A friend just died of cervical cancer at age 37 because she never went for an annual pelvic exam.
Granted, pelvic exams are no fun, but then there is the additional shame factor, that icky feeling in the pit of the stomach when something dirty or “bad” is happening to us.
When we’re told by the doctor to open our mouths, and stick out our tongues, it’s no problem. There is little morality and shame associated with the mouth. However, If we are told open our legs and stick out our clits, well for many of us, that’s a completely different story.
From a purely biological view, there should be no difference, but there is. Why? Contemplating our answers to this question may give us insight into to our deeply held moral stories and beliefs surrounding our genitals.
For example, when I was 14 when my dad gave me the big sex talk. It lasted all of 30 seconds. He told me that masturbation was “the dark side of sex,” referring to the collection of skin mags my stepmother found buried deep inside my closet.
On the other hand, my girlfriend’s granny told her it was ok to masturbate, just as long as she wore rubber gloves when she touched down there, as if her vagina would emit toxic waste when rubbed for personal pleasure.
Emblazoned in our minds and our bodies, from a very early age, is the idea that genitals are dirty, evil things.
There is also a belief that if we just follow the moral code, the biblical rules and laws regarding sex, that we will magically be protected from genital tragedy; Jesus will protect your vagina just as long as you’re good girls.
It is precisely because of our mythological thinking, and lack of coherent sexual education, that only about 18 percent of the adult females in the U.S. receive annual pelvic exams. And a majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a Pap smear in five years or more.
I’m angry because this is completely preventable. Our ignorant beliefs and our sexual shame needlessly threaten our lives, and the lives of people we love.
Our bodies are beautiful, and whether we are showing them to our doctors, our lovers, or ourselves in the mirror, it’s imperative that we realize, when it comes to our bodies, it’s all good.