Philip Werner Talks Vaginas, Nakedness & Body Image

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About Philip Werner

Philip Werner is a Melbourne based photographer, we-designer, gardener, engineer, peace activist, and sensitive little boy hiding in a man's body.
Born in Germany, he grew up next to fields and forests on the outskirts of Hamburg until his parents got tired of the cold war in the mid '80s and brought the family to Australia for a warmer climate.
After graduating in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Sydney, Philip became disillusioned with the workabee world and sought refuge in various community projects and in his artistic pursuit, photography.
Intelligent (can be over analytical), self confident (sometimes arrogant), inquisitive (can be intrusive), well traveled (a little jaded), full of ideas (when not cynical), thoughtful (can be pensive), very good listener (articulate), honest (sometimes too open); likes his humour dry. Post-mainstream, post-freak, post-new-age, post-nerd/geek, post-philosophy, neo-nothing.

Comments

  1. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Stop this. There are no pictures of vaginas, unless they’re endoscopic ones. Women’s sexual organs are called vulvas. They protrude. They swell when the woman is sexually excited. The liabiae majorae (what we call the pudendum) are most apparant, but they contain also the clitoris, and the labiae minorae (the inner lips.) Lubricant comes from the actual vagina with excitation, and some (a few) women produce a lot of extra fluid at orgasm, but it’s not like the fake squirting in porn. Calling this wonderful set of organs “the vagina” is crazy, and I actually think it’s somewhat deliberate (to supress the notion of a detailed and sophisticated sex organ in a subtle third wave feminist move to privilege the surface and its fetishes above actual pleasure.) Even if supposed feminists produced the so-called Vagina Monologues, I can tell you the 1970s feminists of my generation would have called the area a vulva.

  2. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Vulva, not vagina.

  3. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Hi Philip,

    I made more lenthy comments, but they’ve not been released by moderation yet. It’s not you in particular– but I’ve noticed the replacement of vulva by vagina and been mystified by it– at least as this has happened in the US. I agree that yoni is an absolutely lovely word, and lingam doesn’t seem to have a sense of prickishness to it at all.

    Very nice pictures you have!

    Best,

    Hank

    • Hank,

      It’s just colloquial, that’s all. I don’t think there is anything to be mystified about, it’s really simple.
      People just need one simple word for the whole genital area, inside and out, and most people are happy with the word vagina.

      If you ever say gay rather than homosexual you are doing the same thing. It’s colloquial.

      Ciao,
      Philip

      • Well I’m a woman and I’m not happy with the incorrect term being used again and again. Use the correct terms for my body because I don’t use the wrong ones to refer to your body parts. I read the reasons for using vagina but if people had used the correct term all along it would be unnecessary to use the wrong one. So start here with the correct term!

        • Hi Laura,

          Thanks for your input, but again, THE BOOK IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE PHOTOS !!!

          I understand that it is difficult to appreciate without actually seeing the book, but the photos are really just one aspect of the book. To have called the book 101 Vulva would actually have been limiting and incorrect also, because the book is also about each woman’s experience of the entire area, inside and outside.

          Regarding correct words, which “correct” word would you use for a book about penises, which, however, also shows the testicles. We don’t have a word for penis + testicles, so I have settled for penis.

          In the same way we don’t have a technically correct word for internal + external female genitalia, so I’m using vagina colloquially.

          Would you perhaps have preferred I use the word cunt, which in my understanding encompasses internal and external?

          Kind regards,
          Philip

  4. A calender of Vagina pictures? Here in the U.S., youcan’t hang up a calender with women in Bikinis without being accused of ‘Sexual Harrassment’.(Seriously, this happened at work and I’ve heard of it happening elsewhere.) I can just imagine that a Vagina calender would really go over like “A fart in Church”

    • You can’t hang up a calendar of women in bikinis because that would be objectifying women. You know, appreciating us mainly for our fuckability and what you get out of us. I believe Philip’s intention is to take the objectification factor out of the exhibition of vaginas. To normalise them. But I must admit, I do worry about people like you who rightly or wrongly I’m assuming might look at a calendar like this in the same way as you’d look at tits and arse.

      • Yeah, but go into any office filled with female workers and I gaurentee you’ll see one or more of those ‘Hunky Fireman’ calenders. You know’ where the guy’s there with his oiled up pecs and 6 pack abs, pants pulled down low enough to show his ‘pubes’. Hey, it’s for charity so it’s all good right? Really, women are such hyprocrites!

        • Provocative photos of either gender are simply not appropriate for the workplace. Outside the workplace you can put up all the sexy calendars you want.

  5. Hey Bobbt,

    Hmmm… actually I think we’re talking about chalk and cheese here.

    Bikini calendars tend to represent a very particular idea of beauty and value and my understanding is that the suggestion that women’s value lies only in their ability to look appealing in a bikini is what some people take issue with.

    The 101 Vagina project actually does the opposite. It represents all shapes and sizes equally without suggesting any one way of being is better than the other, and it also greatly values the depth that each individual woman’s message brings to the project.

    I.e. value is being placed in diversity and in depth, rather than a narrow ideal of physical beauty alone.

    So, you might find that some people who object to bikini calendars would be happy to hang one of these vagina calendars on their wall.

    http://101vagina.com/calendar

    Make sense?

    Kind regards,
    Philip

    • Honestly Phillip, I do see what you’re trying to do and I truely wish you nothing but success. The particular calender I’m reffering tois about as innocent as you could expect . A Crane rental company use to send calenders to the construction companies that they do business with. These calenders had pretty women and yes, they were in BATHING SUITS (actually, some were ‘one piece’ suits) nothing sexually provacative (Eg; onall fours with their but in the air). I mean, I really consider it a ‘Reach’ to call this ‘Sexually Provacative’. Anyway, I guess this company got enough complaints that they changed their calenderthat it now shows pictures of their cranes on various construction jobs. Either way, it means no difference to me personally (Actually , I get a kick at looking at some of the cranes they rent.) I just think it’s so hypocritical that some of the same women that complain about such calenders, packed theaters to see ‘Majic Mike’ (Not to mention those that sell out the ‘Real shows’) and buy every ‘Beefcake ‘ calender (along with Playgirl magizene) Yet complain that MEN are the ‘objectifiers’.

  6. I commend you for what sounds like a valuable and healthy project. Maybe men could benefit from a book of normal penises too.

    I’ve just been horrified by the popularity of labiaplasty. I understand that some women may have a legitimate medical need, for example if their labia are so large that they are physically uncomfortable, but it is so sad that normal women have been led to believe that normal sized labia are abnormal. I’ve read that any protrusion of the labia outside the outer lips is now considered “too large,” which means millions of women with perfectly normal genitals have suddenly been labelled abnormal or defective. Doctors are using phrases like “hypertrophic labia” to make it sound like a medical disorder when actually it’s a completely normal and common variation.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Yes, 101 Penis (http://101penis.com) is in the pipeline also, though I want to get 101 Vagina launched first. I do believe that 101 Penis is just as important and necessary. There isn’t really any space for men to speak candidly about their relationship to their penises in a way that isn’t just all bravado and macho. I’m looking forward to what kind of messages men will be wanting to share with the world.

      And, yes, the whole labioplasty is a very sad state of affairs.

      Ciao,
      Philip

      • You know, Phillip, you’re right, laboplasty is “a sad state of affairs” However, men have been told through millena that less than 7″ is unacceptable. Even though only 9% of the male population falls into that catagorie, according to ‘Women’s Health’ magazine, over 70% of the women who answered their twitter sex survey (over 20 thousand) over 70% said , SIZE MATTERS!

  7. Thank you for mentioning that story about the woman at the beach post-mastectomy who has accepted her body and is not afraid to show it on the beach….very empowering…I think it takes a lot for someone to just accept her own body like that and be so fearless….that to own up to the fact that you don’t look like some idealistic Greek statue of a woman ( or a Victoria’s Secret model) can be quite liberating….

  8. While it all sounds like a worthwhile project, I think that women’s issues with their genitals are too deep-rooted to be changed by a few images. We are *taught* to hate ourselves, and I disagree that this has come from other women – for me, personally, it has always been male attitudes that have affected me most. Even at an early age, I overheard teenage boys’ comments of “smells like fish”, and later in life, men have told me that my protruding labia “look like a small penis”, or that I was too hairy, simply because I don’t shave. I enjoy porn, but I find the profusion of main-stream porn – a male dominated industry, where the majority of porn is made by men, for men – further undermines my body image.
    No matter how confident you are to begin with, in time those kind of things will destroy your self-esteem … and your sex life.

    • Hi Jaqui,

      Thanks. Yes, a few images would not have as big an impact. It really is the messages from the women that gives the book it’s depth and touches people most strongly.

      Please don’t understand that I’m suggesting men play no major role in this. Note that I premised by reply with “what else besides… porn”. The idea that men are to blame is common and so I felt it needs less repeating. I actually don’t think it’s a gender issue but a whole of society issue that the majority play their unfortunate part in. Men and women both have to deal with stereotyped expectations.

      Regards,
      Philip

    • I mostly hear body shaming of women by other women where I live. Men seem to be too busy wanting to have sex to care as much. Don’t think I’ve met many men that didn’t like the smell of the vagina/vulva/etc either so it’s sad to hear of your experiences. Don’t give up hope, there are many men that LOVE “bush”.

    • Hank Vandenburgh says:

      Jaqui, I’ve come to the conclusion that the women who come to this site are either phenomenally crippled, or that things have changed in a really bad way since the 1970s. Probably the latter, and believe me, this is not a criticism of you personally. Most of the young women I knew in the 70s would have just laughed at the attempted body shaming of women. I think part of it was that they were really in control of their own sexuality and comfortable about that, frequently aggressive about it. With the economic downturns since the 70s and the word put out by the newer, sex-negative feminists about too easy sex being too pro-male (this also goes with sociobiological notions – positing that they come more to the fore in economically stressed times) has convinced many women to implicitly return to the neo-Victorian 1950s. I believe that these trends have made women passive and jumpy about their sexuality as they try to commodify themselves as opposed to being (as they were for a while) sexual subjects, not packaged objects. It’s odd, but this tendency to become passive in the face of other women’s and men’s judgements has accompanied greater success for women professionally. What are in some ways good things, like sexual harrassment policies, suggest to women that they are also passive– they also suggest that women themselves cannot be sexual subjects at work. Strange.

      • Hank,

        I don’t think throwing insults around (calling people crippled) is going to further your cause.

        Generally I think people care less about what comes after an insult, rendering the points you make ineffectual. I.e. you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

        Regards,
        Philip

      • Hi Hank.
        Since when did a woman who takes an interest in a site that deals with men’s issues become crippled? What a judgmental comment! I find that really offensive.
        As a woman, I feel I am perfectly entitled – and, I feel, more qualified than you are – to comment on an article ostensibly about women’s body image.

        I am tempted to reply to your comments (because, FYI, I was also a young woman in the 1970s, and I had a different experience to the one you described) but with an abusive attitude such as the one that you have just displayed, I really don’t think you’re worth the effort.

        What you have just demonstrated is a further example of men putting women down, this time for daring to express an opinion.

  9. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    What I’ve noticed here is that many of the women correspondents seem to speak from a position of non-agency. We see comments on other threads about how men made women feel one way or another. In these statements men are asked to change their behavior or evolve perceptions that seem to me, frankly, impossible. Now, the fact is that others can’t in the long run make anyone feel anything. I acknowledge that in the short run, we all can be severely taken aback by cruel things that are said to us, like some of the things that were said to Jacqui.

    But note that I said that I suspected that there’d been an unfortunate cultural change between the days of the counterculture and today. And that I suspected that it was not that Jacqui pe se who was crippled, but the new culture that posited eternally victimized women and eternally oppressive men. Today, even with the general acceptance of a type of feminism, women seem to be cast as unable to stand up for themselves. I think that that’s an unfortunate consequence of what I’ll call the bureaucratization of everyday life– and some part of it is due to a notion that feminism must be enshrined as rules to stop oppression, as opposed to the general empowerment of women– which we seemed to have more of in the counterculture. So my hope for Jaqui is that she can use her power to not believe what men have said (by the way I think women are much more of a source of disability for women than men are – think slut shaming) and thus change her perceptions and behavior.

    The humanistic psychology movement of the 1960s – 1970s was a source of great personal power for both men and women. People like Perls could be rude, but they were therapeutic. Philip, your work reminds me of Betty Dotson’s. She was very effective– and powerful.

    • Yeah, I think it’s interesting and complex. I agree that when something happens to us we choose how we respond to that. However our ability to choose a course of action (our agency) is related to how aware we are of ourselves (our choices). The question then is how best to help ourselves and others to gain that awareness.

  10. Just weighing in… as someone who was considering labiaplasty about an hour ago, before my friend sent me this link, I would like to say thank you to you, Philip. I wanted to see images of women and vulvas because of my own insecurity, but I couldn’t get past the tsunami of graphic porn, or rubbish diagrams, which is all the damn internet has to say… and compounded the issue for me.

    I think this project, and its 101Penis counterpart, is vital. As for choosing the name ‘vagina’ over ‘vulva’, I think it’s very important, because even as a professional, educated woman I wouldn’t have thought to call my ‘vagina’ a vulva. It’s not in common usage for me. It was not discussed at school or with those closest to me. I didn’t know the word until well into my 20s. I would hope young women today are receiving a better education, but I feel that the colloquial use of vagina is what has to be worked with to make this work accessible to women, who rightly or wrongly have a lack of language choices when it comes to describing something they have been taught to ignore (I’m British).

    Hopefully this book will open the door for a better education for all.

    • Dear Alison,

      That’s fantastic, thank you so much for your message!

      It’s great to read for several reasons. Firstly I’m so glad that the project has now officially helped someone who was considering labiaplasty by offering a counter argument of sorts.

      It’s also really great to hear your support of the use of the word vagina. Interestingly, I think it’s mainly women (and some men) who are militantly PC and already hyper-aware of these issues who seem to object, but they are not really the target audience anyway. They are the choir I’m not preaching to.

      Even Betty Dodson, a well respected educator, objected to the project because of it’s name. This suggests a disconnect from the average folk who search the internet for “vagina” rather than “vulva” when they want to find stuff. This is an important point all the detractors fail to realise.

      So, once again, I’m super glad that you got something out of this project!!

      And though the book launch is not slated until March, you can already pre-order the book here:
      http://101vagina.com/shop

      Kind regards,
      Philip

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