For most of my life, I have had no connection to my vagina.
As a child it was not a thought on my mind. When slightly older, I argued alongside my sister, to adults on my street that it was in fact called, a pagina. Where exactly this came from I’m unsure.
In my early teenage years it began to be an other worldly being as I was shown pictures of ovaries, cervix and womb and told that this was where birth takes place. Something I still have no connection to at thirty years of age.
Then my period starts. The talk, which was handled by my primary school on the most part, left nothing of an impression on me except I had a paper bag from a chemist and inside it was sanitary towels and I felt like I had a dirty secret in my schoolbag.
I also don’t remember forming the next opinion but recall clearing up, in my mind, the misinformation that we women didn’t just start peeing ourselves at some point towards adulthood and that if you could believe it, we bled from our vaginas once a month. This was something to do with birthing… I didn’t have any connection to that, it was a scary moment when I noticed the first blood in my pants in the morning before school.
I waddled downstairs to my kitchen and whispered to my mum that I was blee… she, quick as a flash as all good, timely mums are, had been lying in wait for this sentence to trickle from my mouth, took me upstairs and passed me a pad through the gap in the bathroom door.
And that was it. I don’t remember telling other girls, but I’m sure in my unsure, confident manner I must have. I was probably an awful brag about it. I remember vaguely a conversation with another girl whilst walking along a country road that she had started hers and she seemed undoubtedly ashamed of the whole business and I don’t think I had started. I don’t recall feeling worried about the fact.
I kept cringeworthy diaries and inside the planner I furiously marked out my projected periods. Which I remember being a pointless task as I never managed to work it out right but my mild OCD pertained that I did so for at least 3 years.
Here’s where I start to feel uncomfortable as I reveal to you my sexual history. Bare with me whilst I divulge a brief synopsis of my lowlights.
A few years later I had lost my virginity in a very convenient manner. A friend, a quick interaction. My need to complete the task greater than his. I felt I had this unknown to experience and I hated not knowing. I was a sucker for peer pressure well in to my late 20’s.
A few more of these kinds of interactions with boys my age, that I had known for a long time. My connection to pleasure and sex just something I didn’t really understand. It was not something that I was doing for sexual pleasure but more to have a bond with a male. I was bullied for my (semi) sexual activity in school and learned not to trust others when it came to sex. It wasn’t safe to tell the full story, who knows what people might say.
My first long term boyfriend was a tumultuous affair. But sexually I felt adept, I shared my body with this boy and he shamed me. In my shame, I allowed him to disrespect me and this would lead to many more incidents I would walk away from feeling guilt and repulsion.
I also started on the contraception pill around this time. It was Yasmin. I was to remain on it for 14 years. If you know anything about it you will realise that this was a gross misconduct of my beloved NHS but it is a story for another time, perhaps. Disturbed to see that you can still buy it online.
My next serious boyfriend was a known ‘shagger’. Extremely well endowed and he pleased me in all manners of male driven fantasy. I was there to please him, I enjoyed his satisfaction and my role in that. Much later I realise that he was only there for his orgasm. His member giving me my ecstasy and fostering my connection to him, whilst his brain sought his, never once (I never asked but I’m certain) thinking of mine.
The last serious relationship in my life was for me, the most difficult. You see, I adored this human but parts of his character brought out the utter worst in me. My previous relationships made me stubborn and hard. I wanted to be the strong women I read about and never gave him anywhere close to the ‘full me’. He didn’t see my soul, only my pain. In turn, he witnessed my sexual closing down. My ‘going through the motions’ as it were.
Never once was I aware that this was happening to me. I grew distant in the relationship, eventually resenting him completely but with a horrible desire to keep at it. I ticked all the boxes as a socially accepted ‘successful’ person at the time and though I was desperately unhappy it took a lot for me to let go. I was deemed a failure by myself most of all, as the memories of my character being destroyed haunted me.
It would be easy for me to blame my contraception for all this but I feel that because I’m not qualified to do so and so many more of my personal traits were as affecting, I will refrain from conjecture.
When we split up I thought my whole life would change. It did, for the worse.
I adopted a stereotypically hetero-male attitude towards sex. I was punishing men by having unloving sex, I was aloof. I again, wasn’t aware at the time of the reasons as to why. I now know I was seeking revenge for all the pain I had suffered. I was punishing myself at the same time, ruining countless friendships and eventually being close to a full breakdown.
I then had an irregular smear test and I grew fearful of the ‘precancerous’ cells growing inside me. The consultation, as it was mislabelled on the letter calling me to the hospital, was a highly invasive procedure and my afterpains made me grow to hate my cervix, I was unable to touch myself and my disconnection from my vagina was at its highest.
I quit my contraception pill and as any strong minded, stubborn woman like myself would do, I took my attitude, self-righteousness and anger and I reformed myself.
I became abstinent on the most part, gradually. I started meditation, yoga and mindfulness. I did anger management, optimism hypnosis and binaural beat therapy.
I pulled apart each of my relationships, my moments of pure hatred towards others and myself. I poked at the horrifically uncomfortable parts of me. It was the single most cathartic experience I probably will ever have. I wrote a lot.
My meditation allowed me to see that character and personality were learned behaviours. They were not rigid or set in stone, a fact I had once resigned myself to when I was at my rock bottom.
I realised that I had no understanding to what a deeply connected relationship was. I knew there were many factors in this, education, my environment, my parent’s relationship, my inability to disclose my true feelings with friends. I felt shame towards every aspect of romantic relationships.
I thought I could grovel in this self pity party forever becoming more and more depressed until who knows what end. I wanted to be single and childless forever, a fact I couldn’t (at the time) see as anything less than extraordinarily sad. It took me a good couple of years to stop blaming and start convincing myself it didn’t have to be like this.
I began to educate myself. Get spiritual about my sex, my vagina and my environment. This spirituality came amongst other things. I didn’t specifically seek a sexual awakening. It was a byproduct of self awareness and acceptance that after much consideration seemed to be a huge part of why other areas of my life had collapsed so triumphantly.
I’ve always proclaimed to love sex. I have been deeply fascinated in it but truthfully underwhelmed. It felt even more exotic (than I guess it did to most people but who knows) because I was certain I hadn’t found the right partner.
I’ve considered being a full time lesbian, they always seemed to be enjoying it more. I dabble in my restricted bi-curious way and I have had fun encounters but it wasn’t substantial to me. I can appreciate women, the thought of pleasing women excites me but more because I know I can. Her body works like mine.
I am attracted to most men, I have always been but the men that I had given my stunted love to have made me crazy, head-over-heels in love and that kind of love hurt me.
I stopped shaming myself for my past and my beliefs as they were not mine. Not mine in this present moment at least. There was literally fuck all I could do to change my past but, by fuck, I could do a lot to change my beliefs.
I read sex positive blogs, follow countless wonderful erotic illustrators on Instagram, I listen to feminists on podcasts. With the help of a distant community of people on that glorious thing called the Internet, I have a daily dose of encouragement that I am not alone. I am not the only sexually paranoid person in the world.
As a heterosexual woman it is totally normal to feel that pleasure hasn’t been completely accessible. We have been ostracised as much as the fringe sexualities, some would argue more. As a white woman I find it uncomfortable to talk about oppression but my voice was nonexistent, even to myself.
Before travelling, most of the women that were in my life could not have an open and honest conversation about sex. This is evident from the lack of communication not just between us but partners too, slut-shaming and fear of the different, fetishes were abhorrent, promiscuity a symptom.
I put it down to our Britishness, the remnants of a Catholic or Protestant heritage, our desire to create the bubble so that life can be rosey for onlookers and when it is rosey you must be having multiple orgasms, regularly with your conventional partner.
Deep down I know that these women have been cheated on, have regular arguments about dumb shit, are disrespected and disrespect all the time. Some stick it out with one partner, others move on and replace and then there are people like me – The Long Term Single.
I was a casual, carefree one night stand kind of girl. I know others that are fully abstinent, some through fear of allowing a shitty excuse for a relationship to happen to them.
None of these are acceptable. We don’t get enough joy from any of them. What we do get is fleeting, not sustainable, physically or spiritually. But it is etched into our psyche to seek this trinket of a partner without understanding the connection.
Most women I know can’t even say vagina without laughing a little, if they can say it at all. What chance have you got to make a deep connection to that organ which is unlike any other. The clitoral network or Female Erectile Network (FEN) is huge, and hugely misunderstood by most people not in this branch of gynaecology.
It is up to us to take our vaginas in our own hands, get to know them and get to love them for all their glory. The more honest and unashamed our conversations will be the better chance we have of breaking an age old cycle of acceptance. It is necessary to change the way women see their value, to allow for true pleasure and stopping the trauma that can be created when this is mistreated.
I felt like an unnatural being when I put the pieces of my broken relationships together. I hope that other women have the tools and the courage to break from bad behavioural patterns. I pray that women across the globe in oppression can be released, that their access to appropriate healthcare and knowledge opens up. It can only start with the privileged, as with so many things. If you love your vagina, please share.
The future is female, pleasured.