Last night I went to take a shower. Normal, everyday thing, right? Right. There are lots of mirrors in my home. A large, full-sized and wood-framed mirror in the living room, ceiling to floor mirrors on my three sliding closet doors, and a full-sized built-in mirror in the bathroom nook within my bedroom. I walked by that bathroom mirror across the sink in the nude as I do every other day. Sometimes I do stop to look at myself for a few minutes, mainly in self-hatred at the belly fat which isn’t flat – because I am now a fully-grown woman with curves, not sickly skinny with diets being forced upon me. I often look at other womans’ bellies at the gym and wonder how it is possible that their stomachs are relatively flat.
So I stood there. And then on impulse, I sat down on the soft bathroom floor mat in front of the mirror with my legs spread wide open. And I looked at myself. I looked at my breasts, my long, dark hair, my stomach, my vulva. Now that I’m thinking of dating someone I am wondering what they would think of my body. Because we are sexual beings, right? Sex is often part of an intimate partnership formed with another being. It’s an intimate act and it’s supposed to be beautiful and special and cherished. Not forced, not abusive, not scary. Not what I experienced for so many traumatic years. I am in control now.
My hands made their way down to my vulva, and I opened my labia and just stared. So, this is what my vagina looks like. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever in my lifetime properly taken a look at my vagina (well, the outer part is actually called the vulva, you cannot actually see the vagina because it’s inside). My vagina got used a lot for many years in sexual acts, but I’ve never really looked at it. I have never appreciated it. I have never loved it. Apparently the vulva and inner labia have a pinker colour than the rest of the body’s skin. I didn’t remember that fact and it was surprising to me. Is that where the pink comes from on the ribbon logo of the breast cancer walks? Probably not but a point worth considering.
I looked at the hair covering my private part. Hair everywhere. My abuser infantilized me on a regular basis and wanted me to be like a little girl, so he often made me trim, shave, or wax the entire thing. It was more pleasurable for him. Pleasure was completely out of the picture for me, but I obeyed as usual. I was a good girl and an obedient wife. Now that I have hair down there, I feel like a real woman. Women have hair. That’s just it. So do men. And sometimes traces of pubic hair end up on the bathroom floor and that’s okay too. I can clean it up.
I gave myself a haircut. It was kind of spontaneous, but also influenced by my newfound penchant for dating someone. I didn’t want the future person to have to deal with that big bush, so I grabbed my pink scissors from the kitchen and chopped off what I could. I was pleased with the results.
Soon after I started to touch myself. I rubbed my clitoris, lubricated with some spit, and then had the courage to put my finger inside of myself, just like I would do with a tampon. For the last four years I have been essentially asexual, and I can tell you, this act did not arouse me. It felt okay. After a very long ten minutes my body was creating some of its own lubrication. So I said, okay, fine. This was self-inflicted for the purpose of pleasure. My body did not betray me like it had so many times before, becoming wet because of sexual acts forced upon me. “See, you liked it,” my abuser would rationalize. He told me what I wanted. I was not allowed to have my own feelings or thoughts. Now, no one is telling me what to do, especially when it comes to my body.
I got bored and stopped but I continued to just stare. I looked at my vulva with the labia closed. I thought about the thousands of women on this planet who have to undergo FGM (female genital mutilation). I thought how lucky I am that I was not born into a culture which believes in FGM. The country doesn’t matter, because immigrants from those cultures still practise this act upon young girls in my own country. Essentially the young girl is told there will be a ceremony and a celebration. There is dancing and sometimes gifts. Then the older women hold the unsuspecting, naive, innocent little girl down pinned to the ground, undress her from the waist down, and then a man who is usually not a doctor begins to literally sever, to cut off the labia without anesthesia. If there is music, live or recorded, it becomes louder to cover the screams of the girl in pain. Once the labia are cut off and the vulva is bleeding, what is left of the skin gets sewn together, leaving a small hole for pee and a period to come out. The skin fuses together. Sometimes a full circumcision is performed and the clitoris is also cut out. Then, in order to have sex when these women come of age, the skin rips when the penis is inserted because the hole is too small. When the woman has to have a child, the skin which has been fused together has to be cut in order for the baby to fit through the vagina, and then the woman has her vulva sewn up again. It’s a medical process which has no medical benefit and is often not performed by a medical practitioner. Don’t quote me on any of this. I am not an expert. This is what I know from what I have read.
So, I have an uncircumcised vagina / vulva. No one has seen it for four years, except for one doctor and a man with whom I did not have sex. I just sat there on the bathroom floor for two hours. Two hours looking at my body. I sat cross-legged. I sat in the lotus position with my feet crossed upon my knees. I sat there curled up, hugging my legs to my chest, naked. I thought about a lot of things. The time that my vulva and I spent together was very relaxed, but my mind was racing, not from anxiety, but from memories and other thoughts. In the end, I got up and showered for five minutes, changed into pajamas and sat on the couch with my wet hair draped over my shoulders. I felt mentally really exhausted. But I believe I had made a very personal accomplishment. I had achieved something, which contributed to my inner healing. I know that one day I will be able to have sex again, and that it will be of my volition, my choice, and self-directed. I want it to be beautiful. That’s how sex is supposed to be.