A couple of months ago I was pointed in the direction of Florence Schechter. ‘Schechter’ said with as much gusto as you can muster! Because this woman is full of said gusto. Amongst all of her many other attributes, she is the director of the world’s first Vagina Museum. Yep. An actual Vagina Museum. Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever f****** heard?
What a completely magical, pussy positive idea. A museum for vaginas – something that hadn’t occurred to me didn’t exist. There is a Penis Museum in Iceland. There is a Sex Museum in Amsterdam (full of giant penises). There are penis shaped bottle openers in Tenerife. But where is our giant hall with high ceilings filled with vagina anatomy sculptures? Oh yeah, it doesn’t exist. Even with all the best efforts of some exceptional women out there, vaginas and everything that comes with them are still taboo! But Florence and her team are another organisation striving to make this particular societal change.
First let me introduce you to the woman herself. Florence is a comedian, presenter, video producer and trainer. She has a BSc in Biochemistry, her own solo comedy show called “Queer by Nature” and an a-symmetrical labia. She makes science weird and hilarious – because it is. Florence also fills all of the gaps in one’s knowledge about fannies/the patriarchy/making a change/how to juggle jobs/remain as cool as a cucumber etc etc. We like her a lot.
Now she is embarking on creating the world’s first brick and mortar Vagina Museum. A museum that will provide knowledge and understanding of the female anatomy, as well as the vaginas place in our culture and history through various different mediums. All of this (and more) under one roof, inclusive for EVERYONE. It is going to be epic. So I went along to Vagina Museum HQ to find out more.
Since announcing the project, Florence has been inundated with emails from women telling her that they had wanted to do the same thing, but other commitments had always got in the way. Of course other women have wanted to make a Fanny Emporium. It feels like the world needs this. We need it. I need it. I needed it a year ago! There are hundreds of pictures of fannies plastered all over the internet, yet little conversations about them. And so yes, we definitely need a place, a community, a base for the vaginas of the world to come together.
So how is this exciting space shaping up so far? Well, Florence and the team have already held temporary exhibitions, e.g a pop up art exhibition, appropriately named “Exhibitionist” and now they are moving on to the next part of the project, honing down on an interim space. “This would involve taking over a space for a couple of years and turning it into a museum as a proof of concept”, Florence explained. “We can show the world that this is what we can do and this is what we can achieve. After the temporary space where will be able to build up support, we can then get a more permanent space for 10 years or a permanent permanent space.” A forever space. Although, Florence is in no hurry, building a permanent museum takes 10 years. Right now it is about showing the world why we need it.
Florence recently toured a 60 minute talk called “Why The World Needs a Vagina Museum” and so I had to ask her WHY? “Why? Because we don’t have one and it’s not very fair. Vaginas are such an important part of our history and heritage. They massively effect our lives. They are life-centric things that we need to understand because there is so much missed information out there.” A lot of missed information and a lot of shame. To fight the shame, Florence believes there needs to be a big societal change. “This kind of change will start at a grass roots level but must translate into something bigger. That’s what this is. Museums are used by society to flag post what they think is important. Why is there not a single society that says vaginas are important to us?”
Before meeting with Florence, I knew there was a lot of change that needed to happen with regards to the way we talk about our intimate health and experiences, but whilst chatting it became apparent that it is bigger than that. The environment around us tell us how we are allowed to engage with our bodies. Society and religion play a massive part in the way some women think and talk about their vaginas. It is crazy to think that those sources control our most intimate organs, but as Florence said “that is the point.”
“I grew up in a religiously conservative environment. I went to a religious school so I had a lot of ‘you can’t talk about this sort of thing’. For example, when I was in Jewish studies class we were being taught by a Rabbi that masturbation was a sin because it was a ‘waste of seed’, meaning the semen could have been life. I put my hand up and said ‘what about female masturbation? That doesn’t waste seeds.’ He replied that it was an inappropriate sexual feeling and that masturbation was bad full stop.
Religion will always control who you have sex with and who you have children with and these are massively vagina related. They have certain rules that control our bodies. For example, in Judaism there’s this thing called the Mikvah. If you are having your period you are untouchable [you can’t engage with sexual activities.] When your period is finished you go to get it certified by your Rabbi and then you go to the Mikvah, which is essentially a baptism pool, where you can spiritually cleanse yourself. When this is done, you can have sex again.”
It dawned on me during this chat that the reasons for our vagina taboos run deeper than just not being able to talk about them through embarrassment. There are rules and regulations too. And anyway, how can we base knowledge and open up conversations on something we know very little about. Especially when that ‘something’ happens to be part of our anatomy and the reason we are all here on this planet.
“I would like to learn more of the history of vaginas. It has been brushed under the carpet and often deliberately erased because historians don’t know how to deal with it. It can be hard to find actual vagina history.”
If you happen to know anything about vagina history, let us know! Because there has never been a lesson on it. Sure it’s great to know about all the male leaders of the world in history GCSE but I can bet your bottom dollar I would have got an A* if I was learning about the so far surprisingly, very brief history on our vaginas.
Lastly, I asked Florence to tell me 3 things she loved about her own vagina and 3 things she didn’t love so much. Mainly because I like to be nosey but also it seemed only fair as we’d spent most of the time discussing all other vaginas but her own.
- It is unique because I have an a-symmetrical labia.
- I like the fact it can do great things e.g give me pleasure and one day have babies.
- It doesn’t mind when I tell stories about it. I tell stories about it all the time. I’m very open about it.
NOT SO MUCH LOVING:
- I can’t orgasm when I need to pee and I can’t just stop in the middle of it!
- It took me a long time to enjoy penetrative sex because I was so nervous about it. My vagina would close up and it would really hurt. Once I had waited to find a partner that I really liked, that’s when I started to enjoy it. I hate the fact that it happened and I wish I had known that when I started.
- And lastly, if my pubic hair gets too long it gets matted and tangled. I’m terrified when I’m having sex that my partner will go down there and his fingers will get stuck. I make sure I trim but I also sneakily comb it out before sex.
You heard it here first ladies. A quick and easy fix to silky smooth pubes is the old fashioned finger comb.
I can safely say I learnt more about fannies in this 45 minute chat than I have done from any educator, book or lesson EVER and I think that’s sh*t. There is vital information out there that every one with or without a vagina should know. This will make it possible for us all to understand, experience and communicate with each other on them. We would also be able to tackle problems head on whether it be health related or societal, rather than ignoring them.
I urge you all to go and pledge your support over on the Vagina Museum website. This is proof to potential partners that the museum isn’t working in isolation and that we all agree “YES, WE ABSOLUTELY NEED THIS!” There will also be lots of information on their site in the new year about other ways you can get involved, for example attending an embroidery workshop where you learn to embroider A VAGINA. I’m so in.
Also make sure to check out Florence and all the exciting stuff she is up to. Her solo comedy show, “Queer by Nature” is going to the Vaults Festival in February and it sounds like an absolute blast as well as educational. What more could you want?
Spread the Vagina Museum word and obvs tell your mates about the Gash Goss,
Your forever pussy pal,
For ALL the information: