Raising the Skirt by Catherine Blackledge is a book that looks at the history and folklore of everything to do with vagina. Looking into various cultural influences, religious factors, economic, and many other influences that have shaped the views we have on vagina’s and women over time, Raising the Skirt is probably one of the most in-depth accounts on vagina history I have read.
As a vagina owner and a person who has studied vaginas a lot for sex education alongside self-exploration, you’d think I wouldn’t need to learn any more about the subject, but this book really is backed with so much information that I am glad I have learnt.
It has helped me understand the reason as to why we have certain attitudes towards vaginas as well as how our understanding of sexual anatomy and pleasure has evolved over time. It also makes me realise that as a western culture we still have a long way to go when it comes to the acceptance of female sexuality when compared to other cultures and societies beliefs on female positivity.
The book is very academic in the style of information it produces. Covering even elements of Latin, Aristotle, and even ancient myths and legends, Catherine explains many of these with more simplistic writing to help the reader understand what the true meanings of some of these hard to decipher texts were. This is much better than when my mum handed me ancient texts written by Aristotle and said here’s your sex education – yes, she seriously did this. Whilst I generally feel content when reading academic style content I know many aren’t as comfortable, but the author has helpfully split the information up into small bite-size sections so you can dip in and out of reading the text when needed or simply go to a section that you wish to explore further. I must admit this book is pretty heavy of my mind to take in all at once (I really love technical writing at times and am one of those freaks who can read text books cover to cover), however, I did find Blackledge’s writing style a little dry at times meaning I did have to push myself a bit to get through the book. It’s worth it though, as the information provided is fascinating, and the author doesn’t discriminate on what content she explores.
Within this book you’ll even find positive retellings of sex worker and brothel history and their importance. In the past I have read historical books that mention sex work and female sexuality, but normally they are told in a negative shameful way, it’s nice to see these small little historical facts have been told in a more positive light for a change.
Probably some of my favourite bit’s I discovered from this book is the history of vaginas used in dance and how they can be used to ward off or shame evil, rather than vagina’s being the ones of shame and negativity. Some of the book really reminds me of the practices Annie Spinkles a sex educator and past adult performer, adopts in her expressions of sexual positivity so it has been a joy to see how history has possibly shaped the movement known as Ecosexuality and sex positive dancing and celebrations.
There are times the history of male genitalia and male sexuality is addressed too as a form of comparison on how it has evolved over time when compared to how society and history has portrayed both as different. Blackledge’s book really does show that we still do have a long way to go when it comes to equality in views on female and male sexuality and that true feminism has a long way to go before both are seen positively as equals.
Even though Raising the Skirt can be a bit much to take in all at once, I really have enjoyed learning all the interesting facts and theories on how everything in modern society about vagina’s has been shaped and influenced. I’m just hoping that I will be able to put some of the knowledge to use one day in a sex positive pub quiz. I’m certain I’m already boring some of my friends with pointing out random vagina facts and have turned into a bit of a walking vagina encyclopedia.