I never wish I lived in (or closer to) London more than when there are brilliant sex positive events happening that I can’t make it to – like the opening of the Vagina Museum tomorrow! Its first exhibition opens to the public this weekend and I’d love to be joining my sex blogging friends there tomorrow.
The Vagina Museum does not pay me to promote their work – I’m writing this because they’re a charity I genuinely believe in – and if I lived in London I’d also be signing up to volunteer for them.
This week, everyone has been writing about the Vagina Museum – which is good, because they’re setting out to do something amazing and deserve lots of positive press, but it makes it difficult to find a fresh angle for this blog post. I wrote about why I was excited about the Vagina Museum back in April when they were crowdsourcing funds to open.
With the help of supporters around the world, the Vagina Museum raised £50,000 through their crowdfunding campaign. It’s not enough to keep them up and running forever, but the Vagina Museum is about to become a brick-and-mortar reality in Camden Market. Their first exhibit, Muff Busters: Vagina Myths and How To Fight Them, will exploring myths and misconceptions about vaginas.
And let’s face it, we have plenty of those. Did you know that 65% of 16-25 year old women say they have a problem using the words vagina or vulva* and over a quarter (26.7%) of 25-29 year olds in Britain are too embarrassed to attend cervical screening*?
*Eve Appeal, 2016; Jo’s Trust, 2017.
To me, those are alarming statistics. They don’t surprise me though – if I hadn’t discovered the sex blogging community and started to unlearn my internalised shame about sex, I’m not sure that I would ever have been brave enough to go to the GP and tell them that I found sex painful. I found it hard enough asking for birth control when I couldn’t cope with my ridiculously frequent periods.
A key part of the Vagina Museum’s mission is breaking down the stigma around vaginas. Debunking the pervasive and problematic myths means that folks with vulvas will feel able to talk about their own anatomy. Right now, vagina is seen as a dirty word that we’re meant to feel embarrassed to say.
This is what Florence Schechter – the Vagina Museum’s Director and Founder – has increasingly discovered since she started the pop-up Vagina museum in 2017. Facebook wouldn’t allow them to buy ads because they didn’t pass their “community standards review”, and Twitter shadow banned them as well.
And it’s because the world is scared of the word vagina.
I can see why – it’s easier to make folks with vulvas feel sexual shame when they don’t feel they can look at – let alone name – their genitalia. Being unapologetic about wanting to encourage open conversations about vaginas is a concept that frightens the cishetpatriarchy. The Vagina Museum’s aim to empower folks with vaginas means we might feel more confident in reporting sexual assault, advocating for our contraception rights, or demanding better medical treatment for frequently dismissed and underdiagnosed issues like vaginismus or PCOS.
It’s amazing to see the Vagina Museum grabbing headlines this week, because it’s the first step in its mission to prove that vagina is not a dirty word. Even if they cannot promote themselves on social media, the Vagina Museum’s opening has respected publications like The Guardian, Vice, Huffington Post and Time talking about vaginas. For me, a woman who spent years terrified of her own anatomy, that’s already a huge win.
The idea that vagina is a dirty word is a tool used to sustain systemic sexual shame that is directed largely at folks who aren’t straight white cis men. Entry to the Vagina Museum is free, and it is inclusive and open to people of all ages, genders and sexual orientation. I believe will help folks realise that vagina is not a dirty word. In the words of Florence herself: “This is a part of the body that should be celebrated. The museum is a fantastic way to spread the message that there is nothing shameful or offensive about vaginas and vulvas.”
Tomorrow I’ll be over-enthusiastically retweeting everyone’s excitement about the Vagina Museum opening, and trying not to be jealous of my friends who get to be there. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to (consensually) drag one of my partners there for a date next time I’m down in London.
If you want to support the Vagina Museum – and you totally should because they’re a super worthwhile cause – you can make a donation here. Just £10 can pay the expenses of a volunteer who helps them deliver their activities.
If you love my blog and want to do a super nice thing for ME which will also help the Vagina Museum, why not buy me a membership to the Vagina Museum‘s Cliterati? Click here if you want to buy me a brilliant early Christmas present.