I received several interesting responses to our post about German teen magazine Bravo's article called "Every Vulva is Different."
This comment, from UnFit on the reCycling blog where it was cross-posted, refers to the German word for Vulva which is Schamlippenand also comments on the stereotypes to be found in Bravo's advice columns:
The German word for SHAMELIPS is Schamlippen – a word I have a really hard time uttering, even though I’ve had mine pierced and all. It just sounds horrible. Schamhaare for pubic hair and Schamhügelfor the pubic mound are not much better. It’s funny, I think at this point in history Germans are much less ashamed of their genitals than a lot of other cultures, but our language suggests otherwise.
And I agree with the Therese’s criticism: the whole thing is certainly well-intentioned, but it also has a few issues that seem symptomatic to me about German sexual culture.
Bravo has a regular feature about “my first time” for example, and while it certainly contributes to teens being less anxious about sex, it promotes condom use and birth control and leaves no doubts about premarital sex being the norm, it’s also crammed with stereotypes.
The couples have always been dating for several months – on the rare occasion that they have sex after a shorter period of dating, the girl regrets it afterwards. Same goes for the boy always having to be very tender and careful while usually being the one who initiates sex. And more often than not, the first time (which is always the first time heterosexual penetrative sex) is painful for the girl.
And so on and so forth. On the one hand, this society is incredibly open and up-front about sex. On the other hand, that makes it just another arena for norming and mainstreaming.
Thanks to reader Melora, who recently posted an awesome First Person for this blog, for this translation from German of one of Bravo's 'My First Time' advice columns. Note the very first question: Are you legal!:
Check: Are you ready for your first time?
At age 14 teenagers are allowed to have sex. That is the German law. But are you really ready to have sex? If you can answer one of the following with “no” or “maybe” than you probably have to wait a bit.
Are you old enough? Having sex under the age of 14 forbidden. If you are older than 14 but your partner is still under 14, than you are committing a crime (sexual abuse of children).
Do you really want it? Nobody should press you to have sex. If your partner really loves and respects you he/she will wait until you are ready
Do you and your partner know how you want to prevent? If not, than do that first! Inform yourselves what kind of prevention will be good for you. Always think about: Never without!
Can you talk to your partner about how you feel? The first time only will be good if you can talk to him/her about your fears and doubts. If you keep your feelings to yourself because you are ashamed of it than you are not ready.
Do you know the sexual reactions of your body? Do you know what turns you on and what doesn't? Can you say and show your partner what you like and what not? And: Do you know that little mishaps are normal when you are having sex for the first time? Get to know your sexual reactions with masturbation.
Do you know the body of your partner? Find out what your partner likes when you pet with him/her.
Whew! What a list! It's all very smart and emotionally healthy stuff, but I wonder if sometimes you just have to say: If you want to see what sex is like, and you're protected against pregnancy and disease, and you have a partner you're comfortable with...Just do it. You may not enjoy it the first time, but you have to start somewhere. Oh yeah, and please be over 14.
And this from Ashley on a Live Journal group (don't let the complicated sign-on deter you):
I spotted the comment that lamented the lack of variety in the gallery of every vulva is different and I really wanted to share VaginaPagina's Everyday Bodies project. It is a really fantastic collection of images of normal women's bodies: from breasts to vulvas to bellies to bottoms, varying by race, size, age, etc. I highly recommend taking a look.
This is thelink to the main entry, and it would take just a matter of minutes to make a free account and join the community to be able to see it.
LJ can be confusing if you're not familiar with their site setup. After you've made an account, you can go to the community info page here. From there, you click the 'Join' text at the right of the screen and confirm 'Join Community' on the next page.
Unless you uncheck add to friends list on that page, you'll go to one more and just hit 'add'. Then you should be able to go to the Everyday Bodies Project post with no problem. I wish they had made it simpler, but I guess if it works for them!
And finally, a look at an oldie but a goodie: The Vulva Taxi, a different kind of female cycle. I love how her skirt matches the vulva! Go to the link to see the real NSFW image.