My legs were suspended in the stirrups of a gynecological exam table when I first saw my womb. The OB/GYN nurse administering my first pelvic examination asked me if I would like to “see” as she handed me a mirror. I was eighteen and had absolutely no idea what the interior of my vagina looked like. I would like to report that my first glimpse of this part of my anatomy filled me with awe but such was not the case. Instead, I became a bit fearful and a little queasy. What was that fleshy protrusion with the small hole in the middle? It seemed alive with a mind of its own as it moved and quivered with my every breath.
Many years later I would find myself in line with about forty excited fans waiting to view Annie Sprinkle's womb. Known as the “prostitute and porn star turned sex educator and artist,” Annie's best known theater and performance art piece was her Public Cervix Announcement, during which she would invite the audience to view her cervix. At the San Francisco event I attended, a hush fell over the onlookers as one by one we took turns using a flashlight to peer into this rarely viewed inner sanctum of the female body.
My (then) husband refused to look. He was concerned that seeing the interior of a vagina might dampen his desire to be inside of one. I believe this fear is fairly common. Some men take this to the extreme when they are afraid to witness the births of their children. We live in a culture where matters of the womb such as menstruation and birth are verboten, so both men and women tend toward embarrassment and avoidance patterns in relationship to these very natural functions of female sexual anatomy.
Historically, women's wombs have been the battleground of gender politics, evoking efforts to suppress female sexual and creative power. At one time it was common practice to remove women's wombs [hysterectomy] to cure a litany of ills lumped together under the catch-all phrase, hysteria. Today, although hysteria is no longer treated with hysterectomy, the United States has the highest rate of hysterectomy of any industrialized nation. Hysterectomy is the second most frequently performed surgery on women, second only to cesareans, which constitute another medical assault on the womb.
In Reclaiming Our Health, my close friend John Robbins advises “Regardless of our gender, the female body was our gateway to life . . . If we are to bring healing to ourselves, to our society, and to our world, we must regain respect for our bodies, and particularly for women's bodies, for it is women who are most devalued, and it is women in whose wombs and hearts future generations are shaped.” [Chapter 1, page 11]
While our culture has eroticized the exterior of a woman's genitals (the vulva), we seem to avoid any awareness of the interior landscape past a cursory knowledge of its reproductive functions. However, the womb does more than make babies. It also generates pleasure and deep emotions. Author of Womb Wisdom, Padma Aon Prakasha, explains:
“The Womb is the key generator of tremendous creative potential, vitality, sensuality, heart power and manifestation. It not only births children, but projects spiritual potential, personal healing and the depths of relating we all yearn for. It brings fullness, balance and loving power to your deepest relationships, and is the crucible for Sacred Union between man and woman. It is vital for men to know, understand and work with as the womb births the divine masculine.”
Sex educator, Sheri Winston, details the importance of the womb to sexual response in Women's Anatomy of Arousal: “. . . the uterus is a player in the game of arousal and orgasm. As a woman gets turned on, muscle tension increases . . . This action lifts the womb up and forward while pleasurably tugging on the muscular opening of the vagina. As the woman's turn-on escalates, the womb is raised further and further up, like a taut bowstring being pulled way back . . . during orgasm, the uterus pulses up and down in a deep, slow, throbbing background rhythm that provides a bass counterpoint to the faster quivering of the pelvic floor muscles as they spasm. This pulsing adds emotional and erotic richness to the orgasm . . .” [Chapter 7, page 123]
The womb is a second heart, holding our secrets and fears, the tears we have cried over betrayal and lost love. The womb is a seat of power containing the birth of nations and our own creative force. When we connect to the womb, we tap into our core essence, which is love. When we approach the womb with respect, she blossoms into the lovely flower of all our desires and deepest cravings for connection and wholeness. The womb is a portal to the past, the present and the future. The womb invites us to feel more than we have ever felt before and to know our own truth. Pregnant with possibility, the womb beats to the timeless rhythm of the universe while connecting us to each other and ourselves with love and passion. Simply put, the womb is a doorway to the Divine.
A more holistic approach to our sexuality invites a blending of our emotions, passions and desires. Including the womb in our sexual landscape acknowledges the truth about female sexual anatomy - everything is connected! The clitoris, vulva, vagina, female prostrate, G-Spot, A-Spot, cervix and uterus form an awe inspiring whole capable of creating life, pleasure and intimacy. No wonder the ancients worshipped female genitalia.
Next month: Part Two of The Wisdom of the Womb: Healing Sexual Trauma