By Wrenna Robertson.
Although this is not the first such publication of its kind, it is a welcome addition to the resources available to educated women and men about intrinsic female sexuality. I know of at least one other such book, Femalia, by Joani Blank (1993) but I’ll Show You Mine seems to provide a much fuller, less objectified experience by photgraphing two views of the vulva and including a text provided by each model.
The pale pink, understated cover gives rise to a dramatic start when the first non-text page smacks you with a mosaic of 48 vulvas in all shapes and colours. From then on there’s only one way forward and it is an absorbing trip through the final female frontier.
My first impression was that pubic hair shaping, trimming and removal are over-represented in this sample, which may in intself be a disempowering message to women whose genitalia aesthetic confusion led them to page through the book in the first place. Yet, if you get through all the texts, which I accept most readers will not do, one finds a few narratives that relate to this issue and position it as a choice and not a must. By the way, a quick comparison with the 32 models in Femalia who were photographed two decades earlier shows a stark change in standards as far as grooming goes.
There is a good introduction which contextualizes the whole issue of female genital insecurity and how it has led to unnecessary genital surgery, a problem that the author states is her reason for initiating the project. The text, however, may be a bit simplistic, saying things such as “for much of human history, western society has perceived women’s genitals as shameful, unattractive and generally unpleasant”. Foucault speaks very differently about culture prior to the 17th century, so perhaps it is more relevent to modern western history, and even then it is difficult to speak damningly on a topic that was not exposed or surveyed until so recently.
As for the models, in general they are endearing and raise a wide range of issues on the forefront of sexuality research and education. My personal favourite was the woman named Souviens who speaks so naturally and with complete acceptence. One voice such as hers can achieve as much or more than any extended lesson on personal and sexual self-esteem.
I would have preferred a small editing change. In the order of models, the mix was good but the very first model, Inana, though quite pedestrian looking – not shaven, not too wild, no extra touches and quite unobrusive – has a narrative style that might be unappealing. Her language is of yoni’s and sacred gateways, cosmic mysteries and comfortable nudity, and while it is expressive and powerful, it can be exclusive. People who have been exposed to Tantra and various other New Age processes are not necessarily the people who need this book the most. A choice of everyday, every-woman text could be more inclusive and less intimidating to a suspicious and self-conscious reader. It would also be more representative of what is to come.
- Compiled by an exotic dancer
- 60 women’s vulvas photographed
- Two photos of each subjects: frontal and with legs spread
- Female photographer, Katie Huisman
- Intended as a sex education resource
- Hard cover
- Glossy, full coloured pages
- Includes narrative of each subject about her vulva or sexuality
- 10% of profits to be donated to women’s organizations
- Printed in Canada on FSC certified paper with soy-based inks
- Retails for $30 (lower than what appears on the cover)
Show Off Books; 2011