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INTIMATE HEALTH

Photograph Gallery Stock

Vaginas have come a long way since Galen, the Romans’ top medical expert, saw them as inside-out penises with the testicles as the ovaries – and therefore women as imperfect versions of men (thus setting in motion the assumption of the male as the standard for the human body, which still continues to dominate today).

After that, nothing happened very quickly. The first vaguely anatomical drawings of female genitalia were banned by the church during the Renaissance, vaginas even didn’t get a name until the late 1600s (the Latin word for ‘vagina’ refers to a sheath for a sword), and when gynaecology as we know it was basically invented in the 1800s, it was done so with complete disregard for the women who were operated on – in this case, slaves who didn’t give consent and weren’t given anaesthetic. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the tide started to turn and women began to really demand knowledge of, and power over, their own genitalia (see: the publication in 1973 of the feminist classic Our bodies, Ourselves by The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective).

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