Chances are, if you are a human being, whether you have one or not, you have reason to celebrate Vagina Appreciation Day on April 23rd. Let’s face it, we’ve all come in contact with a vagina in one way or another, whether through intercourse, conception, birth or all three, and would not be here without one. So, let’s delve into the subject. If you are familiar with my writings for Kiss and Tell, you know I like to start with an anatomy lesson.
Brief Anatomy Lesson
The vagina is a complex organ. It provides a passageway from the cervical os, which is the opening of the uterus on the inside of the female body, to the outside. It is also sometimes called the birth canal. The walls of the vagina are primarily made of muscle and mucous membranes. Its elasticity allows it to expand moderately for intercourse and greatly for childbirth. During sexual arousal, secretions from the vagina, and from a gland called the Bartholin’s, lubricate the area and make intercourse more comfortable.
On the outside, the vagina is encased by two sets of labia, or lips. The outer set is called Labia Majora, and the inner set is called Labia Minora. The labia are comprised of different tissue types. Majora is lined with hair follicles and oil-producing glands, while minora are comprised of softer, cutaneous, non-fatty tissue. Both protect the opening of the vagina from the outside. The Labia Minora also encases the clitoris and the urethra, which is the opening through which urine travels outside the body. These structures together are called the vulva.
That’s the anatomical piece; Let’s get to the celebratory part
Vagina Appreciation Day finally became a thing in 2016 when it first appeared on social media as a national holiday. Comedienne, humorist, and social commentator Whitney Cummings introduced the idea through her stand-up routine, during which she noticed a constant uncomfortable feeling saying the word “vagina,” among both men and women. She developed a “Just Say Vagina” campaign to encourage people to explore their relationships with reproductive anatomy, whether they have a vagina or a penis, and to confront the stigmatization when talking about sex parts. Writing for female-centric television shows, she found using the word “vagina” in dialogue usually elicited a negative response. Why?
Not everyone is taught (or encouraged) to explore, discover, talk, or learn about sexual health and fertility awareness. Schools shy away from the subject and usually lump this type of programming under the guise of “PE,” or physical education, also known as “gym.”
Meanwhile, studies show that 12- to 15-year-old kids get most of their information about the subject from watching porn. This is a sad state of affairs. Because frank, straightforward, evidence-based classroom education is discouraged, this means kids grow up developing as sexual human beings, without being educated about their sexuality, much less celebrated for it. Worse yet, none of their development is normalized. As a result, they fear it and are confused and often embarrassed by it.
Time for the celebratory part
Let’s each of us spend some time, next Sunday, on Vagina Appreciation Day having a mindful internal and external conversation about our sexuality. Let’s examine what we know and what we don’t know about it. Let’s seek out resources that give us informative and diverse perspectives on what being a sexual person means in its many, many iterations. Let’s use real terms for real body parts, and not further stigmatize this glorious genitalia by calling our vaginas “coochies,” “hoo-hahs,” “vajayjays”, or “hot pockets.”
In fact, let’s all pledge to use the word “vagina” at least once on April 23rd, and not as a joke or a punch line.
Let’s advocate for co-ed sexual health and awareness education for young adolescents when we have the opportunity. If asked a question, as adults, about “the birds and the bees” (and you know what I mean) by a young son, daughter, niece, or nephew, let’s honor a mature question with a mature answer. Let’s agree that whether you identify as female, male, or neither, you should appreciate what this day is about. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Do your part and celebrate!!!