We’ve been through a lot, you and I. With so many young women getting plastic surgery to alter the appearance of their vaginas (often due to the misogynistic beauty standards shown in mainstream porn), I wanted to address this “cunt hate” by revisiting our own history.
“Firecrotch” was a term thrown at me by asshole high schoolers before I had even kissed a guy, when I was in middle school. And I remember sitting in math class in 9th grade having annoying boys ask me if the carpet matches the drapes.
But I first started being paranoid about your appearance when I was 15 — not even sexually active yet. Should I have been shaving then? Would guys find pubic hair unattractive? This thought first occurred to me when we were out on Long Island with Sebastian, the first guy I ever made out with and the first guy to ever touch me down there.
A few months later, we met Manny, my first “real” boyfriend. I remember being so embarrassed the first time you squirted while he fingered you, thinking I had peed all over his hand.
I remember crying after Manny and I lost our virginities to each other at age 16. Though we used a condom and he didn’t even cum, I was horrified I was pregnant for some reason, and felt “dirty” for having sex for the first time.
“Know what would be hot? If you shaved,” Manny said to me nonchalantly, about four months into the relationship. I made him help because I was too afraid to do it myself for the first time. And shaving became a habit for the next 5 years, until age 21. Obsessing over the light, fine hairs in the folds of my labia. Dealing with the itchy, red shaving bumps. All for guys.
After that relationship ended, I remember a friend calling me asking if I saw Manny’s Facebook page. As I had him blocked, I didn’t. She let me log onto her account and what did I see? Manny and his friends making fun of my vagina, my pubic hair. The same teasing occurred on that god awful website, Formspring, where people were able to ask others questions anonymously.
Then there was Joe, a 9-month relationship. When we had sex that time towards the end of our period, he freaked out because the tiniest bit of blood got on his penis, where the condom ended. How disgusted he was.
Sam was the first guy who enjoyed going down on you. We were 18, he was 27. I remember being genuinely surprised that someone actually liked the look/smell/taste of my vagina after my previous experiences.
And after the first time you and Sam had sex, you had horrible burning and itching. Were you allergic to him? Nope, just our first yeast infection. The worst one ever. And One-Day Monistat just seemed to make it worse. After that experience, I’ve been paranoid about yeast infections, taking garlic supplements and probiotics to try and avoid them. Though I have had a few since then, none were ever nearly as bad as the first.
Then last year, at age 21, we had the biggest vagina-related crisis to-date — being diagnosed with genital herpes. The pain of that first outbreak, coupled with a period. That was the first time we used a Diva Cup, as pantyliners and tampons just irritated the sores on my healing labia. It was a struggle to get it in for the first time. I remember my fingernails cutting my red, irritated flesh, sitting on the toilet trying to figure out how the damn cup worked.
I remember worrying no one would ever want to be with us again. That we were tainted, dirty, untouchable. Unlovable.
Of course, that ended up being untrue, as we’ve had great (and awful) sex since then, always disclosing our HSV+ status and never facing rejection because of it.
But I would still worry about outbreaks, always checking in a pocket-sized mirror in public restrooms every time I felt the slightest itch or tingle down there.
After the diagnosis, I stopped shaving you. I had shaved the morning I contracted the virus, and I feel the microscopic cuts on my skin couldn’t have been helpful in preventing transmission. And I still worry to this day that shaving will trigger an outbreak. But despite our “firecrotch,” we’re in an amazing relationship with someone that doesn’t care about pubic hair or herpes, yeast infections or period blood. Someone that sees me, sees us, as more than just a pleasure hole. Someone that sees you as part of a normal, functioning, human body, that sometimes gets sick or bleeds or just plain doesn’t feel like having sex. Such a change from the previous internalized pressures I both put on myself and allowed silly boys to put on us.
So, vagina of mine, I love you. Despite all the rough patches, embarrassment, and paranoia. You’re mine and you’re perfect — orange pubic hair and all.
This post originally appeared on slutist.com and has been reprinted with permission.
Rafaella Gunz is a recent graduate of The New School in NYC, where she majored in journalism and minored in gender studies. She’s passionate about feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, ending herpes stigma, and the issue of online harassment. Visit her website at ellagunz.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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