Despite leaps and bounds our society has made to bridge the gender gap, some key issues pervade. While there are many important subjects deserving of extensive coverage in the Yowl, I’d like to talk about one in particular: vaginaphobia. Whether we realize it or not, we’ve seen this phenomenon manifest our entire lives. It’s why children think babies come from belly buttons. It’s why high school bathroom doors are covered in drawings of penises instead of uteri. And perhaps most importantly, it’s why when my ex-boyfriend Rick crawled up into my vagina, I just forgot he was in there and figured that’s how I would smell for the rest of my life.

Some might blame me for forgetting that my short-lived rebound relationship culminated in Rick going into full hibernation three inches up my cervix, where he would go on to accumulate bacteria, cause general discomfort, and stink of hellfire for the better part of a month, but I blame the patriarchy. Why else but an internalized hatred of my own sex organ explains the fact that instead of publicly voicing my concerns I just figured that’s the way my vagina smelled from now on and coped by unironically referring to it as ‘Ol Crusty Dusty’?

Were there signs? Of course there were signs. I had incurable hormonal acne and experienced constant bloating. My discharge was a strange color. On quiet nights, my vagina (or as I would later discover, Rick) would whisper that my music taste was too narrow and that I should really try to get into more classic rock. Of course, I ignored my body’s cries for help. This is just the way things are, I thought. It’s the curse of womanhood, I’d say as I compliantly cranked up the Eagles’ ‘Best Of’ album.

One might ask how I finally stopped making excuses for the stench of rotten Old Spice deodorant and Mansweat that constantly emitted from me. It might not surprise you that my salvation came from another woman.

“You want to hear something disgusting?” my classmate Anjelica ‘18 whispered to me in the dead of night, “I fished Marcus out of my vagina four months after we broke up. He had just been in there since September playing FIFA and eating Doritos.” Talk about closure.

I wish I could promise you that it gets better, but I am but one woman with one story to tell. The truth is, these are issues we can only address if we stand in the face of society and begin to speak up. Just know this: if you’ve ever reached deep within your vagina and pulled out a ghost of your past, only to have him spit on you, call you a b*tch, and run away, you are not alone.