A hot sunny day. A beautiful park. A couple of cans of gin and tonic. And a discussion between two friends about how vaginismus had affected our sex lives. I shared a brainwave that I’d been thinking recently: that sex is so much more than penis in vagina. It was the thought that had given me so much more confidence over the past year when it comes to sex and dating and a thought which resonated with Lisa. We had wanted to collaborate on a piece for a while and this felt like the illustration that we needed to bring into the world.
Growing up with vaginismus, (a seemingly unheard-of condition), left me feeling like less of a woman. I couldn’t put a tampon in and I couldn’t have penetrative sex. Society puts a big emphasis on PIV sex and also defines sex as such so I felt like I couldn’t provide for a male partner. I let this define me and take away my confidence and self-esteem. When people at school would talk about sex in terms of bases: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th base, with 4th base meaning penetrative sex, I felt as if that was the goal and that the main course was missing from my sexual platter.
As I grew up, gained more self-worth and more confidence I had a few light bulb moments…
1. When one option is taken away, you build up other skills. (I like to think of it as similar to how bats have bad eyesight, instead they have excellent hearing).
2. Sex is not just for men. I deserve pleasure too!
3. Vaginismus is a good asshat indicator. Their reaction to vaginismus tells you a lot about that person.
4. SEX IS SO MUCH MORE THAN PENIS IN VAGINA! You can have amazing sexy times without penetration. You get more creative and explorative.
That’s what we wanted to communicate through this image. I had my younger self in mind and wanted to make people question society’s view of what sex is.
You can view the image here
A lot of my work recently has had a similar aim - to make people think, question and feel less alone…
The illustration ‘Things you don’t see in mainstream porn’, was created with the intention of showing a very human experience of sex which often isn’t reflected in mainstream porn. I wanted it to serve as a reminder of the embarrassing, awkward, funny, real, HUMAN moments that many of us experience yet don’t talk about or feel insecure about.
‘Menopause Bingo’ and ‘What we’re not told about postpartum bodies’ were both commissioned pieces that I was nervous about tackling. I have experienced neither so for these pieces I made sure I did my research and spoke to people who had stories to share and inform my understanding.
‘The bus stop’ was a piece inspired by a thought I often have - ‘I wonder what the people around me are going through.’ I then included feelings I’ve felt, conditions and situations that people close to me are going through, some seriously serious stuff, as well as mundane stuff for reality and funny things for levity. I wanted to reflect life in this illustration - the highs, lows, diversity, as much as possible.
It’s only recently I’ve seen a common thread in my work. I used to think my work was so disjointed. The thread is that I want people to feel seen/ to think. Well, the pieces that mean the most to me always seem to do this. I really hope through some of these pieces I can make people feel better and less alone in being human. I felt so alone in my vaginismus, body dysmorphia, even periods. The more I talk about them and find others who experience the same, the better I feel about myself. I’d strongly encourage everyone to step outside their comfort zones and talk about taboo subjects more. It’s the only way that we’ll truly shatter the stigma that goes hand in hand with taboos.
To find out more about Hazel and her work, you can visit her website: www.hazelmead.com