Marilyn Minter said a few years back that her art is in the outtakes. “It’s the moment when everything goes wrong,” she says. “It’s when the model sweats. There’s lipstick on teeth and the makeup’s running.”
I experienced another Marilyn Minter turnon this morning, reading about vaginas.
Posting an extensive collection of Minter images, one of several inspirations for our soon to launch Making Waves | Modern Aphrodites 2011 erotic writing project, I understand clearly why the artist is considered to be a purveyor or scopophilia.
Meaning of Scopophilia
Derived from the Greek ‘love of looking’, scopophilia or scoptophilia means deriving pleasure from looking. The moment I read ‘philia’ my mind went, not to Hamlet, but to the world of carnal pleasures.
As an expression of sexual pleasure, scopophilia describes sexual pleasure derived from looking at erotic objects, erotic photographs and naked bodies. In the 1970s, the term was used by cinema psychoanalysts to decribe pleasure — often considered pathological — spectators experience when they watch films.
Laughing just now, I said that I experience scopophilia with erotic flowers.
A quick trip to the dictionary confirms that ‘philia’ connotes unnatural attraction. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy makes ‘philia’ a subset of ‘The Nature of Love’, breaking down Eros, Philia and Agape.
Interestingly, the Greeks didn’t make ‘philia’ a dirty word. Think Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. One assumes that ‘philia’ got dirty with the rise of monotheism.
Le Petit Mort
I returned to the subject of vaginas today, ruminating over a comment I made last week about the male fear of castration in female orifices. Busy rewriting a new definition of sensuality that I will present to Webster’s before the end of 2011 — come hell or high water — I found myself in the muck of ‘vagina dentata’ at 5am.
You might think that ‘vagina dentata’ or a vagina full of teeth capable of devouring a phallus without warning is present only in ancient history and mythology. It was actually the basis of the 2007 horror/humor film ‘Teeth’.
In Praise of Yoni Worship
With no intention of minimizing the degree of misogyny that today’s women experience in India, it is factually correct to say that among the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the country is Kamakhya.
It is here, the puranas (sacred texts) tell us, that the yoni (vulva or womb) of Devi (Goddess) fell to Earth. The summer festival known as Ambubachi Mela attracts 40,000 devotees in a celebration of fundamental life mysteries grounded in menstrual blood.
The yoni of the Goddess Devi Kamakhya, the Mother Shakti, is worshipped — a vulva-shaped stone the size of a basket ball — although no one may look upon Her directory. She is guarded by priests who bathe her blindfolded and covered by a red cloth and flowers.
Thankfully, the Victorian colonists didn’t succeed in stamping out all reverence for yonis in India. I feel us falling into a soft abyss of lips, tongues and vulvas; and they are all beautiful.
The growth of labiaplasty in America shows that we have not learned much from Mother Nature. Erotic flowers may come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, no two the same. Cultural standards in America suggest that every woman can have the perfect vagina, if only she ponies up the cash.
Amazing Variations in Natural Beauty
This gorgeous orchid makes me think of the ‘liberated’ medical minds that say the vulva is a reverse penis. At first hearing, the concept sounds like feminist claptrap, but when you look at Jamie McCartney’s videos and website, you see that we are all works of art — inside and outside.
Most women haven’t even looked at their vulvas, so I’m not clear how they know they are ‘deformed’. It’s not my place to counsel women that their vulvas are most likely gorgeous and not in need of fixing. I do believe that most women would be stunned to see their own natural vulva beauty as sculpture.
I am such a sassy pain in the butt, that I just might put mine on the table as part of the dinner decorations. In my personal experience of photographing my own genitalia, it was key to helping me see my own beauty inside and out.
When we allow ourselves to confront our physicality in a positive way — as discussed in the news video that follows — we often see that we have overblown defects in our minds. Cornered by the ‘help missions’ of the beauty and fashion industry, women’s media, and the religious guys bossing around our body parts, our female sense of selves become totally distorted.
Artist Marilyn Mintner shows how seductively erotic and gorgeous we are in our imperfections, if only we can let ourselves go, and the experts leave us to our own private thinking about physicality. If a woman’s premise is that her genitalia is beautiful, sensual and seductive to her husband or lover — or herself alone — she will only seek surgery as a last resort.
Loving your ‘lips’ the way they are is the concept behind Jamie McCartney’s current art project, a large sculpture of individual castings from 200 women’s vulvas.
Note: British TV but has images of castings in process with minor vaginal nudity. This is a beautiful video and I encourage every man and woman — and the women for sure — to take a moment and watch it. Most of you will get tears in your eyes. For any woman considering ‘corrective’ vulva cosmetic surgery, you definitely should watch the videos.
In the second video, the woman having her vaginal lips celebrated in sculpture references an abusive husband who told her that she was deformed at 19, after having a child. She healed in time, before donating her genitalia to The Great Wall of Vagina project.
No one has ever specifically complained about my genitalia, but I have experienced serious verbal and physical abuse in my life. In rants that aren’t very different from Tertullian’s quotes about the decadence of women, my body parts were called unspeakable names.
Psychologists tell us that the words last far longer and do more permanent harm than the bruises.
Jamie McCartney describes his art as a confrontation, and I think this is a perfect word. It’s a private confrontation between the woman and her sculpture. It’s a social confrontation in a world that has turned disgusting bodies into putty in the hands of doctors that will redeem our self esteem — when only we can do that for ourselves.
I am not suggesting that no woman should have labiaplasty. But I am acknowledging that we live in a pornified world of perfect bodies, where nine-year-old girls are getting their pubes waxed.
Meanwhile, as men and women, we become more and more distanced from our natural selves, unable to connect with our authentic identity and to love the woman or man we’re living with every day.
I want us to be free of the thought that we are in need of fixing. To be never ‘good enough’ is psychologically destructive and the trend is accelerating in our modern world.
We share enough sensual guilt as it is. I love Marilyn Minter, Jamie McCartney and Goddess Devi Kamakhya for helping us see our own beauty, even if our world is determined to put one obstacle after another to self love in our path.
Consider making your New Year’s Resolution: I do not need fixing! Love, Anne
Channel 4 - The Perfect Vagina
The Great Wall of Vagina - Pt 1