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Viva La Vulva! When Did Female Genitalia Become Obscene?

January 26, 2020 - General
An example of a Sheela na gig, a carving of a naked woman with an exaggerated vulva.

In September 2019, a French ad for feminine hygiene products featuring taboo-breaking representations of vulvas and menstruation sparked controversy. Yet in a cultural context in France, phallic symbols rarely cause a fuss. What explains this difference in treatment?

Images of male genitalia in art and advertising rarely cause a stir – we’re used to them. Male statues have been flaunting their (fairly realistic) penises in public parks for centuries, and Perrier often centers its ads on phallic-shaped bottles.

In contrast, vulval symbols are conspicuous by their absence. No wonder, then, that the Nana brand’s “Viva la Vulva” campaign is causing a stir. The phallus is seen as a powerful image, whereas the vulva is upsetting to many. But this has not always been the case.

The Divine Vulva of Ishtar: A Fertility Symbol

In the third millennium BC, the Sumerians, inhabitants of present-day Iraq, worshipped the goddess Ishtar. Poetic texts refer to the goddess’ wet vulva, fertilized by the sperm of her mortal husband, Dumuzi, the shepherd king.

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Source: origins

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