When I was growing up, my vulva was never referred to as a vulva. It was a “private part” that no one should touch. It was something that I peed out of and eventually would be the escape hatch for a fetus, but it wasn’t something to be shared or enjoyed. So when I had my first serious boyfriend at 16, I came into the relationship with no awareness of how my vulva was supposed to be treated. I had never had an orgasm. Never masturbated. And so when we began engaging in oral sex, I was afraid at first of his ejaculate and didn’t want to let him finish. So he decreed that if he couldn’t cum, then I couldn’t cum. So as the relationship progressed, I became his personal blowjob machine and he trained me to shut down my brain at the first sign of sexual pleasure.
When I got to college, I met a boy in one of my classes who took a liking to me. He and I started dating and when he realized how twisted my view of sexuality was, he made it his personal mission to help me understand my body better. He told me “I won’t let you get me off until I get you off, and I don’t care how long it takes.” Looking back on my relationship with him, it was the healthiest one I’ve ever had. He truly saved me from years and years of men taking advantage of me and my body. I lost my virginity to him and it was with him that I had my first orgasm. Even though it didn’t work out for other reasons, he was the most wonderful, loving, and open partner that I could have ever asked for.
After him, my vulva and I have been at odds with each other. She believes that yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and bladder infections are the cat’s meow. We’ve had HPV, VIN, and abnormal PAP smears for four years. I have been crippled with shame and guilt over the idea that I would pass the potential for cervical cancer on to another woman. But in the past few months I am getting over that. I am dating my best friend from childhood and he is reminding me that I deserve of love, that my body is beautiful and that my vulva is not my enemy. I recently got involved with the Vagina Monologues and have started advocating for women’s health on campus.