Last spring, those of us in who are members of Betty Dodson’s “army of orgasmic women” knew that Betty and Carlin were working on a big secret vulva project. In early July, Carlin contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to share a picture of my vulva for the project: an episode of a new series produced by Gwenyth Paltrow for Netflix.
Without hesitation, I responded yes! I was excited to be asked. I had to submit a new vulva picture within the next couple of days and sign a release. No problem!
I got started right away. I was a week shy of my next waxing appointment, so I decided to just shave due to the time limit. I tried taking a “selfie” but I couldn’t get a good shot. When my partner came home from work, I enlisted his help. “I always wanted to be a porn photographer,” he said.
But I’ve never seen a vulva like mine in porn. I have a very pillow-y outer labia, with a prominent clitoris and a petite inner labia. I’ve seen firsthand other vulva characteristics similar to mine during the Genital Show and Tell ritual in the Bodysex workshops. In fact, I once saw my vulva twin! Of course, not identical as every vulva is unique like a snowflake. But similar enough for me to remark, “It’s like looking in a mirror!” Seeing a vulva like mine made me feel validated and normal. It added a layer of self-confidence about my body and sexuality. I fell even more in love with my own pussy.
That’s why I was so quick to share a picture of my own vulva to be viewed publically around the world. I want women to feel good about their own genitals. I want everyone to know that each vulva is unique and just beautifully perfect.
My boyfriend took numerous pictures with different lighting and angles. I got one or two shots good enough to crop and send in. Our photo shoot evolved into some playtime for both of us. Ending the photo shoot with my orgasm seemed to be a fitting way to send out positive energy for this project into the world.
After I sent off the photo, I wondered if my picture was okay. Did I have the right lighting, a high enough resolution, did the colors look good? I wondered if my vulva was okay. Was my vulva too unusual? Maybe I wouldn’t fit in with the other vulva pics. Maybe my vulva would be rejected. Maybe the whole idea of sharing vulva pictures on Netflix was too much and it would get cut from the episode.
I had no doubts as I signed the release or emailed a picture of my driver’s license to give permission to the filming company. I wanted to be seen. So did the others. In a follow-up email, Carlin commented that the show’s producers couldn’t believe that we gave our pictures, signed releases, and photo ID’s so willingly and quickly. It is the power of Bodysex.
A couple of weeks later, I saw Betty and Carlin at Betty’s 90th birthday celebration retreat. Carlin was very excited about the episode. She told us that Gwenyth Paltrow is the real deal. She understands the importance of getting information about women’s bodies and pleasure out into the world. While Carlin would be showing her own vulva in the episode, Betty and Carlin insisted on presenting a range of vulva pictures to show that there isn’t just one idealized type. The producers agreed. Carlin thanked all of us who submitted pictures at the retreat. We were couldn’t wait to see the episode when the series debuted in 2020.
In December, we got word that the series “The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow” would debut on January 24th. The trailer looked intriguing! I saw snips of Betty and Carlin during the interview. I couldn’t wait for it to be released! Nervously, I truly hoped my vulva would be pictured in the episode. I really wanted it to be there. I wanted to contribute to something big and meaningful to women. But I also wondered if my vulva made the cut. In my mind, there were so many reasons why it might not be. And I’ve got to admit, even after all of the progress that I’ve made with healing my own body shame, I held a thought deep inside: maybe my vulva wasn’t good enough.
So this morning when I woke up, my first thoughts were about the episode: “The Pleasure is Ours.” I was excited, like Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to see the conversation with Betty and Carlin. I couldn’t wait to see the information included in the episode. Most important to me personally, I was eager to out if my vulva picture was included.
Just about 15 minutes into the episode, there was a view of Carlin’s vulva. Then Betty says, “But you have to show more than one. Because if you only showed one, that would become the ONE. We’d all imitate it.” And the vulva pictures commenced with a voice-over. “So you need to show a variety,” says Betty. “Yes, so you see that image and in that moment you know you’re not alone.” chimes in Carlin. Then I see the photograph of my vulva. “And then you know there is nothing wrong with you. How healing is that, ‘cause you can say ‘oh, that looks like mine,’ ” finishes Carlin.
It is mine. And there is nothing wrong with me. My vulva is on Netflix.
The way I feel about my body has been an ongoing journey. I’ve gotten so many negative messages since childhood about how my body doesn’t measure up. Healing shame is like going through the layers of an onion. Just when I thought I was at the center, I found that I could go deeper to another layer. The more that I’m willing to be vulnerable, the more I’m able to heal. This was another step toward liberating myself from shame by digging deeper into owning and loving all of me.
So back to the episode . . . the wisdom shared by Betty and Carlin is so important. Seeing our genitals and knowing that our vulvas are normal and beautiful is an important step. Women have a right to experience pleasure. We need to learn how to give it to ourselves and receive it from others. All of the information in this episode is important. I hope that helps empower other women and helps men better understand the female experience.
Want to know more? Watch the third episode, “The Pleasure is Ours,” in The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow series. It’s streaming now on Netflix.