In the brave new era of vaginal washes and monologues, is the V-word still taboo? A new Associated Press article says it is so – even in the United States, where it still evokes a certain squeamishness.
Michigan politician Lisa Brown, for example, was formally rebuked for opposing an anti-abortion bill in these colourful terms in the state legislature: "I'm flattered you’re all concerned about my vagina. But no means no."
"There’s just something about the word 'vagina' that startles people – I don’t know what it is," says author Kayt Sukel who lectures on neuroscience and sexuality. “People sit back a little bit. Sometimes they start giggling. I end up using euphemisms just to make them more comfortable, and more receptive to what I am saying. And we don’t seem to have the same problems with the word 'penis.'"
"I mean, you can say 'penis,'" agrees comedian Judy Gold, “You can say 'erection,’ 'erectile dysfunction,’ even 'vaginal probe.’ But 'vagina'? Suddenly it’s a dirty word. And it’s the correct anatomical term!”
But times are a changing, and not just in the United States, where the current crop of TV shows have ushered in "season of the vagina". Closer to home, the media has taken up the task of circulating the forbidden word. The Clear and Dry intimate wash sparked a tsunami of vagina mentions, including Deepanjana Pal's column in Mumbai Boss which opened with the immortal words: "My vagina isn’t happy..."
And in this newly open season, Open magazine jumped in the fray with Sonali Kokra's caustic meditation on the female vagina under siege. It's mostly a long list of the many things women now do to attain the perfect lady bits – and the many things that are so very wrong with what they do.
Vaginal mints can give you yeast infections. Vaginal deodorants are toxic, and bleaches can give you cancer. Douching "has been linked to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy and even infertility".
These days, our genitals can both smell and look pretty – at a price. Vajazzle them up with crystals, diamonds, even clitter, as in glitter for the clitoris. All of which is a recipe for allergies and infections. Then there are the more painful versions of the vaginal beautification program: brazilian waxes; clitoral piercings; labiaplasty for "kissable, pillowy lips"; rejuvenation surgery to tighten that saggy, baggy orifice. Oh, and that last one carries the risk of "permanent scarring, rectal damage, nerve damage and urine retention".
Ah, the obsession that dare not speak its name. We may not be able to talk about our yonis, but we can't stop tinkering with them, often to the detriment of their primary purpose. Then again, at least we're talking about not talking about the vagina.
If it's any consolation to the men, the latest issue of Open brings us a humour piece on Siddharth Mallya's balls, also testicles, nuts, sacs, rocks, marbles, manjigglies – and while we're in the general vicinity, penis and asshole. And this deluge in turn is inspired by Mallya's quote to the Mumbai Mirror: "Listen to your heart a bit, listen to your head a bit, but always listen to your balls."
We are like kids who can't resist the slightest excuse to say those naughty words.
Will just saying 'vagina' – or rather: vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina – deliver us unto sexual liberation? Perhaps not, but that doesn't make it any less fun.
Read 'The Vagina Wears Diamonds' on the Open website.
'Siddharth's Inner Voice' is not available online.