Sophia O'Keefe / Mustang News

Abbie Lauten-Scrivner is a journalism sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.

We have yet to discover 95 percent of the world’s oceans, and space may be the final frontier, but there is a far more terrestrial realm which continues to be shrouded in mystery. According to a study of 236 U.S. college students, 80 percent of men and 62 percent of women do not know where it is located. Many adults would be unable to even accurately draw a general representation of it.

I am of course speaking about the vagina. Despite roughly half of humanity possessing one and much of the other half coming in to contact with one at some point in their life, the ambiguity of the vagina persists. Even the more visible external anatomy associated with the vagina is clouded with an uncertainty that lingers from adolescence into adulthood.

This stands in stark contrast with the almost aggressive prevalence of the penis. From the time kids reach grade school, it seems nearly impossible to go a single day without witnessing a classmate crudely scrawling an image of a penis somewhere. Flash forward to college and you’ll still be hard pressed to find a classroom without an image of a penis etched into a desk or on the back of a chair.

Although this is silly, the message is this: we all know what penises generally look like from a young age. On the other hand, few young people could even describe the generic shape of a vagina let alone draw one.

Although penises are more easily seen by virtue of being external genitalia, I see this a poor excuse for the stubborn, overwhelming unfamiliarity of vaginal anatomy that endures past young adulthood. The generic shape of other body parts is familiar to most people by this time. As an organ so critical to the conception of life, there is no reason that such obliviousness regarding the vagina should persist.

Even though adolescents are taught the same amount of information on vaginal anatomy as penile anatomy (admittedly, both tend to be woefully limited), the vagina is treated with extra indignity. It is so seldom discussed that those who have one are often extremely confused about it. Furthermore, this unfamiliarity can lead to many feeling ashamed of how the externally-associated parts (labia, clitoris, etc.) may look and function.

Shame, embarrassment and misunderstanding of critical body parts is certainly dangerous for one’s mental and physical health. Lack of formal education means information tends to come from alternative sources. Often, it is in the form of television, magazines and other media, which habitually promote a single, extremely simplified depiction of how a “pretty” vagina looks. Pop culture’s emphasis upon how the vaginal area should look is sanitized of variance and intricacy.

The norm that mainstream media perpetuates is that this region left in its natural state is something to be embarrassed of. Size, shape, color and hairiness must be controlled and maintained to be desirable. The vast majority of those without this cookie cutter image are made to feel freakish.

By the time teenagers become young adults, perhaps with a more comprehensive understanding of the body, years of lack of information or misinformation have already burrowed deep. This often manifests in embarrassment and self-consciousness over the way one’s body naturally looks.

Resenting something that is a physical part of you can create feelings of self-loathing.

The solution to this problem obviously needs to be a little more developed than scrawling pictures of vaginas on the back of desks. We need to find a way to eradicate the taboo associated with vaginas as that will lead to the extermination of the shame one can feel about their own. The first step is to simply be willing to talk about them. It’s past time we celebrate the vagina.

The norm that mainstream media perpetuates is that this region left in its natural state is something to be embarrassed of. Size, shape, color and hairiness must be controlled to be desirable. The vast majority of those without this cookie cutter image are made to feel freakish.

By the time teenagers become young adults, perhaps with a worldlier understanding of the body, years of lack of information or misinformation have already burrowed deep. This often manifests in embarrassment and self-consciousness over the way one’s body naturally looks. Resenting something that is a physical part of you can create awful feelings of self-loathing.

The solution to this problem is obviously going to need to be a little more developed than scrawling pictures of vaginas on the back of desks. We need to find a way to eradicate the taboo associated with vaginas, as that will lead to the extermination of the shame one can feel about their own. The first step is to simply be willing to talk about them. It’s past time we celebrate the vagina.

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