One of the reasons why I enjoyed the experience of participating in I SHOW FLAG project is that I’ve had the chance to meet smart open-minded people with whom to exchange thoughts with no topic limit.
One of the people I met there was Libby, an American girl living in England who flew to Germany just to take part in the project and have her vulva cast. Together, we talked about sexuality, self-confidence and body love (vulva included).
The following is our talk: started on a couch, ended in a car headed to a nude beach in the vicinity of Frankfurt on the way back home.
You can read other thoughts on her blog Saluting The Sister Ship where she writes about a journey of self-discovery after 2 children, a divorce, and an overseas transfer.
How did you find I SHOW FLAG?
I found it on Instagram.
Were you looking for something in particular or..?
It popped up, I think, on my feed. I subscribed to a lot of sort of things about women sexuality. It popped up and I thought it was really neat to see women casts.
Why did you decide to participate in I SHOW FLAG?
Well, I was out to drink with a friend and we were talking about sex, our bodies, and I said – Hey have you seen this artist on Instagram, I SHOW FLAG, he takes casts of women’s vulvas and I think I read that he needs volunteers, we should just fly to Frankfurt and have our vulvas cast -. She said she couldn’t leave England at that moment. The next day I woke up and thought ‘I’ve one month, while my children are gone to America, to do whatever I want and this sounds like a very good idea. I’m gonna fly to Frankfurt and have my vulva cast’. So I emailed Mirko and asked ‘Do you still need volunteers? I want to have my vulva cast and I will fly to Frankfurt just for this’.
Is this choice related to a particular moment of your life?
Yes. I am recently divorced. I moved to the Uk mid-divorce so that my children can be close to their father who has been stationed there for work. It’s been an incredibly difficult year for me, but also really life changing and empowering, and part of my journey has been through discovery my own sexuality and what that means for me and how I define it. I think before I used to define myself in relation to others, my sexuality in relation to the man I was with, and I never really defined it in relation to myself. So I thought the I SHOW FLAG project of casting vulvas was a great way to sort of getting in touch with myself and my own femininity and rediscover what that means.
I think this is a quite bold choice and you have to be confident with your body or at least comfortable to some degree to be ready for this kind of experience. Are you happy and confident with your body?
You mean you have to be confident with your body before stripping down and letting a man taking a cast of your vulva!
I have a new found confidence and security with my body, that started a couple of years ago really, and then, over the course of the last year of rediscovery myself, I had an incredible confidence with my body. However, when I first got to Mirko’s and I looked at all the casts of the vulvas, I looked around and thought ‘There is not a single one that looks like me. Oh my god. I’m gonna strip down, I’m gonna be completely naked, and he’s gonna look at my vulva and say – I can’t do this, I’m sorry -‘. I was scared to death, actually. And I said to him – I’m really scared – right before he said – Ok, you ready? – and I said – Yes, BUT. I don’t see anything looks like me. I’m afraid you won’t be able to cast me -. And I think he said – Well, I like the challenge -. And I thought ‘Okay’ but really with absolute trepidation, completing hesitant, and I thought ‘What the hell am I doing? I’ve come to Frankfurt and he’s not going to be able to cast my vulva. I’ve already put on Instagram what I’m doing, everyone knows it’.
So I was a little surprised by that because I’ve come completely confident and then when I got down to, I was quite nervous. However, everything turned out fine. So yes, I think you have to be somewhat comfortable with yourself.
There’s another thing I also found interesting and I was a bit surprised by.. I know what my vulva looks like from a certain angle. You know, I’ve taken a mirror and I’ve looked at my vulva, so I know what it looks like. Actually, I’ve really never liked what my vulva looked. I have darker skin, not porn star pink, and someone, actually, once told me that it looked ‘dirty’. And I have more hair than I think I should have. So I have a confidence but.. it’s complicated. My relationships with my genitals.. they’re very complicated. Anyway, when I’ve looked at the final cast I thought ‘I don’t like it…mhm…that’s me??’. It really wasn’t long but it was, I think, just a couple of minutes before I thought ‘actually this is ok, and I do like me’.
Because it was different from your expectations?
Because it was me. It’s sort of, you know, maybe looking at a photograph of oneself and maybe not liking what you see. It’s only recently that I’ve even liked looking a photograph of myself. Looking at the cast of my vagina, the other thing was that after child birth, I had a very traumatic first labour and I pushed very hard and as result part of my bowel sort of popped out a bit of my vulva (I think it’s called bowel prolapse or rectocele) and I don’t like how that looks. I know it’s there, no one’s ever said – Hey what’s up with your vulva? – or – Things just don’t feel right down here -. There’s never been any complaint but I know there’s a change. And it’s about my privates, so personal. And that little piece of bowel shows on the cast and I don’t like that. But I have to face it. There it is… it’s unique. So it took a couple of minutes and I thought ‘I like this’.
I wasn’t expecting to have those thoughts.
It’s curious, You said that you looked at the other vulvas and thought ‘mine is different’. I know what my vulva looks like but I found myself unable to compare the shape of my vulva to the others just looking at the other casts…
The thing is, Mirko and I talked about the other casts. He pointed out a specific cast and said – Oh, this one was a bit difficult because it’s a bit cavernous – and I thought ‘Oh gosh, shoot, I’m cavernous’ and what’s funny is that I’m actually not. I don’t know why. I mean, it’s a cavity, is the entrance to a body cavity you look. Plus, I’ve had two babies, right? I think it’s just easy to be critical of oneself.. and one’s privates. I feel confident but I can’t say that I would ever say something like – Oh my gosh, my vulva’s like yeah such an amazing vulva, yeah, look at that! Look at that vulva! -.
Did you feel comfortable during the process?
How do you think this experience will influence your life?
Oh my gosh. This is incredibly empowering and I really didn’t expect that. Just making the decision to do it was actually empowering, and not feeling insecure about what I see. It’s amazing. I mean, I have one of the casts in my bag and I’m going to hang it on the wall of my bathroom. Everyone who comes to my home is going to see it.
What if someone asks ‘Is this yours?
I’m gonna say ‘Yes, absolutely’
Why in the bathroom?
The thing is that… In my sort of journey of self-discovery, I did this boudoir shoot in which I ended up not expecting to love my breast after I’ve always hated my breast. My mother and my sister had sort of perky, small breast and my friends seemed to have this really perky breast as well. I’ve never had perky breast. And my nipples are brown. I haven’t this.. little pink… So, what the f*** is wrong with the colour pink?
They’re just sort of floppy. I come from America, the land of plastic surgery where if you don’t like it you just fix it with 10 thousand dollars.
When I left that boudoir shoot I ended up loving my breast and I never imagined that in my mid-30s, after 2 children, I would love a part of my body. I had this idea of things being just downhill. Which they are. Things are absolutely downhill. But right now I love them and this is incredible. In my 20s I never thought ‘I would like myself more in my 30s’. I just never imagined that my body would be better in my 30s. I like my breast more in my 30s; I have better sex in my 30s. In my 20s I thought ‘this is the best it’s gonna get, this is amazing’ and I had no idea that one day I would be comfortable with someone photographing me spread eagle for a sex blog.
It’s all about confidence.
Confidence, yeah, so sexy. A couple of months ago I changed my online dating profile to say exactly what I want. And the men I attract now are so much better. So I say things like ‘You will call me either Gorgeous or Miss America’, ‘You will look into my eyes when making love to me’ and I list exactly all the things I want. And the men now are just amazing and they beg to see me. I mean BEG. I didn’t realise it before, all this thing about being confident, but the moment you begin to love yourself everything changes in the world for you. I think that’s what I experienced and it’s been absolutely incredible.
Did the perception of your body change after seeing the cast of your vulva?
Yeah. I mean, I’m not insecure about my privates.
You like your vulva.
I like my vulva, it’s a great vulva. The thing is that I recently sort of gained about 10 pounds and fell off the wagon. When I’m stressed I eat, you know. I think, maybe a year ago I never would have considered stripping down 10 pounds heavier than I normally am. And what’s incredible is that I honestly don’t really care.
I had this idea that things have to be perfect to proceed. But things don’t have to be perfect because that actually doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really matter than I’m 10 pounds heavier. And then, perfect to whom? Life is beautiful when it’s messy, much better! Who wants perfection? I don’t want perfection. I don’t even know what that means, really, perfection.
I feel good. We’re heading to a nude beach, it’s fabulous.
Would you encourage other women to do this experience?
I would absolutely encourage other women to take the leap and to do this. There’s something about feeling liberated and this is part of just doing whatever you want and not really caring.
I have 2 daughters and I think loving oneself is the greatest thing you can ever teach them.
I recently had this exchange with someone in which we were talking about our children and he disagreed with something, he was very rude and basically said that what I’m doing, what I’m suggesting women to do, as for as boudoir shoots or whatever, is kind of prostitution. I told him that I would rather my daughter be a happy whore than an unhappy dentist. So yes, I think following your bliss and doing what you want to do and not caring is liberating.
I guess I lived my whole life really thinking ‘how can I help people? What can I do to make this world a better place?’. I was raised this way, so the focus was always external, on other people, and what I didn’t realise was actually that me being myself and doing what I want to do, exactly what I want to do, unabashedly myself, that’s how I make the world a better place. Just by being me. And that is my contribution to the world, me be me. Cause there’s no other me, there’s no other you, right? Is that uniqueness which makes the world a much more interesting place, a much more happy place. So yeah, absolutely, do it, you won’t regret it.
Could this kind of experience be useful to younger girls in order to get a self-consciousness of their body? Would it be shocking or empowering?
That’s interesting. I think of my daughter like she was 15 and she wanted to do something like this: absolutely! I mean, they’re going to see my vulva on the wall for the rest of their lives, so I wonder what the relationship would be like. I think they’ll have a much more positive relationship with their body than I had. And I hope, I think, that it would be wonderful for girls, teenage girls, to feel comfortable. They need the most sort of guidance and help and support with their body because that’s when you sort of start to formulating the idea of yourself, that’s when I started to think ‘I have bad breasts’, ‘I’m too hairy’, or ‘I’m not perfect enough’. I don’t know, maybe you sort of need to go through all this. But I think that if my daughter wanted to do something like this, I would absolutely support her and it would be great. But maybe they sort of need to go through that difficult period.
I think one thing that can be scary for women about this project and could stop them from participating is thinking ‘I’m going to be touched by a stranger, a man’. Have you ever thought something like that during this experience?
No. This is interesting. I’ve gone through a lot of changes during for the past years. I’ve always seen a female gynaecologist, I had female midwives and I’ve refused to let a man touch me. I am not of that opinion anymore because I think women can still be assholes and I think character counts substantially more than gender does.
During my second pregnancy I had some complications and I had to see a man, a male gynaecologist, or obstetrician, and I’m gonna say it, I had a crush on him. He was so funny, he was just a huge turn-on for me, his humour was huge huge huge for me, he was hilarious and I thought ‘I will be ok with this man delivering my baby’.
So as for as man touching… Mirko had asked that I do some erotic casts, sort of like showing the differences before and after stimulation. I said – I don’t know, but if you wanna do the cast we can try and see how it goes – and he said – Do you wanna stimulate yourself or do you want me to? -. And he also said he does tantric massage, so I was like ‘Hell, yeah’. But then I couldn’t relax. This was an odd scenario, I’ve never been in a situation where I’m just supposed to get turned on for technical purposes, with no emotional connection. That was odd, it was nice but my body wasn’t responding very well like I wasn’t becoming wet or anything like that.
But as for as a man touching me… I also feel comfortable setting boundaries. If there’s something I don’t wanna do I’m going to say ‘no I don’t wanna do it’, but I understand for some women is not the same. I understand because I used to be that woman who wasn’t comfortable with setting boundaries with men or with anybody actually. So, if you feel uncomfortable saying ‘No’ or ‘I don’t like this’ or in any situation where you are vulnerable, this is scary.
But during the process, Mirko always asked if I was ok with everything, and I didn’t have any issue. There was nothing sexual. I mean, He has his clothes on, He’s committed to mixing the plaster and I was also texting the whole time. He’s very focused and he’s not creepy in any way so it is a very technical process and not something like ‘Oh, nice’.
There we reached the nude beach: my husband at the wheel, me sitting next, looking at the questions written down my i Pad, Libby in the back seat with the luggage containing her vulva cast, holding the mic to record the interview. From then on we just sunbathed naked, took (forbidden) selfies, eat German pretzels and said goodbye to each other.
See you soon, Libby!