Vagina. Cunt. Coochie. It goes by many names, but its most infamous – and most influential – is Pussy. You may have gotten flushed, embarrassed, or even slightly excited when you saw it in the title. Pussy has a lot of definitions and even a mind of its own as a societal motif. Its vulgarity is used by protesters, rappers, and middle schoolers alike to reflect our country’s obsession with it.
In her video, “Hypersexuality & the Perfect P*ssy Complex,” feminist Tee Noir looks at the linguistics of the p-word in female rap that cloaks hypersexuality and capitalism as empowerment. There is no concrete definition of the Perfect Pussy Complex. Googling the term leads to further discussions on hypersexuality, the clean girl aesthetic, and even purity culture. But there is no clear denotation of what the Perfect Pussy Complex (PPC) really is. Thinking critically, one could say that the PPC includes the social expectations of the vagina and those in proximity to it which carry a psychosocial and biomedical burden.
It’s important to recognize that not all individuals who identify as women have vaginas, and not all vagina-owners identify as women. Still, the vagina has historically been stigmatized and associated with misogyny. The Madonna-Whore complex is the theory that a cisgender man will put sexually assertive femmes in the whore category and more chaste types in the Madonna category. Like the Madonna-Whore complex, the PPC tries to fit users into a one-size-fits-all box with unrealistic expectations. Society often imposes unrealistic expectations on those who identify as female or feminine. Such expectations may include the need for confidence, a lack of vulnerability, always appearing put-together, adhering to societal beauty standards, being superior to other women without appearing needy, and being sexually liberated without being judged. Unfortunately, these expectations can even impact physical health. Smelly pussy. Fishy pussy. Dirty pussy. The state of the genitals is then tied to the character of the person yielding it.
Vagina shame has a long history, originating from biblical Eve’s original sin. Eve biting into the apple justified a mass disgust of menstruation. Cultures throughout history have always had complicated relationships with periods. Overall, men have not been fans, often associating someone on their period as unclean. At the turn of the 20th century, gender equality took off in higher education and white-collar jobs. Periods were used to bar qualified job seekers with insane claims that periods would take blood from their brains and make them incapable of working. Tampons hit the market in the 1920s, but with fears that they would take users’ virginities, widespread use wouldn’t happen until sixty years later in the 1980s.
A fitting topic of discussion in recent times is the notion of the pussy as a concept: an embodiment of self-expression. In the current vernacular, the term “cunt” is employed to represent a woman’s empowered sense of self. Moreover, in the backdrop of an ongoing assault on transgender rights, it is observed that women may opt for bottom surgery to alleviate gender dysphoria. While several legitimate reasons exist for women to undergo bottom surgery, it is vital to acknowledge the associated risks. It is concerning that some women may feel pressured to opt for surgery for self-preservation. A crucial aspect of the discourse revolves around exploring alternative avenues for women to experience gender euphoria and feel secure without surgery. It is time to contemplate the meaning of womanhood beyond genitalia to foster an environment of acceptance and well-being.
While discussing marginalized people, it’s important to acknowledge that the PPC disproportionately harms women of color. There is an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness in those living as minorities in White-dominant cultures. It’s a sensitive topic that requires nuance and understanding. In her video, “Black Women and the Cleanliness Obsession,” historian Elexus Jionde explores the deep-seated associations between cleanliness and worthiness in the Black community. It’s an insightful analysis that sheds light on the cultural and historical factors behind this phenomenon.
The obsession with cleanliness is taken to an extreme that borders on godliness. One allegation of a “stinky pussy,” and your social reputation can be ruined. There could be many reasons, such as the barbeque phase of your period, a yeast infection, or maybe you’ve been eating too much garlic. These are biologically normal things that can happen regularly from person to person. Yet, people cringe, gag, and act grossed out. We must get a grip and stop demonizing natural bodily functions.
It’s frustrating how we can joke about “balls” and “nuts” all the time, but it’s taboo when it comes to the vagina. It’s even more infuriating when the beauty industry capitalizes on this obsession and preys on people dealing with normal bodily functions. It’s time to normalize conversations around the health of marginalized bodies and break down the barriers that prevent us from doing so. It can be helpful to prioritize education about our bodies and health instead of relying solely on the beauty industry for a quick fix.
Many people feel pressure to maintain a pristine vaginal ecosystem and use various products like douches and washes from brands like Summer’s Eve or The Honey Pot Company. Unfortunately, these products disrupt the natural biome of the vagina and can lead to bacterial vaginosis. Despite the health risks, women often continue using these products due to societal pressure and fear of being perceived as unclean.
Even more concerning is that some have turned to harmful practices to maintain a desirable odor, such as douching with Lysol or using talcum powder in their underwear. These vintage vag-upkeep methods have led to numerous lawsuits, including a billion dollar settlement by Johnson & Johnson for their talcum powder products linked to ovarian and cervical cancers.
It is essential to recognize that vaginal odor and discharge are natural and healthy bodily functions. The societal expectation for women to smell like flowers and vanilla at all times is unrealistic and damaging. It perpetuates a harmful culture that reinforces negative body image and self-esteem issues. The narrative needs to be shifted to encourage self-love and acceptance, prioritizing education on proper vaginal hygiene practices that do not harm the body.
As a society, we must work towards dismantling the stigma around menstruation and vaginal health and instead promote open and honest discussions. It is time to recognize that vaginal health is a crucial aspect of overall health, and we must prioritize it as such.
Meet Haylee, a writer with a passion for the unique and the strange. When she's not writing for The Collegian, you can find her binge-watching Real Housewives or getting lost in the world of plane documentaries. When she's not in front of a screen, she's either tide-pooling or sipping on an oat milk latte, both of which provide her with a sense of peace and calm as a chihuahua dog mom. With a unique perspective and an eye for detail, Haylee uses journalism as a way to understand the world and the people that make it special.