Recently I went to the beach with my 2-year-old cousins and our grandma. At one point, desperate for their affection, I reached out my hand and asked for a pinky promise guaranteeing they wouldn't forget me. They reached out their fingers in a single curled-up claw and I specified, "No, give me your pinky!" holding out my littlest finger as an example.
My grandma laughed. Never one to be coy, she announced: "The pinky is what they call their fronts!" She patted her pelvis. A dark cloud loomed over the Jersey Shore. I wasn't sure why I was most uncomfortable: to learn I had just implored my baby cousins to give me their pinkies, hearing my grandmother say "front," or my own tucked-away vagina shame.
The tangential comment prompted a black-and-white style flashback to my own pre-K days, learning for the first time about what lay beneath (my underpants).
As a kid, my vagina was a "nush." Sometimes "nush-waggles," if I was feeling crazy. The term also, in my family, could be used to describe an entire person, if she was acting silly or strange. "Don't be such a nush-waggles!" Like that. After the "nush" phase, there was radio silence when it came to vagina discussions. Aside from the one obligatory and horrifying video of a woman giving birth in science class, vagina lingo came back into my life as "pussies" or "cunts," thereby injected with a sexual connotation.
How many words for vagina went by the wayside! The celebratory "chocha," nutritious "peach," the mythological "Mound of Venus" and the almighty "wookie." If only, as a youth, I'd had access to alternative (feminist) sources of sexual education -- like, for instance, Poussy Draama and Fannie Sosa's "BABY! LOVE YOUR BODY!"
The bizarro TV show, aimed to teach kids about sexuality and consent, features tripped out vagina suits, lots of rainbows and even more body positivity. Poussy Draama -- the babe on the right, in the video above -- is a performance artist, a sexologist, an alter-gynecologist and a witch. Not witch, like, black hat and broomstick, though. Witch like witch doctor or healer. "What I do hasn't much to do with magic," Draama explained to The Huffington Post. "It's witchcraft, in the way of empiric, experimental and politically engaged healing."
Although in medium and technique Draama's work is all over the map, her subject matter consistently revolves around educating others on sexuality in an un-authoritative, open-minded and, duh, feminist manner. "Womxn are overrepresented and underrepresenting," Draama said. "You know what I mean? And as an artist, I don't wanna play the 'male-gaze game' so I have to be careful, cause everything tends to drive you to do so." (Note: The spelling of "womxn" is intentional, per Draama's choice.)
"I've always dealt with fiction," she continued. "We (womxn, trans people, people of color, non-straight people, relational anarchists ... a huge majority in this planet) know what fiction is, because what HIStory tells about us and our past is pure fiction. Same with how the media treats us in the present."
For Draama's newest project, she's adopted the hilariously bougie pseudonym Dr. Caroline Duchesne. (In case you hadn't already assumed as much, Poussy Draama is unfortunately not the artist's given name.) As Duchesne, Draama will be impersonating the role of a doctor, but replacing authoritarian diagnoses and patriarchal traditions with open dialogue and a little something witchy. "The only big difference between me and the Docteur is that she has a costume, talks clearer and stands up straighter than I do. Otherwise it's me. I'm doing the work, I'm talking to people, it's just me impersonating my best self!"
Basically, Draama set up a mobile doctor's office in the back of an old fire truck and is driving her magic school bus through the French countryside, stopping at gatherings, high schools and small towns along the way. The truck also contains a small greenhouse for witchy remedies, a mobile cinema and a feminist library. Anyone is free to engage Draama in a "doctor's appointment" -- a conversation meant to broach sexuality's most shameful and unspoken details. No topic is too taboo, or for that matter, too obvious or vanilla. "With a father in his 50s I can talk about transgender issues or pregnancy, and with a 25-year-old lesbian girl I can talk about prostates," Draama said.
From her experiences so far, Draama has gleaned that about the only thing people learn in sex ed is how the babies are made. "Everything is failing to be addressed except reproduction. Oh, yeah ... children perfectly know how babies are made. Thanks patriarchy, thanks capitalism. And then? They don't have any place to talk about their sexualities outside of the Internet. So I just try to be that comfortable IRL place."
Common areas of discussion for the doctress include female, trans and intersex anatomy, hormones, the female prostate, female ejaculation, alternatives to the pill, menstrual cycle, abortion and sexual identities and practices. In Draama's words: "Pretty basic things. People are craving basic knowledge."
Draama's unconventional medical practice was spurred, in a way, when she became pregnant and aborted the baby after six weeks. "When I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to abort, but I also wanted to enjoy my pregnancy without giving a fuck about culpability or whatever," she explained in an interview with Broadly's Gabby Bess.
Being pregnant felt both good and bad. Like, I had nausea all the time, but I also felt super cute when I walked down the street, and I was so creative. Suddenly, everything became clear in my life and projects. In that period of time, Doctor Duchesne became my baby, basically. All the creative, primitive energy I didn't want to use to grow a baby -- I could feel it, and it was extremely powerful -- gave birth to the doctor. I had my spontaneous abortion the night before I performed the doctor for the first time. It was intense.
Now, Draama is taking a break from her role as Duchesne for a stint at France's Performing Art Forum, where she is giving a workshop for summer university dance week. "I knew most people were performers here so I offered to film our cervixes with a portable webcam," she said. "Every context is different, but the workshops are always kind, sharing and empowering. Because wxmen that come to learn how to put a speculum in their vaginas by themselves in order to see their cervix don't come just by chance or curiosity. They come because their bodies feel like this knowlege is missing."
Yup, Draama's life is one continuous, untamed performance piece. The day of our interview, she informed me that she spent the afternoon at a "femme meditation ritual with naked womxn and a baby in a steamy cozy bathroom." A few days ago she formed a band. I'm very jealous of all of it.
Maybe if I had grown up with a little more Poussy Draama in my life, I would have been more comfortable owning, nurturing and loving my vagina as a mere youth. Maybe I would have learned a less goosebump-inducing term than "nush" to designate my privates. Maybe I would have known that tampon applicators are meant to be removed, and all those people saying "it's meant to hurt" didn't realize there was a giant piece of plastic inside me. Maybe I would have actually enjoyed "Star Wars." Maybe I would have forged my own connection to my body and its pleasure, instead of inheriting the baby-making narrative thrust upon me by my family, doctors and teachers.
It's time for women to name our own bodies and write our own stories. In the words of the almighty Doctor Draama: "We all try to remember HERstory, hxstory, or at least multiple stories. But we don't want HIStory, baby. We already heard it too many times and for too long ... We're preparing a revolution that's happening, that's great, but its a loooot of work. The least I can do then, as an artist, is my basic job: represent. Myself and the communities I live in. Because they're really real. So I just put my performer and image-maker skills at the service of revolution."
Someone give this lady an MD. Stat.
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