The mission to create the Vagina Museum began two years ago, when its founder Florence Schechter stumbled upon the Icelandic Phallological Museum, dedicated to the penis, yet could see no equivalent for the vagina or vulva. It’s thanks to crowdfunding and support from Camden Council that the museum now stands amongst the market, blending in discreetly with its surroundings, its doors wide open and welcoming. There is a fantastic shop to explore alongside the museum itself, where you will find vulva badges, cards, accessories and more.
Outlined in their website’s FAQs, the key thing to mention is their use of the term ‘vagina’ instead of ‘vulva’. They explain here that there is no ideal way to describe the museum in just one word, but that vagina is the most recognisable term, and therefore the most accessible. When you see the museum it is clear that it aims to educate, so being accessible to all is essential, which is why it is also free to enter. Secondly, the museum makes a point about being trans-inclusive, so it aims to empower all those with vulvas, whether you identify as a man, woman, non-binary, and so on.
As soon as you enter, the first placard of information states: ‘We all have a different face, a different nose – so why wouldn’t we all have a different vulva?’ I know I’m going to like this. The museum is a relatively small space, and you can easily work around the room, which is filled with myth-busting facts, sculpture, illustrations and various objects. Should you visit the museum, you will uncover the truth as the following myths are busted:
- It’s called a vagina.
- If you have a vagina, then you are a woman.
- If you have a lot of PIV (penis in vagina) sex, your vagina will get loose and your labia will get longer.
- You can’t get pregnant if:
- the woman doesn’t orgasm.
- you shower, urinate or douche right after sex.
- if your partner pulls out before they ejaculate.
- it’s your first time having sex.
- you have sex standing up.
- you have sex in a hot tub.
- you’re breastfeeding.
- you douche with Coca-Cola.
- Periods are dirty.
- If you use a tampon, you’re no longer a virgin.
- Pubic hair is dirty and unhygienic.
- Vaginas are dirty and smelly – they need to be washed.
- Discharge means there’s something wrong.
- The clitoris is impossible to find.
There’s also information about bleached underwear, a relatively unspoken phenomena that occurs due to the pH of the vagina being naturally more acidic. Whilst it would be impossible to explore everything that can be said about this area of the body, it also would have been good to dismantle the idea of being a “virgin” completely, taking into account various sexualities and ways of having sex beyond penetration. However, to accomplish that, it would need more funding for a bigger museum space.
Despite knowing much of the information already, I learnt some more along the way, and felt it was a reaffirming experience. It was exciting to have such a space in the middle of such a familiar part of London. I couldn’t help but imagine a younger me walking around the market as a teenager, seeing such a wonderful place.
It’s also possible to have a tour of the museum and attend a plethora of events that are held in the space. Events include its opening party, Bajingo Bingo, where you can win prizes with your vagina knowledge; a Jewish Shabbat Friday Night Dinner in honour of Trans Day of Remembrance; Artemis and the Bears: Bodies and Blood in Ancient Greece; performances of solo shows Hole and Fat Sex; Pub(e) Quiz; and the members’ Cliterati Christmas Party. In the shop, you’re also guaranteed to want to take every book home with you, and this ties in nicely to a monthly book club the Museum runs called ‘Cliterature’.
The Vagina Museum’s first exhibition, Muff Busters: Vagina Myths and How To Fight Them opens on 16th November 2019, and will also be able to view online for those who can’t get to Camden.
Featured photo credit: Carmina Masoliver
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