Guest Blog by Bx Sassy
I’ve been gradually learning about the ins and outs of my vulva.
A realisation that the men around me had seen more vulvas than I had made me question what it is that, as women, make us so shy to show our genitalia to one another openly, let alone, ourselves. Thankfully, an increasing number of platforms, websites and organisations are lifting the lid on what our female genitalia looks like in all its diversity, providing the correct terms to describe it’s form as well as ways to pleasure oneself and keep a check on it’s changing state.
The question of why we must keep our legs shut as women unless it’s for sex or a smear test needs to be asked in correlation to the shame surrounding the female genitalia and how that seeps into our lack of open exploration. Having recently published a series of videos on my own “shamefree feminist platform” called The Sassy Show. I was met by criticism that my sense of dignity was lacking by being too open.
Throughout the history of scientific study, female bodies weren’t evaluated in the same way as the male body; reason being that the majority of scientists were male, and touching another female body outside of marriage was deemed inappropriate. Added to this was the assumption that female hormones were considered to make many medical studies unreliable so instead of “complicate” matters, women were left out of bodily explorations. And since that point, progress has been painfully slow with the full anatomy of the clitoris finally being written about by Professor Helen O’Connell in 1998.
Interestingly, Greek, Persian and Arabic writers were documenting the female genitalia during the 3rd Century with the physician Oribase describing the clitoris as “a muscular waffle”. A term that I’ve grown very found of. Through my own open exploration, I have come to realise that there are indeed a good many muscular waffles sitting in between my legs and that by understanding what they do and how they feel I can become equipped with the knowledge of how to track my fertility as well as improve my sexual satisfaction and relieve tension. Elevating my confidence and sense of curiosity to sit in front of a mirror has not been a solo journey. Although I am still waiting for the day I will sit in a room of women and men all exploring their genitalia without a sense of shame or embarrassment, there are a good few friendly faces online that have helped.
Anatomy of Pleasures created by Alakina Mann, is a website committed to helping women learn about their genitalia and what happens to the female organs and muscles on arousal. Mann developed the idea during her MA in Medical Drawing at Edinburgh University, describing the project as an “introduction to the parts of the body that can feel great but often get left out of conversation, textbooks and media”. By creating an interactive digital 3D model, Mann shows both the internal and external layout of the vulva and how it changes on becoming aroused. The focus on inclusive, unintimidating and gentle learning is what makes this website so friendly and accessible.
The Beautiful Cervix Project is an online project which “encourages people with cervices to learn cervical self-exam and fertility awareness as a revolutionary path of promoting respect, confidence, and health.” Offering self-examination kit in three different sizes as well as information and guidelines to finding your own cervix and discovering how it changes depending on fertility, this website is a vital education model for all women.
In regards to self touch for pleasure, Sh! Store is my number one safe and friendly space to visit both online and off, each time teaching me about the options for stimulating pleasure with gentle encouragement. Feminist porn director, Erika Lust, created The Lust Ed Video Series for their Sex and Entertainment website inviting professionals in the field of sex work to explain their anatomy in relation to sexual pleasure, including videos about squirting and anal sex. A similar idea touched on by OMGYES who explain that “we finally have the openness and research to take a clear-headed look at the many nuances of women’s sexual pleasure” and so set about offering women visual ways to become educated about touch and arousal whilst taking into consideration the diversity of bodies and personal preferences.
With so many progressive conversations surrounding female sexual pleasure, it is part and parcel of our roles as women to understand what our bodies look like, what they are capable of and to encourage the demand for further research to be made. And in parallel, with people recognising that vaginal depression is a serious thing, how can we encourage one another to not feel ashamed of their struggles to look, touch and feel and instead support, with our legs spread proudly open wide.
"Bx Loud, Bx Proud, Bx Sassy"
The Sassy Show Bethany Burgoyne (who goes by the name Bx Sassy) is an artist, performer and writer, dedicated to encouraging open and educational conversations between women. Exploring the ins and outs of her own bodily functions and appearance through selfportraiture, vlogging, and live performance, Bx embraces the wonders of her female body and sexual pleasure whilst challenging the stigma and silence that surrounds these conversations. Some of her favourite topics include body hair, menstruation, beauty standards, and masturbation. In 2019, Bx founded The Sassy Show, a multimedia platform promoting women in the arts and entertainment industry, advocating for female led, creative conversations that drive societal change. ‘Cos boy, have we had enough of the white male gaze controlling our female identity!?! You can read more about her work on @bxsassy and join fellow Sassy Souls on @_thesassyshow
Join Bx Sassy on the @Shwomenstore Instagram live stream on Friday 3rd July at 8pm.