Trans-Vaginal Politics

Maureen Dempsey, RNC-OB

Friday morning, on the Huffington Post, the first story to catch my eye was this: “David Albo, Virginia Lawmaker, Says Wife Wouldn’t Have Sex Because Of Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill.”  As I clicked on the headline, I thought, this is going to be good.  And the gentleman from Fairfax didn’t disappoint me.  I watched a three-minute video of Mr. Albo describing to his fellow delegates how he tried to seduce his wife with a combination of red wine and the Redskins on big screen television.  They were on the sofa, he was snuggling up to her while changing the channel, things were heating up…when he inadvertently stopped on MSNBC and saw his name plastered across the 46-inch screen and heard his colleague, David Englin, repeatedly using the term “trans-vaginal.”  After a few minutes of this, his wife excused herself and went to bed alone. 

Mr. Albo obviously went to some effort to plan the description of this failed seduction.  He set the stage visually.  At an appropriate time in the story, he played some sexy music.  However, when the moment came for him to describe what he and his wife saw and heard on the TV, his story telling technique fell apart.  He couldn’t bring himself to say the word, “trans-vaginal.”  He got part of the word out and then the rest of the sentence dissolved into incoherent gibberish.  “Trans-V this and Trans-V that,” he said next, using a guttural tone of voice – the kind of voice people use when they think they’re saying something dirty.  

Now I was confused.  What had turned off Mr. Albo’s wife?  Originally, I had thought it was her solidarity with other women – her disgust at the thought that the state might require this unnecessary, uncomfortable, and invasive procedure.  But now I wondered if she wasn’t just disgusted at the blatant use of the word, “vagina.”  I decided to see if I could find any other information about this story online.  The first retelling of the story I found, at www.dailycaller.com, referred to “the unfortunately named, ‘trans-vaginal ultrasound.’”  Apparently the Albos aren’t the only people uncomfortable with the word vagina. 

Why is vagina so hard to say?  Why is it “unfortunate” to use the term vaginal to describe a medical procedure that occurs in the vagina?  Why does the gentleman from Fairfax use a special, bawdy tone of voice when he refers to “trans-V this and trans-V that?”  Why is this story even funny?  I have a theory.  I do not know Mr. Albo personally.  But he and I attended high school in Virginia at roughly the same time.  I think I knew guys like him.  A smart guy, a funny guy, a mostly proper guy.  He couldn’t say vagina because what he was really talking about was pussy.  He was telling a story – an ironic story, a bawdy story – about how he didn’t get any pussy because of his involvement in some notorious pussy-related legislation.   

This is important because when men who can’t say the word, “vagina,” get together with other likeminded men to discuss contraception, the discussion ends up being about sex, about pussy, rather than about women’s health.  I encourage all men, but particularly those involved in the legislative process, to practice saying the word, “vagina,” every day.

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