Earlier this week, a deeply bizarre tweet sent by a self-described "wife, mother, Christian," whom we suspect (read: hope) is, in fact, an internet troll, compared Taylor Swift's vagina to a sandwich with protruding ham, and the sexual anatomy of the tweeter's ostensibly virginal daughters to a sandwich with ham neatly tucked in. The analogy was like a funhouse-mirror reflection of slut-shaming tropes, and it attracted the internet's attention and ridicule accordingly.
As Twitter users remarked on the nonsensicality of the tweet, a glorious hashtag arose, and tweeters used #IfMyVaginaWereASandwich to share their own preferences for the sandwich forms their genitalia would assume.
There are many levels of wrong happening in the original tweet: the medically false implication that frequent sexual activity permanently stretches your genitals, the use of "vagina" to refer to vulva and labia, the insinuation that some women's body parts are superior to others' or that body parts indicate worth at all, and, oh right, the assumption that we can convey moral lessons by comparing women and/or women's anatomy to inanimate objects. The "wife, mother, and Christian" who launched a thousand vagina-sandwich analogies with her own may have been the first to drag both Taylor Swift and her own family members into the exercise, but she is not the first to slut-shame by picking a thing and claiming that a woman or her parts are like that thing. An incomplete list of stuff to which women/female genitals have been compared: 1. Cups of spit. In a real exercise that has been performed in classroom settings, multiple students spit into the same cup, then are asked if they are willing to drink from it. When no one wants to, it dawns on them spontaneously that having sex is just like having someone spit into you. Oh no, wait, this one's supposed to teach kids that having sex makes you gross and undesirable. 2. Peppermint Patties. Yes, this refreshing circular treat has been leveraged to show young women what worthless hussies they are if they don't save it for marriage. A Los Angeles Times story recounts a "sex ed" lesson taught in a Mississippi classroom in which students unwrapped a Peppermint Pattie and passed it around the classroom in order to observe that it became dirtier with each hand. To quote Peppermint Patty, "Mississippi state legislature, you blockhead." 3. Crockpots. "Men sexually are like microwaves and women sexually are like crockpots... Men respond sexually by what they see and women respond sexually by what they hear and how they feel about it" is something an actual sex-ed guide said. Thanks for the gender stereotyping/pot of crock. 4. Roses with no petals. A teacher's manual called Choosing the Best PATH prescribed an exercise called "A Rose with No Petals," in which the teacher holds aloft "a beautiful rose." (Ugly roses won't work for this, obviously.) As students pass the rose around the room, each removes a petal until that poor, sad rose has none, at which point the teacher informs the assembled flower-mutilators that the petal-free rose is like someone who's had a bunch of sex — because "Each time a sexually active person gives that most personal part of himself or herself away, that person can lose a sense of personal value and worth." Subtle.
Here's a thought: Maybe we leave the similes and metaphors out of it and speak about women as if they were people, and about their bodies as if they were just that? Just a thought, but what do I know, sometimes crockpots have trouble thinking for themselves.