So I was reading about a student magazine that wanted to put photos of vaginas all over its front cover, and feeling all righteous and right-on about it, 'cos the people involved all sounded ace. The college mag Honi Soit got 18 brilliant students at Sydney University, Australia, to have their genitals photographed. The plan was to put them all on the front page, thus offering a rare public look at vulvas as non-porn, non-sex things. To give people a chance to see and think about vaginas outside of the expectations of airbrushing; see what they actually look like when they’re not groomed to appear as sweet and pink as a baby, or having a big Viagra cock rammed into them.
This same mag once ran a picture of a flaccid penis on its cover, in response to another magazine with a penis on the cover, and nobody breathed a word about any of that, so surely the vaginas would be OK.
But they weren’t!
They were obscene! And the uni lawyers banned the vaginas, because the sick truth is that vaginas are porny and sexy and wrong no matter what, apparently. Not to mention mad, bad and dangerous to know.
Oh for god’s sake, I thought, this is just nuts. So the magazines still went to print, only with a little blackout box slapped over the pumpums, a bit like they were mouths being silenced, which they kind of were. But, due to a cock-up at the printers, the black boxes came out a bit translucent and you could still see a fair amount of fanny. Which is when the authorities seized the magazines and said they were going to destroy the cover. That was on Wednesday – the editors are still waiting to hear if they will be able to distribute their now-coverless magazine.
FFS! I thought. I mean, this is in the same week that somebody got sentenced to 35 years for exposing war crimes (but the war criminals sure didn’t), and it was revealed that the government went round to the Guardian newspaper’s offices to smash up its computers, fobbing them off with some crazy lies about lasers, and Cameron and co continued their plans to block off bits of the internet – it’s the thin end of the wedge, I thought to myself. A wedge that starts with calling the human body obscene and that ends in fascism. We’re being forcibly silenced by other people all over the place. Is there any reason to see dangers in human skin apart from a religious one?
We all think we’re so modern and secular with our separation of church and state realtalk, but this skin-phobia is the biggest religious hangover that the Western world has got! This is some Adam and Eve forbidden apple bullshit! Or St Augustine – that charming medieval chap who coined the concept of original sin, and said humanity was condemned by its carnal longing – this was when he wasn’t busy with his concubine and his 11-year-old fiance, of course.
And my friend who grew up in Wales in a nudist family says nobody from her nudist community ever got anorexia or body dysmorphia because bodies weren’t hidden, shameful things and there was nothing to get weird about. And even if it’s not a religious taboo and just a cultural norm that helps us keep the sexual bits of our bodies private and special – did you know that the roof of your mouth is a highly sexual place too? And you don’t see Simon Cowell telling all his singers to clamp their teeth together when they sing, do you. (No really, I read about a disabled guy who informed other disabled people about all the other ways you can have sexual activity, if the obvious parts of your body are out of action. So then I tried the things he said on the roof of my own mouth and, god damn, it’s crazy sensitive. I squealed.)
Anyway, these were all the righteous and right-on things I was thinking – until I scrolled down the page and saw the actual picture with all the vaginas on it.
Oh my god.
It's just as well I have such an erotic relationship with the roof of my own mouth, as all my progressive attitude to nakedness turned out to be total bull when I saw it. Them.
It was like looking at a row of out-of-date lettuces, made from the wrinkles in elephants’ ears. Like ageing elephant salad. Each of those 18 vajayjays looks like a tear trickling from a dead man’s eye. Like the coughs and sneezes of a poorly God. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME, I thought. I too am the proud owner of one of these squeezeboxes and it doesn’t look any better than those and I’m finding it hard to cast my eyes towards the page a second time.
“Beautiful vaginas are depicted as soft, hairless and white. The reality is that my vagina is dark and hairy, and when it isn’t it is pinkish and prickly,” one of the participants told another newspaper.
Mine too, lady. Mine too.
So why is this photo unnerving me more than the first time I saw a photograph of that Olsen twin kissing President Sarkozy’s creepy brother, a mere 400 years her senior? Or the one of J-Lo’s ex-husband Marc Anthony holding hands with Philip Green’s daughter? (Look I’m sure they’re all lovely people and I wish them all well on their funfairs and yachts, but the combos of money and power and age in these scenarios are weird and almost wholly sexless.)
But, but, but. I wanted to be so much better to the unfolding flowers than this. The golden lotuses, as described in the Chinese philosophy of the Tao. In the language of chakras, vaginas are our second centre. The hometown of everybody on planet Earth. And I’ve read Naomi Wolf’s biography of the vagina and it’s brilliant, full of the neuroscience on how and why women have orgasms. I loved it. But it only came with diagrams, not photographs.
So now I’m having a word with myself about how to fall in love with this photograph as it’s clearly an important step in me putting my money where my mouth is and accepting us in all our skinful, angular wrinkliness. I might put it on my bedroom wall.
“Here they are, flaps and all,” write the magazine editors in their statement. “Don’t you dare tell me my body offends you.”
They’re right. We’re all just apes who grew upright and wove cotton into clothing and covered ourselves in it, creating a strange new sensation called shame. But it’s time to undo all that. There’s only one thing for it.
I'm moving to a nudist colony in Wales.
Follow Sophie on Twitter: @heawood
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