodied creatures from another dimension. Then I thought I had them all figured out. And then I realized I didn’t know as much as I should.
Naomi Wolf’s most recent book, Vagina: A New Biography was an eye opening read. It outlines how the source of human life became a devalued slur. How the “flowering lotus” became the “cunt.” And how that devaluation undoes the goddess power in women. How did “pussy” become the ultimate putdown?
In high school, there was a guy named Ted who used to bully me. One day I was walking past his house and he said, “Blazak, you’re a pussy.” My reply was, “Well, I guess you are what you eat, dick.” He didn’t punch me in the face because I was a being homophobic (A sincere apology to all dick-eaters everywhere). He punched me in the face because I refused to let “pussy” be used as a pejorative. Whenever I see someone use that term as a negative (which happens constantly on internet postings), I always respond, “As a heterosexual male, I really like pussy so I assume you mean something positive.” It might not be very PC but I like to think of it as Douchebag Ju-Jitsu.
The other thing about Wolf’s book is its explanation of the complex neurological wiring of the vagina, compared to the rather simple penis. This alone should make this text required reading for any guy that has figured out his sexual happiness depends on his woman’s sexual happiness. (And Wolf herself has discussed the heternormativity implied in that idea.) I’ve assigned this book several times in my Contemporary Theory class and quite enjoy seeing young men walk across campus with a big white book with “Vagina” in bold red letters on the cover. I know their lives will be better for reading it.
So what? Well, now I am charged with the care of my daughter and her own vagina, including how she will think about it. There was a certain amount of awkwardness at that first diaper change, confronting the very close-up intimacy involved. But vagina care is essential from Day 1, so I will spread her labia to clean the poop out like a champ. Hopefully, for her sake, this won’t come back to haunt her in her teen years. “Don’t you backtalk me, Cozy. I used the clean the shit out your vajayjay!”
But in a strange, non-creeper sort of way, the intimacy of the diaper change ritual has both further removed the fear/stigma/ignorance/whatever of the vagina and reinforced the idea that my daughter will find this part of her body as a source of power, not a source of put-downs. Wolf writes about how the vagina (and sexual happiness) is a gateway to female creativity and strength. The research on how rape victims can lose both of these stands as evidence. This means there are messages that I need to be consistent on as a father.
The first is that her vagina belongs to her and she is the only one who should decide what happens to it. I can best achieve that by working for a world where girls like her are not routinely sexually victimized. Second is the complete rejection of all things feminine being used as negatives. This includes, “bitch,” “slut,” and “pussy.” The vagina was once known as the “goddess pool.” I’ve got a lot of years before anybody goes swimming in her pool, but Cozy will never be shamed for the sins of the past. You’re not going to blame Eve for this one. Pussy power!
OK, time to change a diaper. My little goddess just ripped of fart that was solid, liquid, and gas. Wish me luck.
Oh, and that’s a picture of Naomi Wolf and I at Powell’s Books on 12/05/12. Her name will appear often in this blog.
This book is available at Powell’s by clicking the cover below.