In the last post I attempted to broaden the discussion on the male sexual symbol, the phallus. Rather than focusing on the phallic stereotype of violence and aggression using the standard images of guns, missiles, knives and swords I expanded on the role of penetration of the phallus and described the role it plays in invention, discovery and knowledge.
In this post I want to address the often ignored female sex symbol, the vagina and its symbolic impact on woman and society. The vagina coupled with the womb will be the inspiration of the female sex symbols. I have to admit I have not found any literature on this topic so most of this is my own.
When looking for vaginal/womb images in our society the most obvious is the purse. Many women have an intimate relationship with their purse, and they view it as an extension of themselves. A purse is often guarded and clutched on to, and no one but its owner is allowed access to the purse. While another woman’s uninvited access to a purse is considered an invasion of privacy a male’s going through a woman’s purse is often experienced and expressed as a violation of the person. Woman who have had a man take or rummage through the contents of their purse often state that they “felt violated” by the intrusion, and some relate prolonged feelings of anxiety or nausea when they think about the violation.
Though purses are a very strong and intimate vaginal image they are not the only vaginal/womb symbol. While phallic images are found in objects that are phallus shaped and are involved in the act of penetration , vaginal symbols are found in objects which replicate the function of the womb and are containers and receptacles as opposed to probes and penetrators.
The nest, the home and the bank vault are all vaginal symbols. Like the vagina and the womb they house and protect. They are places of safety where things can grow and be nourished.
Just as many objects can be phallic symbols by their function of penetration or their resemblance to a phallus, likewise many vaginal/womb symbols are by nature of their function as well as their shape. Therefore, objects which house or contain are fair game for becoming vaginal images. Pots, pans, bowls, urns, as well as gold/coal mines, caves, treasure chests and ships can be vaginal symbols. Though ships penetrating the sea can be phallic symbols, they often house people at sea and therefore can be vaginal symbols. Which could be why ships are always have female names and referred to as women.
Vaginal symbols are where things are contained, housed, stored and received. It is where things are protected, grow, develop, multiply and accumulate. Due to the menstrual cycle vaginal images also involve things that flow or are cyclical in nature. Rivers and lava are vaginal symbols as well as cash flow.
We’ve talked at length in previous posts at the privileged role the concept of beauty plays in the feminine world. Woman speak of beauty much more than men, and spend a lot of time and energy creating and surrounding themselves with beauty. When you couple this with the vaginal images regarding housing, containing and accumulating you find a strong emphasis in the female world in collecting objects and wealth.
The home is a place of safety but it is also the realm of propagation and growth. Home is where children are produced and objects are collected and stored. These objects provide safety and security as well as depict and surround oneself with beauty.
Many birds and animals who build nests and homesteads are concerned with aesthetics and not just safety. When nest building shiny objects are selected for beauty as well as function. Some male birds offer beautiful trinkets as a way of courtship, and what male bird or mammal doesn’t exert great energy in trying to appeal to the female sense of beauty through preening, colorful displays or puffing out some eye catching display.
This post is designed only as an introduction of the concept of the role the vaginal/womb symbol plays in the life of women and society in general. While the phallic symbol has us take notice of how men and society are impacted by its related images, so to the vaginal symbol should have us take notice of the values and points of emphasis that it imparts to women and society.
To sum up the phallic image is represented by objects that penetrate. One can penetrate to kill, wound or break apart, but one also can penetrate to discover, create and advance. The phallic image is seen in guns, swords, knives and missiles but is also present in most tools such as drills, screwdrivers, saws and hoes.
The vaginal symbol is seen in objects that house, contain, protect and receive. The womb and vagina are hidden worlds where things grow, flow and accumulate.
In the next post I’m going to use these male and female images to help us understand how they get played out in our culture. Some philosophers including Nietsche have stated that they felt modern civilization was becoming highly feminized and would go so far as to say that modern life is more feminine than masculine. In the next post I will explore this rather radical idea and see in what ways it applies and in what ways it doesn’t.