TV review: 100 Vaginas, Channel 4
- Brian Donaldson
- 15 February 2019
An important exploration of a frequently misunderstood body part
Having undertaken bold photographic projects where she snapped 100 women's bare chests and then the same number of penises, it was probably inevitable that Laura Dodsworth would finally turn her lens upon that most intimate of female body parts. Described in this one-off documentary as 'the last taboo' (as well as 'like a pink cupcake'), the vagina is shown to mean different things to different owners. And in a newsflash that might come as a surprise to the hordes of teenage boys who have their perception of what a vagina looks like somewhat skewed by hours of viewing carefully stage-managed porn, 100 Vaginas shows us that no two are exactly the same.
In the face of Dodsworth's exploratory lens, there is much laughter in the room as many of the women (the age range of those willing to be interviewed on camera stretches from 19 to 77), talk of their embarrassment, curiosity, and lack of awareness about what their own vulva actually looks like. But there is also a dark side to the joviality. Alongside some disturbing statistics which float onto the screen (such as the number of 11 to14-year-old boys who have consumed pornography or the percentage of Somali girls that suffer Female Genital Mutilation), the programme covers periods, the menopause, pregnancy, cervical cancer, abortions and sexual assault.
Many of the stories are jawdropping, some of them are deeply upsetting. It could be that 45 minutes airtime is not enough to properly examine these areas in depth, but as a gateway into knowing the body part that might be spoken of the most but is probably understood the least, 100 Vaginas is an important and occasionally revelatory documentary.
100 Vaginas is on Channel 4, Sunday 17 February, 10pm.