It starts out with a promising lede: "These are cruel times for vaginas." Go, Daphne, Go! She began to talk about those awful operations that some Beverly Hills plastic surgeons promote, to refigure your labia and sew back your hymen together. I can't type the description without wincing!
But why is this surgery a new trend? Why does feminine self-loathing seem to be going over the edge?
You are not going to believe Daphne's answer.
According to Merkin, this nightmare has came to pass because feminists in the '70s looked at their vulvas, schooled themselves in gynecology, and demanded to have a say in reproductive rights!
"Truth be told, I always considered myself lucky to have escaped coming of age at the height of the consciousness-raising era, when anatomical self-examination took on the aspect of a collective ritual. Those were the days when women felt obliged to convene in sisterly circles with mirrors and flashlights the better to study their bodies, themselves. Never having been one to enjoy group activities of any sort, the thought of becoming more closely acquainted with my private parts in a public setting seems potentially traumatizing rather than liberating or, God knows, celebratory."
Indeed, it has always seemed to me that one of the singular advantages of being a woman lies precisely in the "dark continent" quality of our genital cartography...
What a piece of work. The only reason Daphne even knows what a speculum is, or has the legal right to abortion, or maybe even a clue what is involved in clitoral consciousness-raising, is because of revolution initiated by the very women she disdains. I'd call her a cunt, but frankly, she hasn't earned it.
What is she talking about, women "OBLIGED" to perform genital examinations in PUBLIC EXHIBITIONS? Is she high?
I was alone in the 1970s with a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves, when I first took a look at my vulva. No obligations, just a sincere curiousity. I was fascinated that the mirror could teach me so much. It never occurred to me to hate what I saw— quite the opposite. I didn't meet a "women's collective" with whom I could share these kind of observations for several years, but when I did, I was thrilled with their confidence and generosity. It was one of the best things that ever happend to me as a young woman.
The reason wealthy women are signing up for a vaginal cut-fest, to outfit themselves for trophy-mounting, is because of feminism's faint heartbeat, not its triumph. The kind of thinking that spurs "hymen reattachment" is the ideology where a woman is valued for her virginity, and her property value. It's high-priced genital mutilation, fashioned for the 90210 Snob Set. Daphne's closer to them than she thinks.
My friend and guru, Betty Dodson, has written a reply to Daphne I'd like to share with you:
"Our Clits, Ourselves"
Betty Dodson, PhD
“Our Vaginas, Ourselves” by Daphne Merkin reveals a woman who is smart and clever, but alas, out of touch with female sexuality. For starters, any woman who refers to her sex organ as a “vagina” has emphasized the intellectual life at the expense of many an orgasm. The clitoris is a woman’s primary sex organ. The vagina is the birth canal.
“But,” the chorus wails, “what about vaginal orgasms?” That kind of orgasm will definitely make many a man happy, but very few women can climax that way. Ever since Dr. Freud, uninformed men have continued to insist that a mighty penis thrusting inside a moist vagina is the source of women’s orgasm.
Today, modern sexually sophisticated women are outsourcing their orgasms using their fingers or vibrators for direct clitoral stimulation alone and during partnersex. Come on, all you V-girls! You’ll love it once you discover that exciting bundle of eight-thousand nerve endings in your clitoris. It’s just above the vaginal opening where your first boyfriend spent all his time poking his finger inside thinking he was on target. Meanwhile you were wondering if this was “sex,” feigning pleasure in case it was.
Merkin supports continued female sexual ignorance when she longs for the “dark continent” of an unexplored vulva. Good grief! She didn’t hesitate to tell us, with a hint of pride I might add, that her hymen was intact until the age of 25. My, what a sexually uncurious young woman. She obviously never masturbated or shared manual sex in her teens or early twenties. Was she a victim of faith-based abstinence?
If that isn’t sad enough, Merkin condemns the consciousness raising era of the seventies. She disrespects the brave feminists whose groundbreaking self-help movement allowed women to take control of reproductive health and sexual pleasure. In my orgasm workshops, we examined our genitals in a group to learn by comparison that we were not deformed, just different. We saw that our clitoral glans and inner lips came in all shapes, sizes and colors. Each vulva was as individual as a snowflake. The group experience was powerful because it banished our ignorance born of isolation and sexual repression. We were no longer alone— cause to celebrate indeed.
Dear Daphne, as your feminist grandmother, I urge you to become more sexually open-minded. I agree with you that women could value their unique genital forms more, but we also need to support a woman’s freedom of choice. The same as changing our hairstyles, makeup and clothes, many of us like to stay abreast of the latest in vulva fashions. Instead of bemoaning “artificially enhanced gratifications,” you might consider embracing technology by using a vibrator on your clit the next time you’re do your Kegel exercises and reward yourself with a sweet little orgasm. Before you know it, you’ll be grooming your pubic hair for the next hot date— a nice break from going steady with your computer. •
Betty is too kind.
By the way... find me one genuine, CR-group-veteran clit-positive woman from the 70s who has graduated to butchering her labia, and I'll eat my socks. Or my speculum— Merkin can pick.