You Can Talk About Your Vagina Anywhere


“The vagina is becoming big business.” This is not a story about sex work — it’s about marketers talking honestly about female genitalia, and the fact that the AP is getting away with using it high up in their stories is basically case in point.

Marketers have taken a cue from Eve Ensler — that was fifteen years ago, by the way — and decided that they can shout “vagina” all they want. (Sometimes the frankness is ill-conceived. The ad exec who created the offensive Summer’s Eve ads actually crows in the piece, “We’re really excited about having that kind of publicity and coverage. A month ago nobody was talking about feminine hygiene…We just wanted to be sure that the conversation is focused on celebrating and empowering women.” All I have to say to that is shut the fuck up, douche salesman. Isn’t frankness fun?)

According to Deborah Mitchell, executive director for the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin School of Business, “Gen Y people are more relaxed about their bodies, so there’s more attention to products that people would have been embarrassed to talk about before. It’s part of this trend of women saying, ‘Hey, we’re not embarrassed to talk about this.”

Who is responsible? Why, you are, Internet! A similar sentiment is expressed in Joy Press’s Los Angeles Times story about the new wave of female-driven entertainment (for which I spoke to her but wasn’t quoted.)

Dealing realistically with raunchy material may be key to drawing younger viewers, raised on blogs and websites like Jezebel that leave nothing about the female experience (sex aids, bodily fluids, the intricacies of childbirth) unsaid. Dunham says that being able to get graphic on television was crucial to her, much as it was in her movie “Tiny Furniture.”
“Sexuality is such an integral part of my experience as a twentysomething woman that if I had to hide bodies, it would be challenging to tell this story,” she notes. “I am constantly tweeting things and going, why did I just say that to the world? I wanted to capture that feeling of there being no clear boundary anymore between public and private.”

And yet there are some stigmas that haven’t dissipated. Yesterday, apropos the Republican HPV vaccine insanity, the novelist Ayelet Waldman tweeted that she had HPV — and got cervical lesions — within a monogamous marriage, and was promptly criticized for oversharing. (To be fair, some of the criticism was of the fact that she said her husband had gotten it from his previous wife. Waldman then deleted the tweet.) But Jill Filipovic over at Feministe wrote an excellent analysis/rant, “Ayelet Waldman says she got one of the most common viruses in the United States from her husband and we’re all disgusted because… it’s sexually transmitted? And what, we’re all shocked that a mother of four who writes about how much she likes having sex with her husband has had sex? We think it’s way worse to transmit a disease sexually than by kissing or holding hands or touching a subway pole?”

The controversy inspired The Village Voice blogger Jen Doll to suggest tomorrow as a day of similar “overshare,” in which everyone divulges their own experience with HPV to try to lessen the stigma. So here’s mine, a day early: a few years ago, I had an irregular pap smear, a painful colposcopy, and then this year I tested negative for HPV. How about you?

Edgy Women Like “Whitney” Lead Fall TV Lineup [LAT]
No More Dancing Around Issues In Feminine Hygiene [AP]
Tomorrow, Tell Someone About Your Experience With HPV [Village Voice]
A Question [Feministe]

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