The Silliest Girl in Vagina Class, or Why Women’s Studies is Needed Now More Than Ever

29 Oct

In the past four years, I’ve developed a favorite pastime: taking advantage of all services covered by my tuition. To my delight, I discovered that my university offers free sexuality counseling. So after spending an hour with the local version of Dr. Sue, I was invited by my new sex therapist to join a three-week class called “I Heart My Vagina.” I signed up enthusiastically, imagining the types of yoni workshops I’d read about in books like Female Ejaculation and the G-Spot: Not Your Mother’s Orgasm Book.

Imagine my shock when I walked into a classroom full of undergrads with crossed ankles and nervous grins. I’d taken the DeLorean straight into my worst memory: middle school family planning class. In all fairness, I did gain some valuable information, my own speculum, free lubricant and the newest edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. But since I was one of the oldest women in the class, I also spent a lot of time biting my lip and doing kegels as the freshmen reminded me that youth is wasted on the young. I’d now like to celebrate* the SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS by sharing some of the things she said that were too ridiculous not to write down:

On Being Woman
Dr. Sue: Let’s name one or two things we love about being women. We’ll go around the circle.
Gender Essentialist: Being emotional and loving.
Loud Religious Moralist: Using my body to bring life into the world and producing food with my own breasts.
Me (I am trying to avoid social constructs and stick to the body, but I end up looking like a pervert): I love having a clitoris, a body part designed exclusively for pleasure.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: I like that you can wear jeans and skirts and not be gay.
Two women in 'I heart my vagina shirts"

On Gendered Intelligence
Dr. Sue: What you have in your hands is one of the most influential texts about women’s health. Our Bodies, Ourselves was the first American, comprehensive scientific text written by women, for women.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: I’ve got a, like, question.
Dr. Sue: Yes?
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Being that it’s written and published by women, is all the stuff in this book, like, accurate?

On Ovulation
(Dr. Sue has spent thirty minutes explaining the menstrual cycle…)
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Umm… question?
Dr. Sue: Go ahead.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Right after your, like, menstruation ends and you stop bleeding and stuff, is that when you can get pregnant?
Dr. Sue: There’s actually a likelihood of conception at every point in the menstrual cycle. There are, however, some days that you’re more fertile than others.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Well when is the day that you can most not likely get pregnant?

On Literacy
Dr. Sue: I’d like to do a study someday to see how students find out information about sexuality. Are you guys reading books or browsing the internet?
Me: I prefer books. I like to build subject libraries.
Modernist: I look things up on the internet. The information is just a click away and it’s free.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: I, like, have noticed that I haven’t read much since starting high school. Like, after eight grade when you’re tired of reading your textbook for, like, homework and stuff and you just start to hate it. Do you guys ever feel like that?
Dr. Sue: Sometimes I have less time for reading than I’d like, but I’ve never had an aversion to reading.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: It’s not an aversion; it’s just something I don’t do. Like, if I have some extra time on my hands, I’d rather sleep.
Dr. Sue: Right.

On Abortion:
Loud Religious Moralist: Are there legal limits on the time that a woman has to decide if she will have an abortion?
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: No. Not anymore.
Dr. Sue: Access to abortions past the first trimester varies by state.

On Surgery
Gender Essentialist: Why do women have C-sections instead of having babies the natural way?
Loud Religious Moralist: Yeah, like we’ve been doing it for five thousand years…
Dr. Sue: Or a couple million…
Loud Religious Moralist: Some say millions, God says thousands… But we’ve been having babies that way for a long time. Why surgery now?
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Some people do it for beauty… no, wait…

On Sexual Ethics
Dr. Sue: This has been a fascinating class with a wonderful group! I’m so glad that you all signed up. Before we leave, are there any final comments or questions?
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: My mother never talked to me about sex, so I thought that babies magically came out when you were married until I was in the eight grade. And, like, I’m a Christian and I’m just learning about sex so, like, my question is: wouldn’t the church say it’s bad to masturbate if you do it a lot?

* When I first wrote this post, I was making fun of the girl. But reducing the young girl to an object of ridicule only distances me from an earlier version of myself, a girl with less boldness than this character but equal misinformation. In twenty years, I may look at earlier writings and feel the impulse to make fun of myself. I hope I will be wise enough to celebrate this moment for what it is- a spot on a long journey. And I celebrate this girl because she was as bold as she was silly and she was courageous enough to show up each night.

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19 Responses to “The Silliest Girl in Vagina Class, or Why Women’s Studies is Needed Now More Than Ever”

  1. runesandrhinestones October 29, 2012 at 7:26 AM #

    I really love the idea of an I heart my vagina class. This makes my day a little bit better!

  2. Bunny Blumschaefter (@ottermoonski) October 29, 2012 at 8:07 AM #

    OK, your footnote sold me on the whole column. Because, you know, we were all silly girls once, and SGinVC is as much a woman as any one of us.

  3. Kal October 29, 2012 at 8:47 AM #

    It has been my expereience that most boys learn all the BS they believe from the ignorant guys who are older and learned the same BS from their ignorant elders.

    When I was a curious child, I am a curious oldster now, I went to the library. I was forbbidden from entering the stacks till I was 16. In the stacks I found nothing of value about sex. (Back in the 1960s) Wonder if its still the same.

    Grew up alone in my teens and read many books that slowly created a large font of misinformation in my mind. Hope its better these days.

  4. tricialo October 30, 2012 at 3:29 AM #

    I’m glad the footnote was added too, I enjoyed the read, but it came across as a little, superior, (maybe because you are :D)

  5. tlfk October 30, 2012 at 8:49 AM #

    “….so I thought that babies magically came out when you were married until I was in the eight grade…” Since she outgrew this belief in the 8th grade, that might make her thinking more advanced than some sitting congressional/state reps who seem to lack the basic undersanding of how women’s bodies work. Indeed, Women’s Studies (and sex ed) are needed now more than ever.

  6. Anni October 30, 2012 at 12:01 PM #

    The gender essentialist was my favorite part. People like that drive me up the wall. Trust me, hon, I’m not all that into nuturing.

    • Edward November 4, 2012 at 1:45 PM #

      That’s too bad, I think we all should be into nurturing. I see it as very much a male thing along with a female thing. I equate the resistance to nurturing with a kind of selfishness that’s troublesome in both genders. We were all nurtured as children even if some got more than others. I think we inherit the responsibility to do it for the next generation even if we have no children of our own. It’s just another part of being an adult.

  7. antony.mutisya October 30, 2012 at 4:56 PM #

    all readers will love this we are all dinging the subject my religion is the first guide.

  8. antony.mutisya October 30, 2012 at 5:07 PM #

    this is the answer to a question i asked at 17 years. Am i being prepare for the world that exists or to wonder around it.

  9. mekhatansh October 30, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

    I’m a freshman in Gender and Women’s Studies classes and this basically sums up what happens in my classrooms. I’m not alone!

  10. Laura Wershler November 2, 2012 at 11:34 AM #

    Interesting story, and proof positive of the importance of comprehensive sex education, body literacy and Women’s Studies programs. I liked your coda to the column, too. There are no stupid questions. Including the one the silliest girl asked about what day in her cycle are you most likely to get pregnant. This was the most important questions she asked. Unfortunately, the group facilitator chose to perpetuate a falsehood about fertility and the menstrual cycle. It’s a misleading statement that discredits fertility awareness as ineffective and not to be trusted: “There’s actually a likelihood of conception at every point in the menstrual cycle. There are, however, some days that you’re more fertile than others.” Actually, there are some days when you are NOT fertile, some days when you might be fertile and a few days when you are fertile.

    A better answer would have been that women can learn to chart their menstrual cycles to determine which days are which, thereby acquiring body literacy, powerful self-knowledge about how our bodies work. Why undermine the silliest girl’s request for valid information that every women in the room should have had and could have benefited from? The facilitator could have offered a referral to a certified FAM instructor for anyone in the group who wanted to learn more about their menstrual cycles or a good book about fertility awareness such as Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler or Justisse Method: Fertility Awareness and Body Literacy by Geraldine Matus. This was a lost opportunity. But not to make any assumptions, perhaps the facilitator did talk about this and it just wasn’t included in this blog post.

    A new study released in September called “What Young Adults Know—and Don’t Know—About Women’s Fertility Patterns: Implications for Reducing Unintended Pregnancies” makes a case for better education about fertility awareness to help young people make responsible decisions about using condoms to prevent pregnancies. The study was conducted by Child Trends, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children at every stage of development. Its mission is to improve outcomes for children by providing research, data, and analysis to the people and institutions whose decisions and actions affect children.”

    So good for silliest girl for asking this question. I hope she finds her way to this information.

    • crunkonia November 5, 2012 at 5:32 AM #

      Thank you so much for your comments, Laura. To be fair to my teacher, this isn’t a perfect transcript, just a collection of what I thought were some of the funnier moments of a really informative class. We spent most of the course on fertility awareness and we learned a great deal about the effects of synthetic birth control. Thank you for your references; I do wish this information was accessible to more women (and men).

    • Chimaobi Ahamba November 8, 2012 at 3:42 AM #

      Yes, seriously. This was a terrific reply to a terrific post. Also, thank you for letting me in on this term I have always known to exist but never knew what was: body literacy. Finally I know what to call it when I try to broach the subject with females! Thank you, Laura.

  11. Edward November 4, 2012 at 1:52 PM #

    I don’t like making fun of people for their ignorance especially when they are in a class trying to correct the problem. The “silliest girl” it comes off as smug and arrogant. I think the under taught aspects of our sexuality are the aspects tied to evolutionary biology and how we came to be the way we are, along with our innate role in formulating our future evolution.

    The role of family formation and contributions by both sexes to the parenting process needs to play a bigger role since these days many seem to be forgetting how important that is. The disconnect between the discussion of our sexuality and it’s role in family formation seems to be a more fashionable form of ignorance.

  12. N. November 4, 2012 at 9:50 PM #

    Not all women have clitorises! CFC, you know that, right??

    • crunkonia November 5, 2012 at 5:17 AM #

      I am one member of the collective, not a representative for our common knowledge or opinion. Yes, I do know. No, that knowledge wasn’t reflected in this piece. Thank you for pointing that out, unwarranted snark and all.

      • Chimaobi Ahamba November 8, 2012 at 3:44 AM #

        Wait…what?! Lies!

        Fam, help me. Not all women are endowed with a clitoral body part? Is this true? I am falling off my chair. How am I 25 and I do not know this?

  13. O. November 9, 2012 at 7:57 PM #

    Chimaobi: I think N. was referring to transwomen, although I guess s/he could also be referring to people who have experienced FGM.

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