Muff Busters exhibition begins in Camden in hope of tackling myths on ‘taboo’ body parts
In a bright indoor space in Camden’s Stables Market, a giant tampon is flanked by giant menstrual cups. Illustrations of female genitalia are dotted around the walls and some underwear is in a glass case.
This is the world’s first vagina museum dedicated to gynaecological anatomy, which opens this weekend in north-west London.
The museum exists thanks to a public fundraising drive, with more than 1,000 people collectively donating almost £50,000. The director, Florence Schechter, says her motivation behind setting up the space was simple. “I discovered there was a penis museum in Iceland but no vagina equivalent anywhere else so I decided to make one,” she says.
When asked more about her motivation, she adds with a smile: “I just love the vag. I am a bisexual woman.”
The first exhibition, which will run until the end of February, is called Muff Busters: Vagina Myths and How To Fight Them. It looks at misconceptions that surround gynaecological anatomy, including cleanliness, appearance, periods, sex and contraception.
“Just under 50% of the world’s population has one. Most of us came into the world through one. Yet vaginas and the rest of the gynaecological anatomy are still a taboo subject,” a poster in the exhibition reads.
The show also quotes a YouGov survey in March, which found that more than half of the British public surveyed could not describe the function or visibly identify the vagina (52%), the labia (47%) or the urethra (58%).
Sarah Creed, who curated the exhibition, says these facts surprised her. “The facts for me were astounding … half of people surveyed did not know where the vagina was, I thought that was one thing people did know. Also for me, it was a statistic that one in five adult women think they have to remove a tampon to urinate – that blew my mind.”
Creed explains the various elements of the show, stopping at one section, which focuses on the myth that pubic hair is unhygienic. Underneath this claim is the statement: “It’s actually more hygienic to have it.”
Creed says: “Your vagina does not smell like a bouquet of flowers, nor should it. That is not a thing; none of your body organically smells like that. People liken the vagina to the armpit and say: ‘Oh, I have a smelly armpits. I’ll just put deodorant on it.’ No aerosols, please, around that part of the body.
“Also people don’t realise we have a very delicate bacteria microflora ecology down there. You cannot have a product for all vaginas because everyone is different.”
Creed goes on to talk about vaginal discharge, revealing that her own underwear appears in the exhibition. “The fact your vagina is acidic during reproductive years … that can lead to bleached underwear. This is my underwear in this box. That is how much I advocate for this,” she says.
When this show is finished, Creed says, they want to focus on the history of menstruation and also current social and political issues.
As well as the exhibition – which is also available to view online – events and performances will take place in the space, including comedy and a book club discussing feminist literature. The space also includes leaflets and information about vagina health and it has a shop selling everything from vulva postcards to vagina museum cups and guitar plectrums.
Creed said: “We are an LGBTQ+ ally and an intersex ally … Intersex and trans individuals are not represented at all in this narrative. We are looking at how we can engage all people. I want cis heterosexual men to come here and feel it is a space for them to come and learn.
“In this post-Weinstein era, there’s more fear than there is inquiry because people do not want to be seen as inappropriate, but they are part of the conversation. People have wives or daughters and friends – people with gynaecological anatomy – and in order to interact with loved ones in an effective way, they should know more about them.”