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By Nathan Schaaf
3. Cosmopolitan Magazine: Empowerment or Entrapment?
“Yes, I said ‘vagina’ in a headline!”
—Rosemary Mac Cabe, Irish Times
I’ve managed to swallow my pride long enough to get into the only checkout line open at Target, the one manned by the exceptionally buff “dude” with the tribal tattoo. I set down my purchases and begin slowly perusing the gum selection, hoping it will prevent any awkward conversation. Out of the corner of my eye I see him ringing up the aftermath of my shopping spree: the special edition of Halloween II, two packages of women’s socks—I like the fit a bit better and the colors are more fun—and the April 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine (Cosmo). Either the cashier hasn’t registered the oddity of my purchase or he has an excellent poker face, because I’m certain that buying all this makes me look like an aspiring serial killer.
In January of 2012, Cosmo released Dakota Fanning’s cover spread, with a feature story entitled “Uh, Vagina, Are You Okay Down There?” Media backlash ensued (apparently talking about vaginas in conjunction with minors is a no-no…who’d have thought!) and Cosmo edited their future printings for advertisers and several store releases. In the aftermath of the critical derision brought on by the Dakota Fanning issue, it seems that Cosmo has been reined in a bit.
Marketed as teaching “break your bed sex,” April’s steamy bedroom feature says vagina once, perhaps twice, whereas it says penis at least four or five times as much. While clearly geared toward sex, Cosmo has watered down its contents substantially. In the 200-some pages of the magazine, I could only find verbatim mention of a vagina two other times: once in an advertisement for the Nuva-Ring and again in a medical advice column. Granted, it pained me to pour over every inch of Cosmo’s asinine sex tips (Ladies, wearing a leather jacket with no shirt on will not make you feel naughty, it will merely chafe your nipples!) but I can guarantee that the inclusion of vaginas lingered in single digits. Apparently Cosmo’s idea of a kick-ass bad girl, as the cover states, is a woman without genitals, because the sex columns usually opt to say “down there” and the medical advice columns are typically reserved for STDs and abnormalities. It would appear that the magazine touting itself as branded towards “fun, fearless females” has a few things of which it’s afraid.
4. “Pussy Rap”: The Lyrical Vagina
“I’m da pussy monster, da pussy monster, da pussy monster, da pussy monster!”
—Lil Wayne, “Pussy Monster”
“I dive in that pussy, yeah I bellyflop! I jackknife!”
—B.o.B. feat. Lil Wayne, “Strange Clouds”
“Have you ever had sex with a pharaoh? I put the pussy in her sarcophagus!”
—Kanye West, “Monster”
“Boy, I put this pussy on your chinny chin chinny!”
—Nicki Minaj, “Blow Ya Mind”
There is little I can say about this other than I hope rappers everywhere are prepared when all the cats they have offended come calling. We should not be teaching America’s youths that women keep felines between their legs. I’m surprised PETA hasn’t released a statement.
5. Why My Mother Hates When I Say “Vagina,” or Why I Say “Vagina” as Much as I Possibly Can
I think everyone has wondered what it’s like to be a member of the opposite sex from time to time. It seems to be one of those fleeting thoughts that settle upon you when the burden of your gender has become especially cumbersome. Usually it lingers within the realm of transience, never accompanied by any staying power or lasting influence. Sometimes however, this idea can take root and drive individuals to rewrite their genetic makeup. The prevalence of gender reassignment surgeries has only increased in recent years, some popularized estimates citing a 14% annual growth rate.
This isn’t my way of confessing that I’d rather have a vagina, or that I’ve ever seriously thought about it. It’s just my way of saying that I understand. My parents have never been completely accepting of my sexuality. On several occasions, my father has actively renounced the gay in me, saying that he would be extremely uncomfortable if I brought a partner home. My mother has checked out several books on the “choice” behind homosexuality in order to dissuade me from my wicked ways. The two of them conspired to send me to a counselor that dealt with “sexually confused teens” when I was 16. I’m unsure if either parent would attend a homosexual wedding.
How wonderful, I’d think, to be a woman.
If I were a woman: I’d swap out sexual partners like outfits, trying men on to see how they made me feel, to show them I was in control, and I’d never get too attached. I’d be the heartbroken heartbreaker, sinking my teeth in just enough to draw blood, enough to leave boys with little scars, a friendly reminder you’ve been marked. I’d paint my nails in colors of electricity; everyone I touched would feel the shock, the thrill. One day I’d dress like a slut, breasts pushed up and out, lips plumped and cherry red, my breath the scent of vanilla (do you want to taste it, oh so sweet?). The next, I’d be a boardroom executive. Look at me the wrong way and I’ll have your head on a plate, my entrée for the evening, your heart as an appetizer, maybe still beating.
If I were a woman, I’d have a child. I harbor the cradle of life between my legs and you want to fucking tell me what to do? Nice try.
If I were a woman, I would be infinite. My vagina wouldn’t be what you lusted after; it would be what terrified you.
If I were a woman, my parents wouldn’t be ashamed of me. It’d be okay to fall in love with a boy. It’d be okay to be politically incorrect. It’d be okay to let a man into my bed.
But I’m not. I’m just a not-boy, almost-man with a recurring case of vagina envy who can’t understand why women are being censored, who can’t understand why I’ve been able to say penis for years but one mention of the female anatomy incites cringes around the room, who can’t understand why we have political candidates with cocks trying to decide what’s best for a girl’s healthcare, who can’t understand why more women don’t take advantage of the weapon of mass creation they are harboring in their pants. But that’s our world, and in all of the cosmos, I’m a speck on a floating rock in a sea of heavenly matter. My opinion probably doesn’t count for much.
How wonderful, I’d think, to be a woman.
NOTE: Read Part I of “My Vagina” here.
Nathan Schaaf is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska – Omaha. He has a previous publication in Citizens for Decent Literature and two forthcoming essays in the Eunoia Review, while vaguely maintaining a blog. In his spare time, he enjoys cheap wine and scary movies.