Pynk like the Anthem of my Heart…Maybe?

Since first hearing Janelle Monae’s new song “Pynk,” I have been listening to it over and over and over again, equal parts mesmerized by the beautiful choreography and the billowing vulva pants in the music video.

Despite how much work I have done in celebrating and reclaiming my body and sexuality from trauma, purity culture, and sexism, this year I have been reminded that that reclamation isn’t a static process. I don’t reach a point of loving myself and suddenly no longer struggle with the old messages and wounds of the past.

Old scripts of shame can come creeping back in, often in new disguises so that I don’t immediately recognize them for what they are.

Over the past year, I watched as the March for Women, which had seemed like such a unifying experience last year, devolved into in-fighting, with women taking offense at pink pussy hats for various reasons.

What probably could have been a mindful conversation about the different ways that women experience body-shame within our culture instead became more about whether or not women should identify with pink (because not all vulvas are pink…and really no vulvas are the pink of the pussy hats) or with having a pussy (because not all women have pussies).

While both critiques have truth, I also couldn’t help but feel the ache in my soul of needing to have a way to talk about the experience of having a vagina.

The experience of having a vagina in a world that glosses over vaginal pleasure and orgasm.

The experience of having a vagina in a world where someone decided that my vagina belonged to them and not me and abused and violated the boundaries of my body when I was a child.

The experience of having a vagina that sometimes I don’t even want to own because along with all the wonderful things my vagina is, there’s also the reality that it houses and stores memories, sensations, and emotions that terrify and paralyze me. It is a source of nightmares as well as ecstasy.

The experience of having a vagina in a world where a President can brag about grabbing a vagina without repercussions but someone who has a vagina can get banned from a discussion involving vaginas because she alluded to that body part.

Yes, we need to leave room for talking about the experience of being a woman without a vagina or being a woman with a vulva that doesn’t conform to societal standards, just as we need to leave room for talking about the experience of being a woman in many other contexts as well (size, shape, age, race, reproductive choices/options, and career).

But as I watched the conflict from the sidelines, I felt the tug back to a point I never wanted to return to and though I had left far behind–a point of feeling like it was wrong to talk about my vagina and about how having my vagina influences my world. There was a shame and silencing to the conflict that felt anything other than feminist to me.

Enter Janelle Monae, who is somehow able to create this beautiful anthem that both acknowledges women who have vaginas and those who don’t and celebrates the fact that pink is part of everyone’s bodies, be it their eyelid, tongue, vulva or heart. I love this song because it honors diversity while also reconnecting me with the beauty and power of my pussy and chasing away that shame script that had been trying to infiltrate yet again.

Four Ways to Legit Pamper Your Vagina

Every year, as some are aware, I have a month dedicated to honoring the female body and celebrating the vagina. It usually involves a party, reading, and lots and lots of crafting, followed by a post (like this one) passing on something I created, learned, or did in the hopes that more women will get inspired to celebrate their beautiful bodies.

This past year, I’ve also been undergoing physical therapy to treat damaged muscles in my pelvic floor. I discovered that physical therapy involved a lot of self-care in order for it to be effective. I also discovered that many of the books I’ve read don’t really go into vaginal self-care in depth, and it reminds me that, even with some fantastic sex/body-positive books for women, we still have a long way to go in disseminating all the information a vagina-possessing person could use.

So today, I’m going to share some of my favorite yoni luxuries.

1. Massage!

I love massages. If I could afford it, I would be getting a professional massage on a weekly basis. But for some reason, I had never thought to try massaging my belly and pelvis. I’m guessing most women haven’t because it’s not exactly the kind of thing you see Cosmo printing on the front cover.

However, there are lots of little muscles in the lower abdomen and around the outside of the vulva that can get tired and sore. The pelvic muscles benefit from a little bit of kneading just as any other muscle (especially around menstruation).

Obviously, it’s easiest if you have a partner who gives good massages and wouldn’t mind offering a non-sexual spa hour to your outer pelvis and abdomen; however, if you don’t have the partner or the willingness from the partner, there are ways to give the gift of a massage to your own belly. You can even create your own massage oil with coconut oil, olive oil, or sesame seed oil.

2. Yoni Steam (aka, vaginal steam)

Douches are bad for your vag. Let’s just put that out there. The vagina is a brilliantly functioning, self-cleaning machine and DOES NOT need to be washed out. Douching will only knock out of balance the flora of bacteria and yeast that keep that pussy healthy.  (Just look at these wet pussycats to get an idea of how angry your vagina gets when you douche.)

That being said, steams are awesome and super simple. Basically, bring a pan of water to a boil. Remove from heat (and probably turn off your stove), add in some herbs or essential oils. Some of the ones I’ve loved and that are beneficial for the yoni are rosemary, rose, calendula, and lavendar. Then sit over the steam pot, naked at least from the waste down, at a comfortable distance from the heat so that you feel it but aren’t in pain. You can get special chairs with holes in them, or you can just improvise in your own way to find a comfortable arrangement. The steam rises and relaxes the muscles, and the essence of the herbs works its magic on the mind and body. If you want to contain the steam for longer, wrap a blanket around your legs.

There’s been a recent surge of interest in yoni steams as a “beauty treatment,” which saddens me because it’s such a luxurious experience of self-indulgence and love on its own that it almost seems sacrilegious to turn it into yet another beauty standard. But it remains one of the “beauty treatments” that actually offers pleasure and health benefits, like a sauna for your lady bits.

3. Baths

This one seems so common-place that I shouldn’t have to put it down, but I do because I was told for years that baths were bad for women only to find out that it’s just the opposite. The first thing my physical therapist assigned to me when I began treatment was to take lots and lots of baths. Heat and water are healing and supporting, and I don’t know why we have developed a fear of their power.

4. Yoga

Add this to the list of health benefits for yoga: makes your vagina happy.

It’s more about the stretching actually, but yoga is my favorite way to get the stretching in. Poses like cobra, the arching cat, happy baby, child’s pose, goddess pose, garland, and basically any pose the stretches the abdominals or relaxes the pelvic floor is great.


So go pamper yourself. Or help your partner/friend/whatever pamper herself. Not everything that happens “down there” has to be sexual or medical. Sometimes it’s just plain sensual. Happy yoni-loving!

Modesty Culture and Yoni Worship: My Journey Out of Self-Objectification and Into Self-Respect

Warning: This post contains nudity. Respect is expected. Before you comment, please read my comment policy. Sexist or slut-shaming language will not be permitted.

The other day, Beauty Redefined had a post on their Facebook page about modesty. Several people commented that immodestly dressed women had low self-esteem. Although BR didn’t say anything to indicate that they hold that opinion themselves, they also didn’t contradict those comments either.

I’ve written about modesty once before when I discussed the place that objectification has within modesty culture. If you’re in the mood for a rant, it’s a great post, but I’m not here to rant today. Rather I’m here to wonder.

“Wonder” is such an interesting word. It can either mean “to contemplate” or “to marvel.” Today, I’m going to do both.

I’m noticing a trend within modesty culture that disturbs me. I know of no word that describes it, so I’ve decided to refer to it as anti-corporeality—being against the body.

On one level, I love what BR is doing in trying to expose the patriarchal power structures that dictate beauty and self-worth to women through the male gaze.

Notice how objectifying ads like this one from Tom Ford constantly degrade and dehumanize women, sometimes even violently, using their bodies for male pleasure while denying women agency.

Notice how objectifying ads like this one from Tom Ford constantly degrade and dehumanize women, sometimes even violently, using their bodies for male pleasure while denying women agency. Sometimes it’s a matter of personal interpretation, but often the creators of the ads are obvious in how they wish it to be interpreted. This one says, “my breasts are for men.”

Unfortunately, I often see that attempt hijacked by modesty culture. Rather than teaching women and girls that they are more than just a body, it seems that the teachings edge towards the other extreme—that women and girls are not bodies. There’s an underlying current that suggests that having a body, acting on sexual desires, or being visible is shameful.

Here’s where I wonder.

When you tell women that they are more than just a body, implying that they should keep themselves covered, I wonder if you are also telling girls that focusing on their bodies at all is wrong. When you link clothing with self-esteem, I wonder if you are reinforcing the idea that appearance is the source of self-esteem. When you hastily generalize being “sexy” with being objectified, I wonder if you are telling women that sexuality is dehumanizing.

Self-esteem and “modesty” are not directly related. On the contrary; they’ve been inversely correlated for me. In the IFB, I was taught that my body was a temptation. I was told that it was my responsibility to be modest in order to protect boys and men from lusting after me and that if I caused a man to stumble, I had committed a form of adultery with him.

I learned to be ashamed of my body, to disconnect from it, to fear it. There were times when I considered taking a knife to my face and my chest, mutilating myself to prevent men from wanting to lust after me.

At the same time, I was taught I was supposed to be attractive for my husband when I got married so that he wouldn’t cheat on me. My mother assigned books for me to read that told me that it was my duty to sexually satisfy my husband. At conferences, I listened to speakers who preached that sex in marriage was like going to a restaurant—as long as you fed your husband often enough at your “find dining” restaurant, he wouldn’t be tempted to go to that cheap MacDonald’s across the street.

In that way, I learned to hate my body, for it could never measure up to the ideals I saw on TV or billboards.

Modesty culture destroyed my self-esteem.

Over the last four years I’ve been going through a transformation. It wasn’t just a rejection of modesty culture as a toxic philosophy; it was a journey into the wonder of my body.

Nudity and sexuality can be beautiful and sacred, even with a camera present. In this picture, I see nudity and sexuality that honors rather than degrades. (Photo taken by Solus-Photography and modelled by Alex B. and Mike Cooney; used with permission. Click on the picture to see more of her beautiful work.)

Of course, first I had to do the work to free myself from modesty teachings. Feminism played a wonderful role in opening my eyes to the oppression inherent in rape culture (which I explain is related to modesty culture in my other post). It was key in helping me recognize that I wasn’t responsible for other people’s thoughts or actions—that I had a right to be treated like a human being regardless of my appearance.

Then in February, I started what I now see was a full-blown paradigm shift. I dedicated the month to reading about and celebrating the female body. I threw a yoni party (read about it here), complete with vagina straws and tampon crafts. What began as an archetypal reverence apparently became internalized. I didn’t even realize it until this past week when I saw the modesty post from BR.

As soon as I read the first comment linking self-esteem with modesty, I thought, “But that’s not true. I wear things all the time that I would have considered ‘immodest’ at one point, and my self-esteem is fine. I love my body.”

The last four words left me in awe.

I love my body.

Sometime between February and now, I fell in love with my body. I love the way it moves during yoga, when I dance, when I run, and yes, even when I have sex. I love my vagina, my sacred yoni. I love my breasts, small as they are. I love my legs, with the varicose veins beginning to form. I love the hive scars that scatter across my chest . . . and the cutting scars that speak of my survival. I love my eyes and my lips and my neck. I love my hair. I love my feet. I love my hands.

I don’t love my body because I look like a model or because it’s “perfect” in form or execution.

I love it because it’s part of me.

I am not just a body. I have a mind too. I celebrate my mind every day with writing, reading, discussions, even daydreams.

But I am not just a mind, which means that I also celebrate my body. Part of celebrating my body can involve things like taking a bath, exercising, eating, or snuggling into clean sheets. However, part of celebrating my body also involves celebrating my sexuality—learning to belly dance, wearing something that makes me feel sexy, actually having sex. If I listened to the modesty movement, I would think those things are objectifying and harmful to my self-esteem . . . except that they’re not.

Objectification is not about how much skin is or isn’t showing. It’s about the cultural lens through which we choose to view the body.

I objectified myself all the time when I ascribed to modesty culture because I constantly thought about myself in terms of what I did to others. Am I attractive enough to keep my husband faithful? Am I covered enough to prevent a man from thinking about sex with me? Is it okay to wear shorts on a hot day, or would I be looking like a tramp? Do I compare with a porn star in bed? Should I be like a porn star in bed?

What stopped me from objectifying myself wasn’t clothing. My self-esteem didn’t rise because of an extra inch of fabric. Rather, I learned to stop objectifying myself by living in my body. It is not a temple in which my spirit is housed. It is the part of me that connects to the world. I’m not ashamed of it or objectified by it.

I wanted to insert a video at the end here, but I can’t figure out how to do so. Please visit Hysterical Literature, a project that seeks to film women reading books while being sexually stimulated off-camera. Although there is no nudity, those who fear female sexuality would find this objectionable and uncomfortable. I think it is a beautiful illustration of the body/mind blend of being a woman. Also, if you’re interested in reading some great posts about sexual ethics, check out Sarah Over the Moon’s series.

Uterus, Vagina, and Vulva! Oh My Yoni Party!

For the most part, last year I went on a mission to find and celebrate holidays that weren’t tied to my Christian past. However, as the year came back around, I found myself feeling bored with the idea of choosing between Imbolc or Valentine’s Day—neither of which hold much allure for me.

I had also become aware during the last couple of months that my understanding of the female body was severely lacking. Although my introduction to menstruation was certainly better than some, I wouldn’t say that it was the best time of my life. My sex education was almost non-existent. And my anatomy—well let’s just say that my aversion to tampons for the first five years of menstruating stemmed from the fact that I didn’t know where they went.

Obviously, I’ve gained a bit more knowledge about “the facts of life,” but my knowledge still has significant gaps. When I heard about some people who have vagina parties for girls in honor of their first period, I fell in love with the idea. I may be well beyond my first period, but I wanted to have that celebration. I decided that, in honor of a different V-day, this month I would educate myself on my body and host my own version of a yoni celebration.

This post is as much a chronicle of my journey as it is a review of products and a how-to place for others who may feel inspired to honor their bodies in a similar way.

I draw quite a bit of inspiration for my own emotional and psychological cycles from Goddess stories which often place a huge emphasis on the sexual maturation of the Goddess, so right from the start I felt it important to take a spiritual as well as secular approach to my preparation for this holiday I was creating.

I started by writing an ode to my vagina . . . which grew into an ode to the whole feminine system within me. I’ll admit that it was awkward at first trying to find ways to praise my breasts, womb, and vagina, but I’ll never be able to describe how affirming it was to verbally acknowledge the importance of those parts of me to the whole me—that these were parts that were there for me, not just as decoration for sexual partners or as nurturing tools for potential offspring. I had never realized how detached I was from my reproductive system until I went through the process of claiming it as an integral part of me.  And although I don’t want children, I gained a new appreciation for the uterus as a place of creation, not just procreation.

My burst of creativity carried over into other forms of art, starting with a crayon illustration of the Goddess Innana, along with the symbols of her awakening, the snake and tree (yes, they do resemble the Genesis account of the fall of man, but ironically the story of Innana, which views the snake and fruit as symbols of spirituality, existed long before the Genesis story did). A few goddess figurines and clay vagina sculptures later, I was feeling ecstatic about the beauty and intricacy of the female body—my body!

I dedicated my altar to symbols of the goddess without focusing on any particular Goddess and spent the month using my meditation time to honor the various aspects of the goddess within me, connecting the physical to the spiritual. I played mother and child to myself, alternating between visualizing descending into my womb to be nurtured and actively doing the nurturing. I read books, both on the feminine spirituality and on the female body, and I hugged my plush uterus (more on that below).


Surprisingly, the spirituality part was simple in comparison to the party-planning. I cannot believe how effortless it is to find party decorations, food ideas, and games that pay homage to the penis, but coming up with similar items themed towards the vagina—let’s just say we’ve got a long way to go.

Despite the scarcity of resources, I managed to create quite the themed party. For your own inspiration, I shall include a basic break down of the party. I hope that by documenting what I did here I can save some other poor soul the frustration of trying find information that isn’t readily available.


Food was, by far, the easiest to come up with. A picture of vagina cupcakes has been floating around facebook for well over a year, and I found this awesome video that showed me how to make my own. Tacos were obvious as the main course, and from there it was just a matter of finding fruits and foods associated with women. The sacred yoni ceremony in India that partially inspired me in the first place treats honey, milk, and yogurt as sacred elements. Since raspberries and yogurt actually aid reproductive health, I felt like it was a double win on theme. I ended up making whipped cream in place of milk because, let’s face it, unless you’re ten, alcohol is more fun at a party than milk. The whipped cream went really well with the raspberries. Pomegranate martinis with cherry garnishes were incredibly easy themed drinks to make. And any number of aphrodesiacs could have served as filler foods for a larger party.


The games were much harder. Many shower games are so focused either on giving birth or getting married, but I wanted to honor women without reducing their bodies to relationships, sex, and birth (not that those things are bad, but women are rarely encouraged to celebrate their bodies for their own sake).


The first game I thought up was “Cramping Uterus.” It was a basic twist on hot potato that used a plush uterus instead of a potato. After I had bought the uterus, I found another variation on the hot potato game called “Pass the Vibrator.” You can even get a special one that has randomized vibrations to make it easier to play if you don’t have someone designated as music master. I liked that idea because I love the way that it acknowledges the sexual drives of women without taking the emphasis off of women as individuals. Perhaps next year I will use that variation.

I also developed my twist on Scattergories, creating my own special list with items like “things that look like vaginas” and “something you buy for your lady bits.” It was such a simple yet fun game and could be tweaked in any number of ways, depending on how political, outlandish, or scandalous you want to get.

After hours of searching online, I finally came across two games that actually had my theme without my needing to convert it in any way. The first was reproductive bingo. I added my own personal touch by turning the free space into a uterus and replacing “bingo” at the top with “vulva.” I used sweet tarts as the pieces and drew words randomly out of a cup. I have to say that out of all of them, this is probably the one that I had the most fun with, both in the practice-play with my partner and later with the group.

Reproductive Bingo

The other game was “Pin the Ovaries on the Uterus.” I came across it on this site actually dedicated to menarche parties. There was no question about buying it, and I can affirm that it is a wonderful game that was well worth the purchase. However, I would caution buyers to make sure they have plenty of time and the willpower to follow through with updates. The game didn’t arrive until the day before my party. Early in the week, I tried to get updates on whether it had been shipped, but the website isn’t well maintained. I found two customer service emails that differed slightly. One didn’t go through; the other I never got a reply from. I was finally able to track down a customer service email address that worked through the transaction detail on my Paypal account. While I am happy with the purchase and don’t think it took too much time to arrive, I also feel it only fair to warn customers of the hiccups of contacting the customer service with questions or concerns.

I actually didn't cut out the ovaries because I wanted to save them for another time. Instead, I cut out cardboard iud's to pin on the uterus.

I actually didn’t cut out the ovaries because I wanted to save them for another time. Instead, I cut out cardboard iud’s to pin on the uterus.


I was first introduced to this tampon craft site by a group that was ridiculing the site for being gross. I chose a craft from here out of rebellion to the ludicrous aversion I saw expressed towards cotton with strings as much as out of true admiration for the creativity there. The site is filled with wonderful ideas for every season. For my party, I chose to make the bleeding heart earrings.

The other craft I developed myself because I really couldn’t find anything else. I printed out a large uterus from the web and used it as a stencil to cut out two felt pieces. Using a hot glue gun, I sealed the bottom and sides of the uterus and attached pipe cleaner fallopian tubes. I stuffed the uterus with a bit of cotton (which you can buy or steal from an unwanted stuffed animal) and sealed the top. I glued puff balls to the ends of the fallopian tubes and voila—a stuffed felt uterus. It turned out quite cute, and with the extra felt and pipe cleaner pieces, you can add little decorations and designs to make it as unique as you want.

Stuffed Felt uterus


In addition to littering my apartment with all the goddess crafts I’d made earlier, I also decked it out with origami vaginas. I will warn you that they are hard to make, even for experienced folders. None of mine really came out that great, but I used the ones that looked passible.

I was also blessed by the gift of a milkweed pod vagina.

Milkweed Pod Vagina

It’s beautiful and delicate and totally something I’m going to try to make when I can hunt down milkweed pods. I wish I knew the name of the person who made it, but if you do decide to throw a vagina party, you can probably make your own “nature vaginas.” Flowers, painted eggs, seed pods—so many natural things can be used as symbols of the reproductive system (and I received several as gifts today too!). Or, if you really don’t feel crafty, you can see if there is an artist in your area willing to make something for you or you can just splurge for some of the slightly pricey but definitely beautiful items on sites dedicated to yoni art.


All great parties include goodies to take home. Gift bags were actually really simple to compile. I made origami orchids, which were much easier than the origami vaginas and still reminiscent of female anatomy. I found fantastic vagina straws at Spencer’s that added a fun little memorial to the party. I also tried to include some practical pampering, throwing in some Raspberry Leaf tea (remember raspberries aid in women’s reproductive system health) from Traditional Medicinals and some womb and uterus massage oil from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes. A few other stuffers like flower bookmarks and flying wish paperI was ready to make myself a gift bag just for the joy of opening it!

I also tried to keep prizes relatively approachable, things that would remind my guests of the party without making them feel like they needed to hide them in the back of a drawer. I found a fun lip-shaped bath fizzy, a couple of journals, and a necklace—one prize for each of the games. Of course, prizes can also include crafts like a knitted uterus if you knit or clay sculptures.

Overall, the party was a hit. I didn’t invite a whole lot of people because, to be honest, I was slightly afraid of how people might react. It’s not a mainstream idea, and I think even some of my invitees were a little worried about how awkward it might be. But it was such fun for me and the people who came that I am ready to make this an annual holiday. Perhaps next year I will have the courage to invite some of my friends that I wanted to include but chickened out on asking.

In the meantime, I’m glowing with happiness. My body feels honored; my mind feels more connected. I’ve learned amazing things about my physiology and have had an incredibly empowering afternoon. As weird as the idea may sound at first in a society that generally tries to turn the female body into something vulgar, I encourage every woman to consider setting herself free of that and learning to celebrate the amazing body that she has.