Little history of the vagina
We like to think that we live in an age of enlightenment and look back at past centuries when the mere mention of the word vagina caused outrage. The problem is: this is not completely true. Would you have thought that the vagina was considered sacred for thousands of years and in the 19th century masturbation was prescribed by doctors? Come with us to explore the history of this wonderful organ!
The first known portrayal of the vagina dates back 24 thousand years: the Venus of Willendorf shows exactly the relationship of our ancestors with the female genitalia. If you look closely, you will notice that the sculptor even portrayed the labia minora and the labia majora.
He was not alone with his fascination: cave drawings, fertility statues and carved figures prove that our ancestors considered the vagina sacred. The tradition lived on for thousands of years: from Mesopotamia to ancient Egypt every culture had a god of sex and fertility. Five thousand years ago, hymns were sung about the vagina of the goddess Ianna and her „honey lap” was considered the creator of all things on Earth.
The vagina is on the wall
In the age before Christianity, respect for the vagina reached Europe. In Ireland, the Celts carved women with huge vaginas into the walls of houses to protect inhabitants from evil spirits. They are called Sheela na gig and there are still 65 houses on the island that are adorned with them.
Many people like to think that the inferiority of women and of the vagina began with the catholic church, but this is not entirely true. In reality, women were already oppressed in Greek city states. Ancient Greek wives had to stay at home and tend for the children, they were not even expected to enjoy sex - that was for reserved for the hetairas.
Like a penis in the wrong place
Historians still have no idea why the stance on women and the vagina changed in ancient times. It’s a fact that in the 4th century BC Aristotle already wrote that women don’t have to feel sexual pleasure to fall pregnant. A few centuries later, the renowned roman doctor, Galen added: „women have the same organs as men, only in the wrong place”.
The final dethronement of the vagina started with Paul apostle. The founding fathers of the catholic church lived an unimaginable strict life, and they overbid each other in who could portray the female body most shameful. Paul himself wrote: „A man should not touch a woman. If he cannot resist, he should at least marry because it is still better to marry than to burn in hell”.
Temple built on sewage
The most influential person in the early catholic church, Tertullianus went even further: he compared the female genitalia to the gates of hell, a temple built on sewage.
We don’t have many written records on what people in the early middle ages thought about the vagina. It is for certain that farmers had more sexual freedom than nobles, but there were a few oddities as well. It was the time when doctors started to think that female pleasure is needed in order to conceive, and women with bad nerves were prescribed orgasms - the massage of the clitoris was done either by the doctor or a midwife.
Chastity belt and torture
Different torture methods of the vagina were also invented in the middle ages. This was the time when the chastity belt appeared, and iron stretchers inserted into women were used to get a testimony. Witches were often identified from moles and stains on their vagina, heretic women were punished with mutilation of the vagina.
In the renaissance era, anatomy was again in the centre of attention and so was the clitoris. Doctors at the time often compared the female body to a map where the vagina was described as a „sulphurous pit”. Slang expressions were common for female genitalia, many of which were invited by none other but William Shakespeare.
The Victorian vagina
Nothing hurt the vagina like the Victorian era. Due to the industrial revolution and widespread education, more and more women became conscious of their situation, but this was not tolerated by society. Sexual repression was the perfect solution.
Doctors, philosophers and even journalists declared that „good wives” have no desire, and „bad women” will be driven to sin by their sexual appetite. Interestingly, women did not have to live without orgasm, because clitoral massage was still widespread and the vibrator was invented at this time - although as a device to cure hysteria.
It is hard to imagine, but even stricter rules were introduced at the end of the 19th century. Young women had no idea about their own bodies and they could be banished for life if caught masturbating. To avoid punishment, they did everything to keep their secret.
A Parisian surgeon described a terrible case when a 28 year old woman was masturbating with the handle of her comb but she was interrupted by someone entering her room. She suddenly sat up, but the comb remained in her body. She was so afraid of the shame that she did not go to a doctor and died eight months later.
The liberated vagina
Three things were needed to liberate women: Sigmund Freud, who wrote that knowing the vagina is key to a healthy sex life. The second is the role they played during the two world wars that gave them jobs and the right to vote. The third was the women’s’ movement of the 60s and 70s organised in the United States.
From the sixties onwards, American women established self-educating groups in many cities to discuss their own role in society. They also realised how little they know of their own bodies, so they started to act.
One of these groups was lead by Betty Dodson, who became a well-known activist in the country. She was the one who took photos of many brave women’s vaginas and presented the pictures at a 1973 conference. It turned out that many participants got completely shocked as this was the first time they saw the vagina of another woman, let alone their own.
Betty Dodson is now 85 years old but she has not given up on teaching women to love their own vagina. In her masturbation classes, she tries to convince women to accept their own body because this is the only way they will be able to reach orgasm and enjoy a healthy sex life.