Marie Soleil
Bronze, patina, fabric
From the series: The Vulva Portraits

Deb Wiles

Deb Wiles is a multidisciplinary visual artist and writer who lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

My Vulva, Myself

July 25, 2008
N.J. Lukanovich

The vulva - you can't leave home without it. Like a high school girl chum: she goes where you go. A buddy in all things, she's with you at lunch, and when you head for the john - watching as you preen in the mirror, patiently listening to your mindless chatter about who said what to so-and-so. Even on dates, there she is, ready and willing to join the party and have a good time. She's an affectionate girl that hates to be alone.

A source of great pleasure and great pain, the vulva is a part of ourselves... or is it? Sometimes even your bestest friend can be a real bitch. At these times, your vulva may resemble an alien being, lurking in the nether regions like a stalker, screaming for attention like a spoiled child - stroke me, love me, punish me when I'm bad, or rather: I will punish you if you're bad.

And what is bad for your sensitive friend? All kinds of things, from the wrong shampoo to the wrong thong. Tight pants that chaf, products that sting. Leaving her unprotected with all dangers forgotten. Ill thought out rendezvous with ill mannered men resulting in STD's. Long abandoned tampons or recklessly inserted IUD's causing PID. So many acronyms and so little time. Some use their vulva with great gusto and some don't seem to have one at all. Remember, your vulva is as anxious as you are to be all that she can be.

Vaginosis, vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis, the list of potential problems is an endless reminder of our Latin roots. New Age afficiando's might claim a difficult vulva is related to some sort of spiritual imbalance, but really, our vulva: is it a reflection of our inner soul? Or a hapless victim of our actions, our genes, nasty microbes, and modern medicine.

Worse than any challenges in the modern world, are practices that should have ended centuries ago, but in some places continue to thrive. I imagine that a vulva confronted with a chastity belt, especially of the iron variety, would not a happy vulva be. Iron chastity belts that have a lock and key are a thing of the past. What's not in the dark and distant past? Radical clitorectomies. Imagine the vulva attacked with dull tools that cut away much of the poor innocent vulva itself, stripping away the labia along with the clitoris.

Men can be far more obsessed with the ins-and-outs of the vulva then women. Lusting after it, resenting it, trying to control it, reshape it, eliminate it, and maybe Freud had it wrong, maybe women don't have penis envy at all, maybe it's the other way around.

A penis can be a difficult animal to control - hanging about getting bunched up in jeans, a target for enemies in a brawl. A thing with a mind of its own that causes terrible blushing amongst young men, averaging an erection every twenty minutes (this statistic explains a great deal). And then, what if it doesn't work? Your trusty vulva doesn't need to transform itself in order to do its thing.

What could be better than a healthy, active vulva? Such a vulva is a happy vulva. And what's better than that? If our vulva is happy, then aren't we also happy? Does one thing cause the other? I would say no: it's quite possible to have a happy vulva and be entirely miserable. But it certainly helps to have a happy vulva, as one with issues can cause a great deal of misery.

So in order to be the best of ourselves, it's best to have a vulva without complaints. A vulva you can be proud of, and show off to your friends. A vulva you can introduce to your mother-in-law, like a badge of honor. A vulva you can dress up and take out to brunch on Sundays after church. A vulva that sings and does a ferocious tango. A vulva that knows what it wants and wants what it knows. Or sometimes wants what it doesn't know. That's a choice every vulva is free to make for herself.

A vulva is a golden affair to nurture and adore, and if she temporarily gives you some grief, remember that a problem with the vulva is not a problem with the soul, but to be embarrassed of your vulva, whatever its state of being, is to be embarrassed to be a woman.