Mr D. Wang and Princess Peach
Our roving reporter Rose explores sex at London’s Science Museum.
#sexpositive from Ooh by Je Joue
I am licking cherry sherbet from the vagina-shaped lolly I just made. Well, it was meant to be a vagina. But I didn’t squidge my inner labia to my outer labia properly, so it all collapsed when I tried to eat it.
The sickly sweet taste is glorious though, and apparently the cherry is also stimulating my sex hormones. Boom.
I’m at a late night event exploring sex at London’s Science Museum. Crowds of adults (only adults are allowed in) sip on beer and wine as they model and draw genitals.
Hundreds of people have stuck their drawings to a wall. Most have drawn a penis, despite a gender balance in the room. I help a bunch of friendly Italians get a group photo in front of the penis-picture-wall. “Make sure you get the penises in,” they call. I smile. It would be hard not to. I ask them why they think there are more penises than vaginas. “Everyone sees them more so they are easier to draw,” one of the guys says. “I see mine every time I pee.” One of the women giggles, “it’s harder to get a good look at my bits when I pee.”
At least half of the dick drawings on the wall have been given hats, faces and names. “Superdick” is proudly sporting a cape. “Mr. D. Wang” wears a bow-tie. Why is it that – even as adults – we like to make our cocks and pussies into characters? I ask one of the museum staff whether she thinks people feel safer that way. “I drew a little face on mine, the first drawing I did tonight,” she says, “it made it easier I think.”
We might give a silly face or a cute name to our dicks and cunts to get over our shyness, but just talking and thinking about our bits is known to help us feel more positive and confident about sex.
The Swedes, of course, are all over this. This Swedish cartoon is designed for kids as young as 3 years old. Animated penises and vaginas with smiley faces bounce through the frame, accompanied by song lyrics such as “vagina is cool” and “on an old lady the vagina is there so elegant”. Maybe the Swedes have got so used to talking about vaginas and dicks as children that they don’t need to draw faces on them by the time they reach adulthood?
Sadly, we’re still particularly shy about vaginas. This taboo can lead to women feeling concerned about whether they are “normal” and even ashamed. It can put people off sex entirely. That’s why sex experts tend to encourage women to get to know their genitals, by looking in a mirror, drawing them, understanding which bit does what, looking at different women’s shapes, colours and sizes. It helps us acknowledge that every vagina, vulva and clitoris is different and beautiful.
Talking more about genitals also should boost how we understand gender: some folks are born with genitals that don’t match their true gender, which inevitably influences the way they want to talk about them. Some transgender men, for example, avoid feminine names like “pussy”, preferring terms like “front hole”.
It’s now test time at the museum. The staff have handed out anatomical drawings of sets of genitals, with blanks for us to fill the labels in. I confidently scribble the words around the vagina but get a bit lost why the foreskin has so many different sections to it. Someone has filled in every single label on the vagina with “flower” and stuck it up on the wall.
Upstairs there is a space for people to share their nicknames for their genitals on post-it notes. “Hands Free McGee”. “Nicky”. “Captain Haddock”. “Medusa”. “The Canon”. “Lady Priscilla Queen of the Desert”. “Princess Peach”. “Vajay”. “Gilbert Jr”. “Sparky”. “Tunny”. “Wee Wee”.
On my way out, I’m handed a mini tube of Love Hearts. I step out into the cold hoping for more genital celebration in the future – for children and adults. But next time, I hope Mr D. Wang doesn’t hog the limelight.