photo by Hey Paul Studios
I mentioned in yesterday's weekend links that Kyle and I are watching Season 2 of Orange is the New Black. One of my favorite things about this series is that the characters and their stories are so engaging, so thought-provoking, so challenging on every level that I find that I go to sleep thinking about them and continue to mull them over throughout the next day.
There's a storyline in episode 4 that I just cannot shake. Don't worry, this isn't (too) spoiler-y! I first read about this part of the episode's content when I was reading pre-release articles about this season. I think since it has been covered in mainstream press, we're okay to discuss it here, too.
So, in episode 4, some of the women are discussing, well, peeing, and a few of them are incredulous that the urethra is a separate part of "down there" from the vagina. (The episode is aptly named "A Whole Other Hole." This show is not for everyone is what I'm saying.) I mean to tell you they are filled with shock and disbelief that this is true.
I was flabbergasted at the idea that there are women who don't know how their anatomy works. It bothered me throughout the episode that this could possibly be the case, but near the end of the episode, a few of the characters who you would expect to understand this basic fact of human biology admitted that even they didn't know exactly where everything is down there.
This sparked a brief but humorous conversation between me and Kyle afterwards. I'll spare you the details, but mostly we pondered whether or not girls and women ever grab a mirror to check out all that is going on with their external genitals, to get an up-close look at how things work. I concluded that probably most do not.
It has given me much to think about in the days following. One topic I am fiercely passionate about is raising daughters who are strong, empowered, and confident, free to take on the world from the comfort of their own skin. But I have to wonder if I am missing the mark in teaching them about this essential understanding of how they were created.
Sure, yes, they'll learn it eventually in health class someday. My preference would be, however, that before they even open that textbook, they'll already be savvy experts on the topic. When that day comes, I would rather them roll their eyes at old news than have their jaws drop open in disbelief.
From the time they were little until recently, I took the easy way out and referred to their female parts as "tee-tee" or just "private spaces." As they've gotten older, I've fallen into using the term my mother always used (and I always hated, but here I am, turning into her once again!): "crotch." it took me a few years to get up the nerve to explain to them - as casually as I could with my heart thudding in my chest - some of the different, more precise and technical terms for their anatomy.
And so, they are now very familiar with vulva, vagina, and urethra. During my pregnancy with and shortly after the birth of the twins, they were extremely interested in how they were born from an opening cut above my private space rather than through my vagina. And Dacey has suffered enough urinary tract infections in her life to be familiar with the concept of urethra. With baby brothers in the house, we've added penis and testicles to many daily discussions.
They know names of these spaces but I'm pretty sure they don't know the geography.
At nine and six, are they too young to know? At what age do I grab a mirror and give them the guided tour? Do I just respond to their curiosity and answer questions as they come? Or do we make a big production out of it with a planned (and obviously private) seminar?
These are not rhetorical questions. I am literally asking you.
One thing I am sure of is that I don't want them wandering off into puberty without a working knowledge of the mechanics of "down there." I believe knowledge and empowerment go hand-in-hand. I just gotta figure out how a hand-held mirror fits into this equation.