"Were you embarrassed about your vagina showing?" a friend asked in our long-running Facebook group chat. It's a fair question. Vaginas are our "private parts" after all, and I was letting mine out like a hot pie on a windowsill.

    I recently posed for Strangers in a Fire, a photographic art project created by two talented and, may I add, incredibly sexy friends Brandy Bell and Mitch Wilson. For the project, willing subjects pose in all their naked glory with patterns designed by Brandy or images from found slides projected on their bodies. The resulting shots are sensuous, modern and, as many of the models have exalted, empowering. Oh, and they're also on the Internet.

    When Brandy and Mitch started this project, I volunteered to serve as their first model. I chose to do it to push myself outside my comfort zone, though I had done some nude modeling before as a means of confronting my body shame. Even so, it took a bottle of wine and two vodka-sodas for me to feel comfortable contorting myself with my butthole in the wind for the camera. If I ever want to do porn, I've figured out the alcohol threshold to get me there.

    A year or so later, I was posing confidently and strutting around their apartment in a untied kimono, fully frontal and with absolutely no fucks to give. This is how I imagine Matthew McConaughey saunters through his mansion—stopping to high five his kids and kiss his gorgeous model wife on his way to his prized set of bongos, dick swinging like a palm tree during a windstorm. I had gone full alright, alright, alright McConaughey. What changed in that time? I learned to love my vagina.

    While I know this will leave me flirting dangerously close to inspirational-quote-on-Facebook territory, sex and love vastly improved for me when I started to love myself and my body as it is, particularly when it came to my vagina—my beautiful slit muffin of a vagina.

    Women tend to have a lot of shyness, embarrassment and/or shame about their vaginas, mostly revolving around aesthetics. For years I was so embarrassed about my vagina because I thought it was too chubby. For many women I know, there's something that is a source of embarrassment—larger labia minora, elongated labia majora, childbirth scars, a torturous propensity for in-growns. They are often too shy to even talk about it out of fear that the reaction they get will only solidify their anxieties. The shame is so pervasive, in fact, that Microsoft Word is spellchecking "minora" and "majora" but not "dick."

    It's hard not to think there might be something wrong with your vagina. We're subjected to a lifetime of jerk men degrading vaginas for anything from smell to look to its tightness. Really dudes? You wanna talk weird genitalia? Your dicks literally look like Gonzo from The Muppet Show and we still put them in our mouths.

    The vaginas deemed perfect are mostly found in nudie mags and porn. They're flat, perfectly manicured, softly lit slabs of the most tender beef on Earth. Never an ingrown hair, no stretch marks, no faded nautical star tattoos from your most involved pop punk years. These Barbie-like vaginas are very often surgically altered to look untouched by nature. This is not the norm, ladies. There's nothing wrong with any vagina's look, nipped and tucked or not. Remember, these expectations are unfairly placed on us not to benefit us, but to benefit those who want to sexualize us for profit or their own pleasure. Own your imperfect pussy. It's yours and it's incredible.

    You don't need to pose nude to accept your vagina. That was just how I challenged myself to show pride in my pleasure dome. Though I've asked my partner what he thinks about my vagina, his response isn't what's led to that love, either. I just wanted to make sure he's grateful.

    For me, it was just accepting that it doesn't need to look any certain way to bring me happiness. My sex life rules so hard right now, and it has nothing to do with having a pristine vag. It's because the focus is nowhere near aesthetics. When my partner's face is buried up in those juicy lady curtains, I couldn't give two shits about whether or not my vagina is chubby. I'm too busy waking up my neighbors.

    You know that scene in Love Actually (of course you do!) where Andrew Lincoln holds up the sign that reads, "To me, you are perfect" to Keira Knightley? Well, my dear lady readers, do me a favor. Place this page up to your vagina. I have a message for that glorious puss.

    Hey vagina. Just want to say you are perfect. You are perfect if you're as bald as Stanley Tucci and leaned up against a random farmyard fence in the pages of Playboy, and you're perfect if your owner is too tired to shave you and your labia majora is swinging like a rapper's chain. If anyone tries to give you grief about you or any of your pussies sistren, remind them that vaginas are powerful, majestic caves of wonder with the ability to bring life and pleasure to those who wander its folds and know what the hell they're doing. If they have a problem with it, give them a goodbye wave and take that pussy to more appreciative pastures.


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