What Are Ben Wa Balls?
If you’ve read 50 Shades of Grey, or ventured into an adult store, you might have encountered “Ben Wa Balls”. (Or maybe you haven’t and you’re wondering what in God’s name they are…)
Essentially, they are small balls meant to be inserted into the vagina (NOT the butt!!) They often contain weights to encourage the balls to roll around within the vagina, increasing stimulation. They are more of a “slow burn” toy, meant to gradually build pleasurable sensations.
Although some women report reaching orgasm through the balls alone, most women enjoy them as a teasing foreplay method - the balls can be left in for an extended amount of time, held in place by your pelvic floor muscles. In fact, some women routinely wear Ben Wa balls to strengthen their PF muscles.
Like other sex toys, Ben Wa balls can be made of a variety of materials including glass, medical grade silicone, and metal. Some varieties are attached by a tether, with a string that remains outside the vagina to make retrieval easier, while others remain loose. The type of material may influence the difficulty of keeping the balls in place - stainless steel or glass balls will require more muscle strength to keep in place, while silicone balls are easier to “grip”.
How Do You Use Ben Wa Balls?
Because the balls are held in place by your pelvic floor muscles, we recommend starting with smaller sized balls.
Before inserting them, lightly coat the balls with your favourite body-safe lube (we reccommend this). Too much lube may make it difficult to keep the balls inside you - yes, they can slip out. Lie horizontally on a comfortable surface, and grib the balls between your thumb and forefinger. Press against the vaginal opening until the balls “pop” into place. You may want to experiment with the depth of insertion.
Although certain novels (*ahem* 50 Shades) may imply that you can immediately wear the balls in public, we suggest wearing them around the house before venturing outside. Because they are held in place by your muscles, if you aren’t used to constantly using those muscles, the balls may slide down. Wear them for as long as you like! Wear them while you partner stimulates your clit, or just sit in a rocking chair for a bit (yeah…. it’s much better than it sounds.)
Just like tampons, the balls cannot get lost in your vaginal canal. To remove tethered balls, simply tug gently on the removal string. If you use un-tethered balls, insert your thumb and forefinger into your vagina and grasp each ball. If that proves difficult, try lying or squatting and bearing down on your diaphragm.
Make sure you clean them well before and after each use - the cleaning method depends on the material (check out our article on how to clean your sex toys for more info).
The “Luna” beads set from Lelo is perfect for beginners - it comes with 2 sizes, allowing for gradual advancement in strength.
“Luna Beads” from Lelo
Botoxing your vagina could help cure painful penetration
When most people think of Botox, they think of face wrinkles and crow’s feet and not being able to move your eyebrows…
But Botox is now being investigated as a potential aid (or possible cure!) for women with a condition called vaginismus.
What is vaginismus?
Vaginismus is involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles when an attempt is made to insert something (penis, tampon, sex toy, speculum, etc.) into the vagina, and effects approximately 1-7% of women worldwide. This muscle contraction can cause severe pain, aching, and even burning or a feeling of being torn. It is essentially a reflexive muscle spasm; Some evidence suggests that the vaginal “flinch” is caused by the anticipation of pain, kind of like when you involuntarily close your eye when the mascara wand gets too close. This anticipation could be the result of prior sexual abuse or other painful experience (such as a yeast infection or pelvic exam), although many women with vaginismus have not experienced any of these things.
According to the The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, vaginismus can be categorized in the following ways:
- Primary (lifelong) or Secondary (begins after having sex normally for a while)
- Global (occurs no matter what) or Situational (only occurs in certain situations or with certain objects)
How is vaginismus currently treated?
Since the spasms are involuntary, the main component to treating vaginismus is learning to control the reflex. Depending on the potential root cause, this may include several components: sex therapy, vaginal dilators used to allow the woman to gain control of her pelvic floor muscles, Kegel exercises (also used to gain control of the pelvic floor muscles), and mindfulness and relaxation techniques are all currently employed as treatment.
So where does Botox come in?
According to Medicine Net:
Botox blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles. The injected muscle can no longer contract…
It makes sense that Botox could be used to treat vaginismus, which is, after all, involuntary contractions of the vaginal muscles.
In 2004, one study looked at twenty-four women with moderate to severe vaginismus who had unsuccessfully tried other treatments. Botox was injected in 3 sites of the puborectalis muscles. The results are quite astounding:
- 23/25 patients had vaginal exams 1 week later and showed little or no vaginismus
- 18/25 patients had satisfactory intercourse after the first treatment, and 4/23 had only mild pain.
- 1 patient was cured after two injections.
- While the patients were followed up for a mean of 12.3 months, there were no cases of recurrence.
Generally, this treatment has become a “comprehensive program of injecting Botox under anesthesia, progressively dilating the vagina during the same anesthetic, and leaving a dilator in place that the patient wakes up with in the recovery room”. The Botox serves to prevent the contraction, and the woman “learns” not to associate penetration with the pain of muscle contraction - simply using Botox alone would mean the patient would have to consistently return for injections. Thus the progressive dilation is continued at home, essentially “training” the muscles.
One study has noted that 90.3% of patients who underwent this treatment achieved pain free intercourse after a median of 3.5 weeks.
What are the side effects?
As with any treatment, there are potential side effects to consider.
- Vaginal bleeding (usually for 24 hours or less following the procedure)
- Mild flu-like symptoms
- Increased urinary incontinence or flatal incontinence
Botox looks to be a very promising new treatment option for women who suffer from vaginismus.
The good news is that vaginismus can be highly treatable. If you experience pain during penetration of any kind (sex related or not), talk to your health care provider.
aka Why Women Suddenly Develop Oscar-Worthy Acting Chops in the Bedroom
We read statistics all the time about how often women fake their orgasms (some research suggests up to 80% of women have faked it) - it is such a common joke in pop culture that it’s almost not even funny anymore.
But, the real question isn’t “how often”, but WHY do women fake orgasm?!
Why do we fake something that should be real and raw? What benefit do we perceive as greater than our own sexual satisfaction?
One groundbreaking study of 481 heterosexual college females has suggested that there are 4 main reasons driving women to fake their orgasm:
Altruistic Deceit: faking it to avoid hurting their partner’s feelings
Fear and Insecurity: faking it to avoid negative emotions associated with sex (or insecurity about their own sexual prowess)
Elevated Arousal: the “fake it til you make it” idea - faking it to heighten their arousal to lead to real orgasm
Sexual Adjournment: faking it to end sex
The very obvious flaw in this study is that all the participants were heterosexual.It isn’t clear if the results would directly apply to women who didn’t identify as heterosexual. In fact, the research in the area of non-heterosexual female sexuality is lacking. (Although, anecdotal evidence suggests that lesbians indeed fake orgasm…)
That being said, the most interesting reason to come out of this study is #3 - the idea that by faking our own arousal, we might actually become aroused.
It is certainly the most positive reason - in a very indirect way, it is a form of taking responsibility for your orgasm. Your partner might even respond to your fakery by amping up the intensity, provoking a real orgasm,
However, consistently faking your orgasm for reasons 1, 2, and 4 means there is little room for improvement in your sex life with your partner. (But you probably already knew that, didn’t you?)
So, how do you go from faking it to making it?
Yup, sorry. There is no easy way to go about this.
You have to stop faking it.
If you’re concentrated on your performance, you’re not tuned into your own body enough to experience the sensations that might push you over the edge.
Many women’s arousal stems just as much from their brain as their body (which is why reading erotica can be such a turn on) - so focus your brainpower on yourself.
Is sex better than Midol?
Many women have cramps during their period that make them feel anything but sexy. We investigate the question: does orgasm relieve menstrual cramps?
But in order to answer that questions, we have the understand what causes cramps in the first place.
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
Most of us know that our periods are the result of the uterine lining being shed. The lining is created in preparation for a fertalized egg to attach- if none appears, then the lining must be shed.
As the cells in the uterine lining start to break down, compounds called prostaglandins are released. These molecular compounds stimulate the uterine muscles to contract. As the muscles contract, they restrict the flow of blood to the lining - without the blood flow and the precious oxygen it carries, the cells starve and begin to die.
However, particularly vigorous contractions can lead to the uterus pressing against the nearby blood vessels that deliver blood to the uterus itself – the pain is caused when those muscles briefly lose their supply of oxygen. (It’s similar to when you get cramps in your side during a run - your muscles aren’t getting the oxygen they need.) Severe menstrual cramps are actually called primary dysmonorrhea.
Additional compounds promote inflammation of the uterus, which can also lead to constriction of blood flow to the uterus, and more pain.
As the uterus contracts, the lining is pushed through the cervix and out through the vagina. If a woman’s cervix is particularly small, the passing of larger clots may also cause pain.
So How Could Orgasm Relieve Menstrual Cramps?
As you might already know from our “30 Day Orgasm” challenge, orgasms have a lot of benefits:
Orgasms are natural pain-relievers: oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin levels surge during climax. This both significantly increases your pain tolerance, and acts as a pain-killer.
Those pain-killing endorphins don’t just disappear after orgasm - they stay in your system, dulling your pain response long after the fact.
Some sources also claim that the smooth muscle contraction of the uterus that occurs during orgasm expedites the shedding process - which means more prostaglandins are shed as well. Less prostaglandins means less contracting, which means less pain.
In fact one study found
that [women] with less dysmenorrhea had higher coital frequency and nearly twice the frequency of orgasm as that of [women] suffering severe pain
So there is clearly evidence to suggest that orgasm (not necessarily penetration) could potentially relieve the symptoms of menstrual cramps - unless the cramps are caused by something like endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. If you have persistent and debilitating cramps, see your healthcare provider.
A good vibrator is like a good pair of black pumps: a necessary (and sexy) investment.
I have found my Louboutins of the sex world, sans the excessive price tag: the Lelo Mona 2
The Mona 2 is a G-Spot vibrator, but it is oh, oh, oh so much more.
Reasons to Love It
Mona 2 is a gorgeous little number. It has all the basics covered:
- It’s waterproof: baths are now 100% more fun. Who needs bubbles when you can have orgasms?
- It is rechargeable: no cords needed.
- It is decently quiet, even on the most powerful setting.
- It is made of body safe, medical grade silicone: easy cleaning and safe for use with water-based lubes.
But the Mona 2 is so much more than that.
The shape is contoured perfectly to work either for either clitoral or G-Spot stimulation: the slight curve means you won’t get carpal tunnel massaging your G-Spot, and it hugs you deliciously on your insides. It has a very satisfying girth, which gives you an intoxicatingly full feeling when inserted - there is slight resistance as you start to slide it in, then the smooth shaft slips perfectly into place.
The smooth, rounded tip is just narrow enough to provide pinpoint stimulation on your clit - but with a slight tilt, it is easily angled to provide fuller, surrounding vibrations.
The Vibrations and Power
The controls of the Mona 2
It has 6 vibration patterns - I can honestly only speak to the first 4, since I never make it long enough to test the last 2. There is the standard straight vibration, several variations of pulsing vibrations, and several vibration patterns to ramp up the intensity only to bring it back down.
The patterns take all the effort out of having shattering, phenomenal clitoral orgasms: they combine intense pulsing vibrations with escalating, ramped rumbles to bring you right to the brink, then bring you back again. The buttons on the grip end are effortless to press and cycle through.
The Mona 2 has serious power: cranked up to the highest level, I can feel the vibrations throughout my whole body when it is inside me. I don’t even have to move the Mona 2 - the powerful vibrations stimulate my G-Spot in ways I didn’t think were possible. I would describe the vibrations more as rumbles that echo to every sensitive nerve ending possible.
This vibe is also great for couple play - it isn’t bulky enough to get in the way of anything, and it is intuitive to hold and control.
The only issue I’ve had with this toy is that it can be prone to slide just past my G-Spot if I don’t keep a firm grip on it. I think it has something to do with the shape: it naturally wants to slide in to the narrowest part, which puts the curved head just past the sweet spot. But if you keep it firmly in hand, it doesn’t slide.
The price may seem high to some at $160 - but it is worth every single penny.
This is a high quality toy that you will get many, many sessions about. It is the kind of toy you can’t wait to get home to. Keep it in your bedside table, you’ll want it close by.
Purchase the Mona 2 here.
Aka Spring Cleaning Your Sex Toys
Sex toys are wonderful things. (In fact, here are 6 toys that we think are particularly wonderful.)
But they can also be very, very bad.
Toys that aren’t kept nice and clean can harbour all kinds of bacteria. That makes sense - they go into some pretty juicy, flora-filled places. By not paying attention to the hygiene of your toys, you or your partner could end up with a yeast infection, UTI, and STI… not so sexy. So, clean your sex toys!
But before you bust out the bleach, you should make sure you’re using the best cleaning method for your particular toy. (Which, by the way, is NOT bleach.)
If you use lube with your toys, be aware of what type of lube you use.
- Water-based lube (like this one): Can be used on any toy! Easy on, easy off. It doesn’t degrade toys, is totally body safe, and still keeps things slick.
- Silicone-based lube: this can be used on toys made of hard substances (like glass, marble, and hard plastic). DO NOT use on silicone or jelly based toys - the silicone molecules will want to join together, resulting in the lube and toy melting together like goo.
- Oil-based lubes: Do not use on toys. Getting oil off of the toy will require using harsh, alcohol-based substances that not only degrade the toy itself, they aren’t good for the body!
The material of your toy will determine the best way to clean it.
- Jelly: Since jelly is extremely porous, jelly toys can’t be totally disinfected. Wash with lukewarm water (not boiling water, which can sort of melt the jelly), and mild soap with no fragrance. We definitely recommend using a body-safe sex toy cleaner.
- Rubber/Latex: Lukewarm water and mild soap. Ensure you get the soap off, because soap will degrade the toy if left on for long periods.
- Cyberskin: Same as jelly toys.
- Silicone: Wash with mild soap and pat dry - these toys are easy keepers.
- Stainless Steel or Pyrex: if the toy doesn’t have batteries, you can throw it in the dishwasher (just make sure you don’t use dishwasher soap, since that’s usually pretty harsh. The hot water is good enough!) Honestly, any cleaning method works for these babies.
Maintain your toys in good condition.
Cracks, chips, and scratches in your toys can turn into prime habitat for harmful bacteria. Inspect them regularly to make sure sure there isn’t any damage.
AKA ‘Vagina Farts’ & Why They Happen
You’re in the heat of the moment, legs in the air, writhing around in pleasure when the unthinkable happens: you fart. Except… it doesn’t come from your butt. It comes from your VAGINA.
What the hell was that?!
That, my friend, was a queef.
According to Dr. Jen Gunter, OB/GYN, there are only 2 reasons air would be expelled from the vagina:
1. The air that is normally in the vagina is pushed out (because of a cough, or because another object is inserted into the space and the air has to “make room”).
2. There is a “fistula”, or a connection between the bowels and the vagina that allows actual gas from the bowels to move into the vagina.
Reason #1 is absolutely nothing to worry about. In many women, air is normally in the vagina. The vaginal canal isn’t a smooth tube, it has wrinkles and folds, so there are lots of pockets for air to become trapped. And what goes in, must comes out!
Reason #2 is a serious condition. So if you notice you emit air from your vagina with an audible noise on a very frequent basis, you may want to go to your doctor to rule out a fistula. A fistula can be caused from sexual violence, inflammatory bowel disease, previous surgery, some types of bowel infection, or even childbirth.
Unless there is a fiscula, the air that is expelled is just that: air. It is not “gas” in the technical sense, since it hasn’t been expelled from bacteria, and it isn’t the result of a chemical reaction to break down waste (like the “gas” from fecal matter). It is just plain, non-smelly air.
In other words, there is NO reason to be embarrassed about queefing.
Nor are there any solid, scientifically-backed studies that suggest ways of preventing queefing. Doing Kegel exercises to improve your pelvic floor muscles likely won’t hurt you, but it also won’t stop you from queefing (despite what some people may claim).
So, queef away. Pay no attention to the harmless air being forced out of you, and continue to get your sexy on!
What is Body Painting?
First of all, body paint is art.
It is sensual creativity expressed on a naked body: the focus is on the art, the paint, not the naked body beneath it.
In fact, the goal of body painting is either:
- not to be aware that what you are seeing is painted on (a corset, shorts, etc.) OR
- to be very aware that what you are seeing is painted on (a blue alien, a mermaid, etc.).
Either way, the focus is not on nudity, but on the incredible illusive power of paint.
At events and shows, models typically wear nipple pasties, which must be applied when the nipple is hard, or they might fall off at an inopportune moment. To provide an additional layer of coverage, flat colour is not used on the nipple area: instead, layered colours and patterns are applied, so the nipple is entirely invisible. The pubic area is also typically covered with underwear, although the amount of underwear coverage on the butt varies from model to model.
Companies like The Wild Rooster and A Little Bit of Bling do body painting for all kinds of occasions:
- bachelorette parties
- boudoir photography
- model portfolios
- maternity photos
- special events (like Sexapalooza)
They have even painted models with company logos, and special black light paint that can up the ante of a regular club night.
The sky is the limit to what can be painted. Everything from abstract geometric shapes, to realistic booty shorts and corsets, to creatures from the world of fantasy.
What Does Body Painting Have to do With Body Image?
Although models are mostly nude, the paint offers a shield. One model explains:
“As soon as the paint goes on, you stop feeling so self-conscious about standing there naked. Even though people stare at you, which normally would probably make you really uncomfortable or self-conscious… you know they are looking at the paint, not at you. They don’t really care what your body looks like underneath the paint, they are just super impressed that they thought that really beautiful corset you’re wearing was real. It kind of makes you realize that all those flaws on your body you thought were really noticeable, aren’t really that noticeable.”
The artists use shadows and colour to emphasize parts of the body that their clients love, and to diminish parts that they don’t. Brilliant colours make different sized breasts look symmetrical, shadows and contouring give the illusion of curve where there is bone, and patterns hide scars from a difficult cancer treatment.
It is empowering.
The owner of A Little Bit of Bling herself got painted after having her third child. Her body had been through the trials and tribulations of birthing three children, and she felt little love for her appearance. Yet somehow, after the paint went on, she felt transformed. The looks she drew were ‘of admiration for a living canvas, not disgust for an imperfect body’.
When painted, the body is on display, but not the focus. The body becomes the medium, the canvas, on which the art is created. It is beautiful, and it is hard to feel self conscious in the presence of such beauty.
In the spirit of Friday the 13th, we thought we’d share 3 of the weirdest sex superstitions out there.
Stormy weather ahead
According to one apparently Korean superstition, babies who are conceived during stormy weather will have stormy, problematic lives - so the idea is, don’t have sex during a storm.
However, it appears many North Americans do not share this superstition, since “storm babies” are a common joke in labour and delivery departments.
Interestingly, in a paper entitled “The Fertility Effect of Catastrophe: U.S. Hurricane Births” from 2007, it was determined that
…low-severity storm advisories are associated with a positive and significant fertility effect and that high-severity advisories have a significant negative fertility effect. […] most of the changes in fertility resulting from storm advisories come from couples who have had at least one child already.
So maybe it’s alright to have sex in a “minor” storm, but not a big scary one.
No sex, period.
If women aren’t consciously monitoring their sexual arousal, they may actually feel more aroused during the later days of menstruation, according to one study. Those women will just have to suck it up then, because apparently, those who have sex with a menstruating woman will either a) lose all their hair or b) become infertile.
(Some brave souls have suggested that this superstition came about because ancient women became particularly enraged during certain points of their menstrual cycle, and might therefore have been prone to ripping out their partners hair or cutting off their genitals. But this is pure heresay, and comes dangerously close to stereotyping, so we call bullshit.)
Big mouth, big “lips”
We’ve all heard the superstition that men with big feet often have big …shoes (which is really just a euphemism for penis, right?). What about women: are there any telltale signs of genital size or condition? According to the Encyclopedia of Superstitions, women with big mouths have big lips… vaginal lips, that is (see what we did there?). Now, it isn’t clear if “mouth” is meant in a literal or figurative sense - are they implying that loud women have big labias? Or that woman with pout’s like Angelina have big labias?
I guess we’ll never know.
Although these superstitions are far more interesting than black cats and broken mirrors, they are all just that: superstitions.
So feel free to have all kinds of stormy period sex.
For those who don’t know, the practice of vaginal douching involves squirting a substance into the vaginal canal, usually with the use of an applicator. The substance can be anything from water, to an acetic (think: vinegar-like) substance, to a scented “medicinal” product. The idea is that the substance flushes into your vagina, and comes back out again. (It’s definitely not the same thing as washing your labia!)
Why do some women douche?
Most women report that they douche for “hygiene” reasons: to cleanse the vagina after their period, after sex, to get rid of symptoms like odour, itching, or discharge, or to prevent sexually transmitted disease.
It’s actually quite common.
The thing is, there is very little conclusive evidence to support these reasons - in fact, douching can cause some pretty serious side effects.
What douching does to your vagina
Of course the exact effects of douching depend on the type of substance used. However, generally speaking, douching can result in the following effects:
- Reduction in the density of normal vaginal bacteria
Douching with any antiseptic substance kills off the normal vaginal bacteria. Even douching with water reduces the native bacteria - it physically sweeps the bacteria away, and damages the pH balance required by the good bacteria to live (the pH of water is close to 7, the pH of your vagina should be less than 4.5!)
The bacteria that is normally present in your vagina helps maintain the pH of your reproductive tract nice and low: this low pH prevents certain other bacteria from colonizing because they can’t live in such a low pH environment.
The “native” bacteria also physically prevents pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria from entering, and stimulates mucous production - another important line of defense against pathogenic bacteria.
Without the native bacteria, there is plenty of room for other bacteria to colonize and grow: bacteria such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis - yeah, the stuff that causes gonorrhoeae and chlamydia - or bacterial vaginosis.
One study found that
…women who reported douching 12 months prior to their clinic visit were twice as likely to have cervical chlamydial infection and that, as the frequency of douching increased, the likelihood of chlamydial infection also increased.
Using douching products with “antiseptic” qualities causes even larger changes in the normal vaginal bacteria.
So clearly, the removal of the good bacteria leaves plenty of room for infection and disease causing bacteria to get in on the action.
- Forcing bacteria from the lower genital tract above the cervix into the uterus/fallopian tubes
Bacteria that is normally found in the lower bit of your vaginal canal can be physically forced up by the stream of liquid into places it isn’t supposed to be. This can lead to inflammatory scaring… and that inflammatory scaring can lead to ectopic pregnancy, early miscarriage, and even infertility.
Another effect of bacteria getting up where it isn’t supposed to be is pelvic inflammatory disease.
That shit is serious.
It was estimated that 20-30% of women with pelvic inflammatory disease would be hospitalized. It is also a very common cause of reduced fertility and even sterility.
One study reported that vaginal douching increases the overall risk of pelvic inflammatory disease by 73% and the risk of ectopic pregnancy by 76%. Those percentages are HUGE!
- Irritation of the mucous lining
Physically irritating the protective mucous lining can reduce how effective it is at keeping unwanted bacteria out.
Douching has been scientifically linked to:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Chlamydia, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginitis, cervical cancer
- Reduced fertility
- Ectopic pregnancy
Douching has NOT been scientifically linked to:
- Promoting a healthy vagina
We cannot in good conscience recommend that women douche. If you are worried about a funky smell, or about your vaginal canal being clean of blood or semen or whatever … go to your doctor. The vagina is SELF CLEANING! Don’t douche.
Violence against women hasn’t stopped.
And until the violence stops, we need to keep fighting against it.
That’s the purpose of “V Day“. It is a global movement to help end violence against women. Activists in cities all over the world participate in benefits and events to raise both awareness and funds for the cause. Rape, battery, incest, sex slavery… they are all still very real in today’s society. We may not like talking about them, but they happen all the same.
Until the violence stops, we must fight against it.
In Ottawa, Ontario, a benefit production of the famous play “The Vagina Monologues” is being performed by a talented cast as part of their contribution for VDay 2015. The funds raised by the performance go towards The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa, The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, and the One Billion Rising Revolution.
“The Vagina Monologues” is an episodic play composed of a variety of women speaking monologues on topics related to the feminine experience, including violence against women. It is powerful, funny, and emotionally stirring.
Free Your V had a chance to speak with two of the talented cast members from the production in Ottawa.
“Samantha Oxley is a civil servant who has recently discovered a passion for performance arts and is thrilled to be making her theatrical debut with this performance in her first VDay.”
“Shirley Manh has been on stage, behind microphones, and in front of cameras since the 5th grade […]This is Shirley’s 5th Vagina Monologues show (her 2nd in Ottawa), and her 6th monologue.”
Why did you get involved with VDay 2015 and The Vagina Monologues?
Samantha: I wanted to become involved with VDay and TVM for many reasons. I wanted to surround myself with the beauty and power that the group of women in this production bring. I wanted to be a part of the change I hope for my future. My mother is a survivor of abuse. I am a survivor of abuse. This movement has a very powerful personal meaning to me.
Shirley: I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of the VDay movement since my first year in undergrad at Wilfrid Laurier University; the Women’s Centre at WLU produced the show every year on campus. That was about 12 years ago! I auditioned ‘just for fun’, and for a chance to perform in an interesting, well-known show. I got cast, and despite the fact that it was my first year, I performed both “My Vagina Was My Village” and “Cunt”, two monologues at either end of emotional extremes. The experience I got from being in that show was not just fun; instead, it was very powerful. I was connected to a deeper part of myself and to others who already had, or were just, experiencing the same transformation. And that’s what has kept me involved, year after year.
What, in your opinion, is the message of The Vagina Monologues?
Samantha: TVM celebrates the beauty of women. TVM is about personal empowerment, growth, and triumph. It honours the collective experiences of women and unites us as a community.
What is the most challenging aspect of being part of this performance?
Samantha: The most challenging part of being part of this performance is channeling the emotions that the content evokes. It’s made me think about who I am, reevaluate myself as a woman, changed how I feel about myself and my gender as a collective. Those changes have been amazing but powerfully emotional. Being part of TVM has made me more aware of who I am, made me love and accept myself and my fellow women as we are, for who we are. That shift in paradigm, although beautiful, completely changed my world.
Shirley: I’m not sure if I’ve ever told anyone this, but personally, I find it a challenge to be an audience member during “My Vagina Was My Village”, despite the fact that it was the first monologue I ever performed. I’ve heard it rehearsed and performed now by many, many other women over the years and it still brings tears to my eyes every single time. You become that girl, who once was living a beautiful life, and then became a victim of unimaginable violence. The dichotomy between those two worlds is stark; the imagery is vivid and can be difficult to listen to. I take a deep breath after every time I hear anyone rehearse it.
What is the most gratifying aspect of being part of this performance?
Samantha: The most gratifying part of being part of this performance is the beautiful and talented women I have had the privilege of becoming friends with. We’ve created a family. We care about each other, we support each other, we are invested in each other. We are all very different individually, but cohesive and collectively. I admire my fellow cast and crew and have learned so much away from them and through this experience.
Shirley: It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to share stories that aren’t your own. It’s definitely fun to create characters around a monologue, but I really appreciate knowing that these stories come from actual people that Eve Ensler met with. Every time I perform a different monologue, I try very hard to do justice to the women who are giving me the honour of sharing their story, and I find that to be a gratifying process.
Did you learn anything from your involvement in this project?
Samantha: I learned that I am capable of doing something I never thought I would do. I learned that I have a lot to learn about who I am, and that excites me. I learned that I have a lot to learn about other people and that excites me even more. I learned to love and accept myself, and I learned that I can help other women do the same.
Shirley: Every year, my involvement in VDay is humbling; it’s a reminder that everyone needs to be empowered, and a chance to practice that for myself.
Why should people come see this performance?
Samantha: There are so many reasons people should come! It’s a meaningful cause and attending means being part of that. It’s funny! It’s sad! It makes people laugh and cry. The cast and crew are talented and dedicated and I think the performances reflect that. There’s something for every woman (and man) in these monologues.
Shirley: Seeing The Vagina Monologues is perfect for people who:
- are interested in a fun night out
- appreciate community theatre and story-telling
- want to contribute to very, very, worthwhile causes that work towards supporting victims of sexual violence and ending violence against women
- will appreciate a ride on an emotional roller-coaster
- currently love women, would like to continue loving women, and/or would like to love women more
PS: We also love men, and love it even more when they come see the show as well!
You can get your tickets to support a fantastic cause (and see a fantastic performance of “The Vagina Monologues”!) here.
aka Why We Need to Stop Using the Word Normal
Everyone struggles with body image – even the people you think might not struggle.
Compounding this struggle with body image is the fact that the media tends to include one particular body type.
The recent inclusion of model Ashley Graham in an advertisement in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition has caused quite a stir.
The cover model, Hannah Davis, has also caused quite a stir.
Let’s examine this more closely.
Hannah Davis has the body type that we are used to seeing on magazine covers. We think she’s gorgeous. She is receiving quite a bit of criticism for pulling down her bikini bottoms – this was seen by some as unnecessarily sexual or demeaning, depending on the person. (We do wonder if Ashley Graham had posed in the same way, if she would have received the same criticism as Hannah did, but that’s another story.) The magazine Hannah was on the cover of routinely receives criticism for not featuring “normal” sized woman.
Enter Ashley Graham. Ashley does not have the body type that we are used to seeing on magazine covers. Like Hannah, we think Ashley is gorgeous. She received criticism for not representing a “real” plus-sized woman, despite being touted as such. “They call size 12 a plus size?! HA!” However, there were also plenty of people who applauded the magazine for including her (although we will point out that it was an ad by a company who sells plus sized bathing suits – it isn’t like they are doing anyone but themselves a favour by using Ashley as their model).
There are so many things wrong with this.
First of all, Ashely gets shamed for not being “plus sized” enough.
Should she be ashamed of her body because it isn’t “normal” enough? Because she doesn’t really represent the average North American woman?
Now replace Ashley’s name with Hannah’s in the above paragraph.
See? Same shame, different target.
We can’t win here. If we happen to have a body type similar to the current “ideal”, we are shamed for it, aren’t “healthy”, or are told we don’t have a “normal” body type. If we happen to have a body that is considered “plus size”, we either aren’t “normal” enough (ie we aren’t plus size enough), or we are fat and unhealthy.
NO ONE SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEIR BODY, PERIOD.
Why is it okay to claim that men prefer curves, but not okay to say that men prefer small thighs? Why is it okay to refer to Ashley Graham as a normal and healthy woman, but assume Hannah Davis isn’t healthy or normal?
“Fat” shaming is not okay, but “skinny” shaming is? Why should Hannah Davis feel bad about her body because it doesn’t represent a “normal” woman? Why should Ashley Graham feel bad about her body because it doesn’t represent a “normal” woman?
When are we going to learn that NEITHER ONE is ok?
When can we stop talking about “normal”? What IS normal? If it isn’t Hannah Davis, but it also isn’t Ashley Graham, what is it?
Oh, that’s right.
We can’t define normal because it doesn’t exist. Not only that, it is counterproductive to even try and pinpoint “normal”. There is far too much diversity to try to focus on one type.
Both Ashley and Hannah are beautiful women. One isn’t necessarily more normal or healthy than the other (and we certainly can’t judge that based on a photograph). We need to stop using the word “normal”, or “plus size”, because then we reduce these beautiful women to their body shape alone. Ashley is just a model, not a plus size model. Hannah is just a model, not a skinny model.
Instead of shaming one body type, and pushing for another, let’s push for variety.
One body type isn’t better than another, it’s just different.
And different is awesome.
Stripping down to your Victoria Secrets in front of a relative stranger and then posing half naked on a bed may sound more terrifying than titillating, but doing boudoir photos is beyond rewarding. Many women have never had professional photographs done at all, but if you’re going to get some done, make them boudoir photos! (And no, you don’t have to be a bride to do these)
What are Boudoir Photos?
Really “boudoir” is just a fancy word for a lady’s private room – typically it means a bedroom, but could be a “sitting” room (because people still have those?!). The word actually comes from the French verb “bouder” which means “to sulk”. So boudoir basically means a private room where ladies can pull a Disney princess move and throw themselves on a surface to cry. However, in the modern age, “boudoir” tends to be used to describe a particularly sensual style of photography.
Boudoir photos are really just suggestive photos set in an intimate environment such as a bedroom or hotel suite. Nudity tends to be implied rather than explicit: sheets strategically draped over the body, a hand tugging at panties, etc. It isn’t overtly erotic or pornographic, and is actually quite glamourous.
Lighting tends to be soft, and makeup is sultry. Typically, women wear various forms of lingerie: silky baby dolls, matching bra and panty sets, thigh high stockings and garters, corsets, sheer tops, even things like men’s shirts, fur stoles, or sexy pajamas. That being said – anything that makes you feel like a sexpot is fair game.
Why You Should Get Boudoir Photos
First of all, the experience itself is fun: romping around in sexy outfits is quite enjoyable when you have someone there whose sole purpose for the duration of the shoot is to make you look and feel fantastic – it is quite a confidence boost. Things you hate about your body suddenly become gorgeous.
Or you realize the muffin top you thought you had, or the weird birthmark, or the fact that you have thin hair – none of that is all that noticeable.
In fact, you end up looking like a freaking movie star. If you get the photos printed in a photo book, whenever you’re having a “gross” day, just whip out the book and you’ll remember just how stunning you are, especially half-naked. It’s like getting to see what your partner (potential or otherwise) sees when the jeans come off.
Tips for Your Boudoir Photo Shoot
- Make sure you are very clear with your photographer about where these images are displayed. Technically photographers have the rights to your photos, but any half-decent photographer will allow you to keep these photos totally private (i.e. no posting them on their website unless you specifically sign a release giving them permission to do so.)
- Meet your photographer before the shoot: you’re going to be half-naked in front of this person. Make sure you have a rapport with them!
- Bring as much as you can cram into a bag: lingerie or outfits you thought would be perfect might not end up working, so bring a variety of options.
- Get your makeup done professionally. Unless you yourself are a professional makeup artist, it will look better if a pro does it. You’re sinking money into the photo shoot, make it worth the money.
- Remember to eat – don’t skip a meal before the shoot in the mistaken belief that you will feel “skinnier”: what you will feel is and light headed and hangry, and it will not be enjoyable (for anyone).
Looking for some great boudoir photography tips for your shoot, check out our Pinterest page:
aka Why We Need to Use the Word Vagina.
Vajayjay. Vadge. Hoo-ha. Cooter.
Sorry…I don’t speak the language of embarrassment. You are referring to female genitalia, correct? More specifically, you are speaking of the
There. Glad that’s over with.
Guess what? It isn’t a dirty word. Why can Grey’s Anatomy use the word penis 17 times in 1 episode, but when script writers wanted to use the word vagina, network exes did this:
What did they do instead? They used the word “vajayjay”. That’s right, the original script said “vagina” (because the character is a freaking MEDICAL DOCTOR), but it was changed to a word that doesn’t exist to avoid saying the word vagina.
I guess I can understand the confusion, since “vagina” technically means the canal that runs from the uterus to outside the body, so if you want to be clinically accurate when you describe the outwardly visible female genitalia, feel free to say
Whatever word you chose, just use an actual word. (For the record, despite Oprah Winfrey’s usage of it - vajayjay is not a real word.) For some reason, there is still a great amount of hesitation to use the word vagina (or vulva, for that matter). When we try and “cute-ify” the word, we are implying that there is something gross/dirty/shameful about what we are talking about that needs to be hidden behind a giggle-inducing gibberish word.
Even a tampon company was told they couldn’t use the word vagina. A tampon company. Let’s think on that one for a moment.
The vagina is LITERALLY where a tampon goes.
I know where I came from – I came from a vagina. Where did you come from? Wait, wait, I know this one:
That’s right, there is an actual word for it. This isn’t a new word. What words do we use instead?
Vajayjay: Right up there with “pee pee” for level of juvenile
Vadge: Adding the “D” is necessary for correct pronunciation. (“Adding the “D”… yeah. I’ll just leave that right there.)
Hoo-ha: It isn’t a donkey.
Snatch: This word was created by an inexperienced individual who mistakenly thought that the vagina had teeth and would “snatch” their penis/finger/dildo away. Let’s not mock their fear any further by continuing to use this word.
Pussy: aka Porn’s Favourite Word.
Why do we care what people call it?
For one thing, using the proper terms for female genitalia facilitates communication, which facilitates knowledge. In this study, 78% of women surveyed said that the “vagina taboo” contributes to women’s ignorance. We shouldn’t be ignorant about our own bodies. But it’s hard to get solid, real information when your search terms or opening dialogue includes the word vajayjay.
We’re all intelligent women here, so can we just agree to not beat around the bush (pun intended) and call our genitalia by a real word?
VAGINA.Or vulva. Or clitoris.Whatever floats your boat.
“Oh baby, you make me so wet”.
If we relied on mainstream porn to educate ourselves, we would wrongly assume that all women’s vaginas get immediately and conveniently drenched upon any kind of arousal. In fact, according to many porn videos, even LOOKING at a shirtless picture of *insert attractive male celebrity here, according to your tastes* causes the dams to burst. So, if a woman is feeling wet, she is aroused. Ergo, if she isn’t feeling wet, you might as well just roll over. WRONG. Natural lubrication is a complicated and not fully understood process that doesn’t always correspond with degree of arousal.
So what makes a woman wet?
The short answer is: a lot of things.
But you’re not here for the short answer – so here it goes:
When a woman gets all hot and bothered, various factors (such as hormones like estrogen, and certain polypeptides) contribute to an increase in blood flow to the vulva, resulting in engorgement- yeah, your vulva gets bloated. The plasma that holds all these blood cells in suspension starts to seep through the cells of the vaginal wall, creating moisture. Small glands located slightly below the vaginal opening are also stimulated to produce mucous.
The combination of plasma seepage and mucous from the Bartholin’s glands results in the slick “wetness” associated with female arousal. Isn’t that DELICIOUS.
What affects the level of “wetness”?
Sometimes you feel as horny as a rabbit, but when you or your partner go to relieve your need, it feels like the Sahara down there. Other times, it feels like someone dumped a bottle of KY on you without your knowledge.
Your body is a lube machine
Don’t forget that you produce lubrication all the time, and the levels of that regular lubrication depend on where you are in your cycle. So if you’re ovulating, you might produce more mucous –when you get aroused during ovulation, you might think Niagara Falls has taken up residence in your panties. That could just be the combination of normal lubrication and “arousal” lubrication.
The pill can be a pill
Although evidence isn’t clear, there has been research regarding the effect of hormonal birth control on vaginal lubrication. Generally speaking, more estrogen means less lubrication. So if your pill has a higher estrogen dose, you may tend to be dry even when you’re aroused.
Go home vagina, you’re drunk…
Alcohol dehydrates you. Yes, that includes your vagina.
A woman can be so turned on that she orgasms without actually feeling wet, and I think we can all assume that if a woman has an orgasm, she was aroused.
So let’s get this straight once and for all: wetness ≠ arousal.