“This one looks like a tropical plant,” Eugene Levy’s character in American Pie said as he examined the centerfold in a pornographic magazine. I didn’t realize how true that statement is. Thanks to commercial photographer, Nick Karras’ book Petals, I was able to see just how different vulvas can be. Last September, Nick Karras chatted to me on Sexy in Vancity about how he took pictures of a former lover’s vulva to show her how beautiful she was. At first she was uncomfortable looking at the photos. When he printed the photos in black and white, it seemed to erase the embarrassment she felt. She realized how beautiful her vulva was and showed the pictures to a friend.
Shortly after this, he was approached by several of the women in a women’s group of sexual violence survivors. Many of the women asked if they could pose for him. Through this process, he photographed over 100 women’s vulvas and the subjects of the photography sessions found healing through the process. When they saw the photographs, they could look at their vulvas without shame or stigma. His journey and the opinions of several sex educators (including Betty Dodson and Linda Savage PHD) was documented in the 2008 Winner of the Sexual Intelligence Award Film Petals Journey into Self Discovery. Last year, I saw the film during the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Towards the end of the film, the black and white photos revealed 48 photographs of vulvas. Each one did resemble a flower. Each one beautiful in its own right. Photograph after photograph paused for a brief moment on the screen. I sat in the dark watching each image different from the previous one. This should be a prerequisite to anyone studying the female anatomy, I thought. During the question and answer session after the film, Nick Karras mentioned that he was looking for models for a colour version of Petals geared towards university medical students.
Perhaps this should be a prerequisite to sex education in the school system. For some women, the only opportunity they have to see a vulva is if they hold a hand mirror at the exact perfect angle between their legs. How do we expect lovers of women to be able to give pleasure when we (ourselves) do not know what our anatomy is?
I am looking forward to chatting to celebrated sexuality teacher, Sheri Winston, CNM, RN, BSN, LMT about that on tonight’s show. Winston, author of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure’s unique perspective is derived from decades of experience as a certified nurse-midwife, gynecology practitioner, registered nurse, holistic healer, childbirth educator, massage therapist, and student of the esoteric erotic arts. She is the founder and executive director of the Center for the Intimate Arts.
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