I’m very excited to introduce this guest post from Lady Fan (née Love). I adore this woman and firmly believe that when women support other women – and start having some honest conversations – we can get a lot of wonderful things done. So, here we go, let’s talk about vaginas.
I’m 30 years old and I can finally discuss sex with some of my female friends without them going: ‘ohh, we don’t need to hear that’. Okay, well, some of them. A few still shy away or have some kind of crushingly repressed reaction, seeing it as an impolite thing to share among female friends.
I say female friends, as my male and non-binary/ genderqueer/ fluid friends don’t seem to share this problem as much. And I use the word ‘problem’ as I do see it as a problem.
I knew something was wrong with my cervix
Five years ago I was diagnosed with pre-cervical cancerous cells. I was CIN3 and quite advanced. I had three rounds of laser loop therapy and a cone biopsy. By the way, if you’re due to have this yourself, it’s a short 15-minute procedure – and coming from the biggest needle wimp in the world, I promise it’s totally fine.
Being the eldest in my year group, my cervical screening letter arrived first. I already knew that something was wrong with my cervix and had requested a smear much sooner but was told I wasn’t the right age yet and to wait for my letter. When it came, I was straight on the phone. Perhaps due to my career in theatre and modelling, I wasn’t shy to take my clothes off in front of a nurse. I’d worked in a doctor’s reception and knew that they had seen many a lady part and didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow to them anymore.
And come on, you let that random guy or girl sleep with you at college/uni but you can’t show the nice nurse for three minutes?
But my friends and colleagues? Nope. No one wanted to talk about their test. No one wanted to phone up to book in their test. I’ve now made nine phone calls to book other girls in and physically taken three girls to their appointment myself.
People would whisper to me: ‘How’s your … you know… down there?’
‘WHAT?! MY VAGINA, YOU MEAN?!’
I’m not shy to discuss your vagina
Because seriously, about 50% of us own a vagina. And 38% of cancer cases across the UK each year are preventable. I strongly believe that this is because we lack the freedom to discuss our body parts. If you’re old enough to have sex, you’re old enough to discuss it (and vaginal health) without it being an issue. It’s as simple as that.
So, I’m not shy to discuss my vagina with you. I’m not shy to discuss your vagina, your neighbour’s vagina, your granny’s vagina – it’s a body part. It’s just the same as discussing your left foot. Cute socks by the way.
So how are things in our 30s when we consider vaginal, sexual and genital health? Well, some of us have children now. Some of us are married now. Some of us are happily single, and some of us are dating and still working out what it is we want. But by now, we’ve probably sussed out how our bodies work.
We’ve stopped having sex purely because we feel it’s something you’re supposed to do while you’re dating. We know what we like and what we aren’t so fond of. We know that we can say no to sex if we don’t want to have sex. We know how to make a baby if we want one and how to prevent one of we don’t.
Some of us know the pain of wanting to make a baby and not being able to too. Or of losing a baby. We know how this shit goes down. So why don’t we all feel able to discuss it?
Hooha? Lala? Vajayjay?
I’ve noticed that particularly in the last 5 years, we are more comfortable discussing someone’s sex, sexual preference and gender preference. Which are all very different things and if you don’t understand them, I urge you to Google – because it’s 2018. Whatever gender you identify as, 50% of you own a vagina. So why still the lack of discussion for vaginal health?
Think about yourself. Do you trip and stutter saying the word ‘vagina’? Do you say hoo-hoo, lala, vajayjay or just pull a funny expression and point? The more you say it the less weird it will sound. Say it now! Loud and clear: ‘My name is … and I have a vagina!’
By using the word confidently, you will help others do the same. As women we face enough insecurities but we aren’t teenagers anymore. We know that we are never going to look like the girl in the magazine. We know that we have a stone to loose or gain to be at our healthiest weight. We have our tattoos and piercings or we’ve decided not to have any. We have a skin care regime. Some of us get our eye lashes tinted and our eyebrows threaded and our nail acrylics. And some of us quite happily stand there in our knickers whilst someone San Tropez us.
But we can’t get ourselves to the doctor to discuss our vaginal issues or talk about them with our friends?
Just talk about it
25% of men suffer from erectile distinction and there are currently 398 studies being discussed on clinicaltrials.gov. But 40% of women suffer from sexual disfunction and there are only 133 studies. What is with that? We need to change the ability to have conversation. The ability to say: ‘I have a vagina and I have an issue with it’, or ‘I have a vagina and it’s not functioning as I would like it to’, or ‘I have a vagina and I’m very happy with it at the moment’.
And can I just add, by vagina I mean the inside parts. The outside part is actually your vulva, but please discuss that too! Do a quiz on female genitalia and see if you can name all the parts right – apparently 40% of us can’t!
I don’t care what gender you are. I don’t care if you have a hairy pubic area, a shaved one, or one with a fancy pattern and stick on gems. Just talk about it. If you are like me and already do, then good for you! Find the friend who doesn’t and encourage them. And if you’ve got that smear test letter sitting on the side, call them up tomorrow! Or ask a friend to do it for you. Just make sure you go.