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Guest blog: ‘Vulva phobia’ is holding equality back

This week’s guest blogger is a lady after my own heart. By which I mean, she is someone who gets righteously angry about the way many women are told to behave. Smell gorgeous, look fresh, be awesome: never let on that beneath your clothes is an actual human body that sometimes excretes weird fluids or happens not to be airbrushed.

Now, this blog is going to come with a caveat, as most blogs about women and sex usually have to: because it deals with society’s treatment of women, it relies on the idea of a gender binary, and that one’s gender is dictated by one’s genitals. Gender is far more complicated than just ‘vag = woman’, but this is what society tells us nearly all the frigging time, and as such causes a whole host of problems, one of which Christina tackles in this blog. I’d love to host more writing about how issues like this affect trans women, so if you’re a trans writer and you’ve got an idea for a guest blog please do get in touch.

In the meantime, I’ll hand over to Christina Wellor – who takes a hefty swipe at society’s fear of vulvas, vaginas, and all those v-words that in general are seen as a bit icky. From twee-bullshit marketing that encourages us to ‘woo hoo our froo froos’ to the implication that a bikini wax is a duty you have to perform before you’re allowed to have a holiday. If you like it, please do check out her blog and follow her on Twitter.

‘Vulva phobia’ is just another thing holding equality back

Despite all the positive shifts towards gender equality, there’s still one thing that continues to plague women and that’s society’s attitude towards our bodies; or to be more specific – our genitals. We’re discriminated against because of the configuration of bits of skin between our legs. You may not believe me and that’s fine because you don’t have to take my word for it, just go to your local supermarket and see how many products you can find to keep the average vulva clean and fresh. Then have a look for similar products aimed at penises and ball sacks. I do believe you will find none and I could rest my case there, but vulva phobia, as I like to call it, manifests itself in a hundred other ways and I’m not even sure people consciously take in half of them.

Take sex scenes for example. How often do we see scenes of fellatio in mainstream TV and cinema, however obscured by clever framing or strategically positioned heads and cameras? A lot. In fact, there are at least three blow job scenes in Mad Men alone. But you’ll never see a woman with her thighs spread either side of Don Draper’s handsome head (and don’t try to convince me that man wasn’t a serial pussy eater. He totally would have been). The point is – directors, producers, maybe even censors; are afraid to depict it. It’s the same with almost every TV series and film. The concept of a man’s face having a close encounter with a vulva remains unacceptable for cinematic representation, yet cocks can be shoved down throats at a moment’s notice and without a second thought.

Just what is this about? What is it about the female anatomy that still embarrasses people so much; yet when we get the chance to have a look at Jennifer Lawrence et al in all their naked, pussy baring glory, we’re all over it? If we’re that desperate to see what’s between their legs, why aren’t we treated to a cunnilingus scene from time to time, without having to resort to porn?

Is this women’s own doing? Are we simply too embarrassed about our genitalia? Are we so obsessed with what we perceive to be the negative traits of our vulvas, that we can’t bear the thought of them being seen, smelled, tasted, accepted? Hell, does the whole world have a problem with them?

I’ve always thought that if you make something into a big deal or play the coy card, then it simply serves to increases people’s appetite for antagonisation. Take Madonna for example. When she bared her ‘gash’ (her words not mine) in her 90s book, ‘Sex’, it was in the public domain for all to gawp at. But she was in control. Today, I doubt anyone even wastes their time looking for compromising images of Madonna, because what she’d be prepared to put out there herself is ten times more shocking.

Of course, I’m not suggesting everyone should become a sexual exhibitionist, just so that no-one can hold them to ransom with naked photos. That would be stupid. I’m simply trying to point out that the public is hell-bent on poking someone’s weak spot. With that in mind, I can only imagine that the situation got a lot worse for Jennifer Lawrence, once threats of prosecution and lawsuits were bandied about. It’s like a red rag to a bull.

If we remain so coy about female bits, the way we have been for years; it’ll continue to be deemed ‘unacceptable’ to show a cunnilingus scene in a film. If society keeps asserting that our vulvas need fumigating with special soap, scented panty liners, deodorising spray and freshening wipes; it’ll perpetuate the idea that our pussies are dirty and unhygienic. And let’s be honest, who wants to see a woman being eaten out over their pizza and popcorn on a Saturday night, when they know full well how much we stink? (It must be true, because marketers are telling us that all the time.)

I genuinely believe that we’re victims of our own unfounded embarrassment; and until we start to shed some of that and stop buying into this bullshit idea that our privates are too cringeworthy for celluloid or any visual media for that matter; our cunts are going to be shamed to the detriment of our self esteem and the benefit of Femfresh’s profits. Just imagine how many less downloads of celebrity flaps there’d have been, had the papers and news channels not offered so much coverage of the story!

Also, I know there wouldn’t have been even half this fuss if the naked photos had been of Brad Pitt’s semi-erect cock. Women all over the world would still have been downloading them at a rate of knots, but the morality of the whole debacle wouldn’t have been brought into question; at least not even close to this extent. (Is that because penises don’t smell? Because they really don’t you know. Like, ever.)

I’m demanding that everyone stops fuelling the awkwardness and embarrassment about our pussies – this applies to directors, producers, marketers, editors, journalists and all the paranoid women that buy products to sanitise their flaps. You’ve all got a responsibility to stop shaming us, it’s insulting and it’s time it ended. More to the point, I can’t believe you never let us see Don Draper give head.

Thanks Christina! As I say, please do check out her blog. And I’d particularly be interested in other examples of this – I’ve of course noticed and raged out about the Femfresh thing: particularly as it’s marketed at women with a message that ‘you’re wrong/bad/smelly and you must be fixed’ but it hadn’t occurred to me that we rarely see cunnilingus in mainstream TV sex scenes in the same way that we see blow jobs – now that Christina’s pointed it out, I can’t help but notice it. Are there any other examples of this that you’ve spotted? And if you want to read/see more about why vulvas are ace, check out the Pussy Pride Project, run by Molly’s Daily Kiss.


  • I’m sure there’s a film with Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo that has a scene where he’s going down on her. I think it was directed by Jane Campion. They’re few and far between though. Plus I’m sure I remember a furore a few years back when the Charlatans released Love is the Key and the cover had a bloke who was about to give a woman head. I thought it was pretty hot, couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Its always made me think Tim Burgess must be an awesome lay too.
    One day the mainstream will catch on, and after that we won’t be able to move for vulvas (so to speak).

  • Fiddy says:

    Huh. People consider vaginas smelly? I thought those were just jokes among men. I mean I’ve been around enough vaginas to know that chances are if it smells, so does the rest of the body.

  • Yingtai says:

    Hmm. You’re right. But my impression is that we women are more concerned about smelling/sounding/looking inoffensive in general. It’s not just down there. And I’m curious what you think we should do about it?

    Me, I think that if the problem is a general people-pleasing desire, then it is not something we can change with talk and supermarket aisles alone. The only way is money and power. The Chinese imperial ban on foot-binding was absolutely useless for 300+ years until society started to change in the early 20th century.

    And I think things are indeed changing for women in the developed world. Admittedly, not fast enough.

  • There’s a softcore TV series named Bedtime Stories which almost always has a depiction of cunnilingus in every single episode. Yes, it is soft porn and it’s not even the best of the bunch – but it’s always managed to leap to mind when I consider cunnilingus on film.

    I think that, with any genre, it’s quite difficult to shoot something that looks like genuine oral sex (either way) on account of the fact that one’s head needs to be seriously involved. An actor can bob his/her (usually her) head while simulating a blowjob, but the tongue-movement involved in licking a girl out must be difficult to depict if it isn’t going to be too explicit. Meticulous (read: bored) watching of these scenes does tend to ruin the fantasy a little when you realise the actor’s just kissing her thigh and there’s a camera angle obscuring most of the stuff.

    While Bedtime Stories actually handles this quite well – the head is between the legs, with a full-body shot rather than a close-up so it’s mostly left to the imagination quite what he’s doing – one does have to take into account that this is soft porn and, therefore, genitals being slightly unsanitary (whether or not this is true) is not a thing. Everyone is fit, impeccable, and gagging for it.

    Having said that, I think you’re right; looking at mainstream, there’s a lot more simulated fellatio going on – although Glod knows why: it’s often used to depict a man as being powerful, whereas I think real blowjobs effectively have whoever’s delivering it more in control – than anything even implying a vagina’s involved somehow. Whether this is “vulva phobia” or not I’m unsure – but I, too, have noticed those products on the shelves of the supermarkets and have taken to wondering why there are so many for women…

    …while the best the guys seem to get is a penis beaker.

  • notquitehere says:

    The only example of cunnilingus in a non-porn film I can instantly think of is Roody Rod and the unnammed “air stewardess” in The Fifth Element.

  • Yaya says:

    Is it also about power? As in, the one who gets the blowjob (aka is being served) is the most powerful in the scene?

    P.s. My reality is very different, I love the power I have when I have his dick between my teeth and control when and how hard he is going to come

    • Girl on the net says:

      Good question – tbh I think most of my kinks are in some way or another about the power. I like feeling like he’s wielding lots of power over me, and that I’m being used. Although I think here a lot of it is about letting myself go as well. While I do like putting a bit of effort in when I’m shagging, I can’t help but love it when I’m restrained and manipulated such that I can barely move myself – I have to rely on him to move me, and it takes a lot of the decision-making out of my hands.

      I can totally see the power of blow jobs as you describe too – I’m more inclined to submission but if I’m in a dominant position I do enjoy the power of a blow job: holding him off from coming, bringing him to the edge and stopping, etc. When I’ve put my mind to it in the past I’ve been known to make a man cry… =)

      • Dannyboy says:

        I agree with a lot of what the article says but not all. Blow jobs dominate Madmen because it’s a power thing. The writers are recreating the sexist period of the show (and to my recollection the writers are mainly female). I’ve seen lots of cunnilingus in TV, in one day this week I saw an episode of Girls where a guy went straight down on someone, an episode of Sex and the City which centered on a guy obsessed with it and Gone Girl where Ben Affleck does it on a first date.

        I think it depends what shows/films you watch.

  • Desire on wheels says:

    True Blood has plenty of cunnilingus. It’s HBO, it’s crawling with sex generally. Vampires drinking blood gets described in terms suggestive of cunnilingus quite often as well, as apparently they all have a thing about femoral arteries.

    …gawd, “cunnilingus” is such an unwieldy word. It’s evidently still taboo enough that I can’t think offhand of any slang terms that refer to it alone.

    Making blow-jobs in film all about domination seems a pity to me, because they’re reducing the lovely variety of meanings oral sex can have to a single thing. It’s an aspect of oral sex which many people enjoy, yes, but many others (the majority, I imagine) don’t see it that way, and they’d quite like to have non-power-gamey oral sex represented for once. Not to mention that it may well be putting off women who would be a lot keener on going down on a man if the media weren’t constantly telling her that it would degrade her, just as men are being put off going down on women because they’re told it’s icky/doesn’t exist/true sex is five seconds of kissing followed immediately by penetration. More oral sex for everyone, damnit! I don’t for a second believe that they are doing it this way because they’re only interested in catering to BDSM folk, either.

  • SweetTheSting says:

    Outlander was made after this blog, but had a good depiction or two…

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