The vagina dialogues (December 2010)
Women cannot be prevented from getting Aids without ending violence towards them.
Vagina is the most terrifying word, the most threatening word, in any language of any country I have ever been to. Even when the vagina is worshipped in theory, as the yoni is in India, it is denigrated in practice. It is more reviled and feared than words like plutonium, genocide and starvation. In many countries the word for female genitalia is so derogative or disgusting, it cannot be spoken in public. In a few places, there is no word in the language for vagina at all.
As the vagina is the primary port of transmission from men to women of the Aids virus, how women and men perceive vaginas, talk about or don’t talk about vaginas, how women know their vaginas, feel agency over their vaginas, determines everything about their future. Many women, even in so-called progressive countries, are still not comfortable asking a man out, acting directly on their own desire, be it for a man or a woman. Many women who are sexually active and educated about the virus are still, because of insecurity and embarrassment, having unsafe sex. Many women in the year 2010 do not know how their clitoris functions or how to give themselves pleasure, nor do they feel safe telling a partner or a husband what they need or that it hurts when they are entered without preparation or that it would all work much better if it happened slower.