Learning to love my vulva at 60 wasn’t an easy task.
I had a love-hate relationship with her for many decades.
I’m not quite sure when I started to feel that she was somehow “different” than other vulvas. Growing up in the 70s, I didn’t have much access to porn, except seeing some Playboy pin-up posters in my father’s garage, and they were mostly quite sedate.
Perhaps it was an off-the-cuff comment a boyfriend made or maybe the realisation as I moved from teenage years to womanhood that my vulva had changed from the tight, almost hidden, pre-pubescent slit to something more voluptuous. I used to think that it was so unfair that my upper body was anything but voluptuous, yet somehow that was how I developed “down below,” between my legs. Wearing a swimsuit, I sometimes panicked and thought everyone could see the outline of my fleshy vulva, and would madly try to tuck her back in.
As a nurse, I was privy to seeing many more vulvas than most women (or men) would ever see. And especially as a midwife, I would get down close and personal with many women’s vulvas. But pregnancy changes things, including how a vulva looks. In my eyes, that was acceptable and I made no judgement about other women’s vulvas.
Pity I couldn’t think the same about mine.
My labour when I was birthing my son was quick. My body didn’t have much time to stretch and prepare, so I needed an episiotomy—a cut in the perineum to help the baby pass through. The initial cut was fine as I was overtaken by the hormones and emotions of having just given birth.
But the next few weeks were horrendous. There was pain, discomfort, and pleading with the obstetrician to remove that one stitch that seemed to be causing me the most pain (the one stitch that was actually holding things together). Every time I went to the toilet, it stung and hurt. God, how I hated how that vulva felt. I just wanted to fling her into oblivion.
The years followed, and I was settled into a long-term relationship. Rarely was a comment made about my vulva. In fact, she was mostly ignored. But then came a time in my life when I was single again, and that was a time of sexual exploration that I hadn’t experienced before.
Brazilian waxing became the norm and I followed that trend—doing the full XXX wax. I remember the first time I entered a salon and wondered what the young woman was thinking as she waxed my pubes. Was she judging me? Were my lips the largest she had ever seen? How did I compare to others?
The feeling post-wax was lovely, and I kept that up for a while, but then as I entered my 50s I asked myself, “Why did I feel the need to do this?” So I stopped and the hair grew back. But still, I wasn’t happy with how my vulva looked. Labiaplasty began to come into vogue. Should I or shouldn’t I? Thankfully, that thought was transient. Maybe I was meant to have voluptuous vulval lips. I was starting to view art exhibitions which valued this diversity and celebrated the differences.
Maybe I was okay. It was me; it was who I was.
Fast forward to 2022. I am now 60 and embarking on a Yoni Massage Practitioner course—a celebration of everything vulva-related. Feelings of excitement and horror ensued; horror because I knew I would need to spread my legs and show my fellow students my vulva. There was a session where (in small groups) we spent some time observing each other’s vulvas. Again, this was with no judgement, but with respect and reverence, respecting her for what she had experienced, what she had endured, and what pleasure she both gave and enjoyed.
Never in my life had I experienced someone so lovingly gazing at my vulva. Perhaps it was time that I also learnt to gaze at her and love her for being a part of me. How could I be an erotic maven, respecting other women’s vulvas if I was unable to respect my own?
I gave myself a promise and challenge: that for the next 10 days I would make some time, even if only for 10 minutes, to give her some love. I would sit in my cushion-throne, legs akimbo, with a mirror in front. I used a beautiful and luscious yoni elixir and massaged and caressed my vulva…my labial lips…my voluptuous flower.
I wanted to observe if my feelings toward her would change over those next 10 days. I recited a heart-womb meditation. I spoke the Ho’oponopono prayer. I apologised for the trauma that I, at times, caused her by saying yes when instead I should have said no. I dreamed of the long line of ancestors who wove the thread of my vulval history through my matrilineal line. My feelings began to change.
Now I can caress myself and truly feel the pleasure that touch and reverence can bring.
So, at 60, I can now accept that my vulva is beautiful, just the way she is. I can now embrace and love my vulva with the emerging grey hairs, the darkly coloured, irregularly shaped, post-menopausal, scarred, stretched luscious rose that she is.
I can finally embrace being an Erotic Maven.