Inspired by the Icelandic Phallological Museum (yes, that’s a penis museum), the director realised there was no female equivalent and organised a public fundraising campaign.
Unlike its Icelandic counterpart, it’s not a traditional museum with exhibits of vaginas through the ages. Rather, it’s a series of changing exhibitions. The first one, “Muff Busters”, is really an information source.
A large part deals with myths about what prevents pregnancy, mostly everyday ones like thinking you can’t get pregnant having sex standing up, but some I hadn’t heard before, like a false belief that Coca Cola could be used as a contraception.
Although it would be easy to treat some of these as a joke, given the generally poor state of sex education and informed discussion around sex, and particularly female reproduction, for young people, there are a lot of useful facts here.
The Vagina Museum has a very clear mission that includes not just general information, but trying to destigmatise issues around gynaecological anatomy, health and hygiene. It addresses question about pubic hair, odours and cleanliness in an accessible way, which I hope will give women more confidence to make their own decisions rather than feel pressured by unrealistic images in society.
As the director of the museum Florence Schechter says, “The Vagina Museum is so important because this area of the body is so stigmatised and this has real world consequences like people being too embarrassed to get their cervical smear. Our top priority is to fight the taboo that surrounds our bodies and provide a place where we can have an open and honest conversation.”
The aims also include wanting to provide a forum for feminism, women’s rights, and the LGBT+ and intersex communities and challenging heteronormative ideas and behaviour, so it will be interesting to see what exhibitions take place over the coming months.
The museum will also be holding events. When they applied for an alcohol license they were met with opposition from some local residents, who argued that it would attract rowdy stag and hen parties that would create a public nuisance. I’m glad that this view wasn’t dominant, as it would have prevented what could be some interesting film, music and discussion nights.
The Vagina Museum isn’t a huge space — you can pop in and see the exhibition in less than an hour — but it’s an engaging place and worth going down there to see what’s on.