Last week, just before blasting off on my 20 city book tour for my book What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, I got a call from a guy at CBSNews.com. They had posted a piece called 15 Crazy Things About Sperm and it has been a slam dunk, runaway hit on the website. He wanted me to write a similar post about vaginas. He loved my style, thought I was funny, and they were trying to spice up their health news, so he thought I’d be perfect (*Lissa blushes*). I was running around like a crazy person trying to get ready for my tour, but how could I turn down the opportunity to write 15 crazy things about the vagina? Vagina vagina vagina!
So I dropped everything and wrote a badass piece -- 15 Curious Things You May Not Know About the Vagina. The guy at CBSNews.com loved it and promised to post it on the day my book launched. Which he did. But when I went to look for it, it wasn’t there? What happened?Too saucy?!
Well, the next day, the guy called me, tail between his legs, to say how embarrassed he was to have to tell me that the post was up for only an hour before the suits in corporate made him take it down. It was “too saucy.” He felt awful. He couldn’t stop apologizing. I was tempted to go off on the guy and start ranting but he was SO nice and clearly, it hadn’t been his decision. He loves vaginas. He felt bad, so I let him off the hook. No worries. We’re scheduled to have coffee when I’m in New York.
But the more I thought about it, the more it bugged me. Why DID they make him take down my post? The sperm post was pretty saucy too. Why do sperm get to stay up, while vaginas -- once again -- are relegated to the closet? What does this say about our society?What, we can’t say vagina?
A while back, I was horrified to hear that a tampon company was banned from three networks from airing a commercial that actually used the word “vagina.” They changed the word to “down there,” but even still, two of the three networks wouldn’t air it. This lead the tampon company to reshoot the ad without ever once referencing the female genitalia. In response to all this, UbyKotex (who is sponsoring a book giveaway for What’s Up Down There?) launched an awesome ad campaign about telling it like it is. Their ads totally make fun of tampon commercials. But still, they never once say the word vagina.
What is the matter with us? What are we so freaking afraid to talk about those things every person on this planet came out of? And why the double standard? When I was at a Superbowl party, they aired an ad that talked very frankly about erectile dysfunction. My four year old was like “Mommy, what’s erectile dysfunction?” I found myself floundering to explain that girls have vulvas and boys have penises, but that sometimes the boy’s penis doesn’t get hard when it’s supposed to. “When is it supposed to get hard?” she asked. “Uh…well…um…have you heard of the birds and the bees?” But thank God, by then, someone had pulled out a lollipop and her sweet tooth got distracted. I was off the hook.Don't say "coochie"
This week, I was on a famous national radio show that shall go unnamed. They invited me to be a guest on this radio show but when they received a copy of my book, the producer called and said, “We’re having second thoughts. We’ve read the book -- and we love it -- but we’re a bit concerned about the language.” Okay, so I have a potty mouth. I figured they wanted to make sure I didn’t say any four letter F bombs on national radio, and of course, I know how to behave. But no -- it wasn’t the cuss words they were worried about. It was words like “coochie” or “va jay jay.” I giggled because I wanted to name my book "Coochie Confidential" but my publisher wouldn’t let me. They told me “Down There” was suggestive enough.
So I agreed to keep quiet in exchange for massive exposure on a famous radio program. But midway through the program, the host picks up my book and says “You’re gonna love this. Listen to the chapter title -- 'How Coochies Smell and Taste.'” And she got bleeped. And then she said, “Hey, am I allowed to say the word coochie on the radio?” And she got bleeped again. The producer was behind the glass screen, shaking her head like we were two naughty children.
Another producer of a national television show invited me to appear on her show to talk about What's Up Down There? -- the plan was for the hosts of the show to ask me the questions they’d be too embarrassed to ask their gyno. But the producer warned me we’d have to be careful. “You can talk about vaginas,” she said, “but you’re gonna have to call it a ‘passion flower.’” Say what? A PASSION FLOWER? Are you kidding me? But in keeping with my mission, I smiled demurely and agreed to her terms.
But the idea got nixed by the hosts. Apparently, they were too embarrassed to ask their questions on national TV, so we offered to tone it down for them. But they said no. Too racy. Too personal. Too much vagina talk. So the show got canned.What Gives?
If vaginas are too inappropriate for network television, national radio, and CBSNews.com, why can we talk about erectile dysfunction and sperm? The double standard pisses me off! What is wrong with these people? Personally, I have no problem with talking about sperm and Viagra, but if I have to get caught explaining erectile dysfunction to my four year old, shouldn’t we be allowed to talk about vaginas?
Now granted, I’m on the road now on my book tour for What’s Up Down There?, speaking at colleges, reading at bookstores, appearing on television, being interviewed on the radio, and writing guest posts for websites. About what? You guessed it. Vaginas. So clearly I’m not shy. But I’m getting sick and tired of being censored.Why Do I Think We Should Talk About Vaginas?
We talk about the eyeball. We talk about the big toe. We talk about belly buttons and thighs and armpits without shame or embarrassment. Why NOT talk about vaginas? But frankly, I think it’s even more important to talk about vaginas than it is to talk about fingers or knees. The vagina is where life begins. It’s the portal of pleasure. But it’s also the place where many traumas happen. As women, we get molested as children, we get raped, we experience painful trips to insensitive gynecologists, we tear through our vaginas during childbirth, we get abortions, we suffer from painful intercourse. When we don’t talk about vaginas, these traumas back up inside us and fester.
We MUST bring the vagina out of the closet. At least grant us equal air time in the media as sperm, penises, and erectile dysfunction. I mean seriously, people. Get OVER it!
That’s why I wrote What’s Up Down There? -- to get people talking and demystify this divine part of our bodies. How can we love ourselves if we don’t love ALL of ourselves? So say it with me. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. (See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?)
What do you think? Does this piss you off as much as it pisses me off? Does it make you uncomfortable to talk about vaginas? Are you willing to join me on my mission to bring the vagina out of the closet?
Trying to live up to the name my friends have given me -- "VaJesus",
Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).
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