February 23, 2011

The Crotch-Kraken Waketh

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The first time I made eye contact with my vagina on the real, I almost choked on my own vomit-tears.

It was the winter after my first semester in college, and I’d just been invited to perform in The Vagina Monologues. As I read over my assigned part, which concerned the snatch-spelunking exploits of an uppity woman who’d never had an orgasm with intent and who had to be convinced that she still had a clitoris, I began to grow dismayed.

“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself. “I — I’ve never actually seen my vagina.” Here I was, a real live feminist, who’d never done the hand mirror test to make sure my genitals weren’t actually a formaldehyded slice of bologna. I’d been masturbating since I was twelve, for gods’ sakes! I was a disgrace to my pervy kind.

Ten minutes later, I’d locked myself in the bathroom with the only hand mirror in the house, revved and ready to get down with my woman-self. As I actually took a good look at my red velvet vortex, though, I felt all my self-affirming mantras come crashing around my outstretched legs. My vag was not the curvaceous tulip I had vaguely crafted in my imagination from Georgia O’Keefe paintings and an unfortunate bout with the Internet. It looked monstrous.

I’ll spare you much of the gory detail, but I feel that cooch context is important for the sake of journalism. For one thing, it was asymmetrical. Even the shittiest Claymation holiday special makes its characters passably balanced, and my split knish couldn’t even handle an even divide. It was also the bruised purple of a grapefruit left out in the sun, which I couldn’t figure out at all. You’d think I would’ve gotten enough friction up in there, what with all the pre-sex partner pillow-humping, but one never knew. Perhaps my snatch had poor circulation? To top it all off, even if I held my breath and stayed very still, it appeared to be slightly animate, like a crusty Abraham Lincoln at a very oddly themed Hall of Presidents.

The weirdest part, for me, was that it wasn’t like I hadn’t done some investigative nether nosing of my own. In my rebellious (read: lesbian) teenage years, I’d been a vag-badger with all the Tegans and Saras in my senior class. But just like I couldn’t look at my thighs without seeing the cellulite or my nose without the blackheads, I was convinced that I was harboring a crotch-Cthulhu in my cutoffs. If I didn’t get it into shape, I feared, it would burst forth as an autonomous being to leave a trail of slime and bad science-fiction through the woods of New Hampshire.

I know now, of course, that such a reaction is largely symptomatic of our culture’s pervasive pussy anxiety. The first time I got within patting distance of the penis, I may have giggled a little, but I certainly didn’t get nightmares about its excretions the way I did my grease-gorge. It’s not that Western media imbues us on the daily with images of a rabid, foam-flecked vulva climbing up the Empire State Building and spitting acid at fighter jets; it just doesn’t mention vaginas at all.

Because let’s face it: we talk about dicks all the time. We see them variously represented on car commercials, beer ads and the faces of people passed out at parties. But in our culture, there is little more frightening — or more stridently ignored — than the untamed vagina. Instead, we’re left trying to construct a fantasy. Even not having seen real-life pornography until my nineteenth year didn’t leave me in a vag-vacuum. I, like many of my peers, had the idea that my pubes should be trimmed, that my labia should be small and perfectly shaped, that my folds should be a healthy pink; in other words, in my subconscious, a cooter not immediately reading as Caucasian and contained was in dangerous likelihood of growing teeth and wanting to work for equal pay.

Perhaps my metaphor’s growing a little tired. “So what?” I can hear the masses yawning now. “Blah, blah, the twat is beautiful, the clitoris is a button of self-righteousness, etc., etc.” Which, fine. Maybe you’re a self-actualized Judith Butler type who’s taking FGSS 4023 and writing pussy poems in your spare time. But I’m willing to bet my own purple-ish poonani that there have been times when you look down at your partner and think, just for a second, “I hope my vagina looks normal.”

The super-secret surprise ending, my dears, is that vulvas are like atoms — no one exactly resembles another, and if you collide them in unexpected ways, you might start a world war. And spoiler alert: I spread my legs for self-inspection over the last winter break, and my vagina looked perfectly friendly. Even though nothing had physically changed, my raging tentacle-beast had been replaced by a gregarious sentry to my cervix. Whether the transformation was a result of becoming sexually active, watching a truckload more internet porn or expecting to see The Vagina Monologues again on March 5, it didn’t really matter. At the end of the day, after all, you’ve gotta love the one you’ve got.

Kate C. is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at katec@cornellsun.com. Ball You Discreetly appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Kate C.