The Shocking Ramifications Of Saying "Vagina"


Within minutes of posting about her newest campaign on Facebook, female entrepreneur, Karen Long, was shut down. And no, she wasn’t talking about drugs or terrorism, she was talking about the female body.

“I did not think we were living in the 1880’s and we couldn’t talk about a woman’s anatomy,” says Long, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nuelle, a female-focused health company which addresses sexual wellness. Nuelle’s star product, Fiera, which is sold online, has proved incredibly difficult to market, says Long, who despite raising 23 million in funding, has been unable to secure advertisements online, in print and on billboards alike.

“We need to find the women who are looking for solutions to things like vaginal dryness or emotional sexual health, and when we try to advertise we get immediately shut down,” said Long, adding that she's been unable to even purchase a "obscenity"-free Facebook ad, due to the fact that the URL included in the ad linked back to a page that had the word “vagina” on it.

To take a stand against the censorship, Long has created and rolled out a new social movement called Legalize V, which was not surprisingly blocked from audience view by Facebook within days of launch.

“Facebook in particular is the biggest offender because they shut us down the fastest when we’re trying to talk about female sexuality,” says Long, adding that she has been equally rebuffed by Google Display Networks, and magazines like Vanity Fair, People Magazine, Vogue and In Style, which are ironically struggling to maintain print advertisers. “We are considered obscene and vulgar because we are talking in very direct language about a woman’s anatomy, and so we can't advertise anywhere.”

We haven't talked about women's health, period. Pun intended.

Long, of course, has the option to side-step the word vagina, as decoy words—including “pussy”—are permissible, but she refuses to “make up a language” that in her opinion, ultimately degrades and undermines women.

“You make up words for [vagina] and herein lies the issue that we have in this country. We put such shame and such taboo around women’s sexuality in particular, but all sexuality in general,” says Long.

“We say things like 'down-there' or ‘vajajay’ or “hoo-ha,” and we think it’s cute and funny but we don’t recognize the reason behind why we’re doing it or about the ramifications of using that language.

Why should we put women or any other human being in a place of shame in order to comply?”

Long’s campaign, which rolled out last week, is meant as a way for women entrepreneurs, specifically those in healthcare, “to take a stand against the media who don’t allow us to educate in the way we want to.” The campaign, which features a “power squad” of thought leaders including Alexandra Fine, CEO and Co-Founder of Dame Products; Cindy Whitehead, Founder of The Pink Ceiling; Jordana Kier, Co-Founder of LOLA; Amanda LaFleur, Founder and Executive Director of NAPMDD; Colette Courtion, CEO of Joylux Products; and Michelle King Robson, Founder of HER Inc., is meant to change the minds, and rules surrounding female sexual health.

"Vagina" is a metaphor for the bigger issue.

“The initial video we created is basically just people saying vagina a bunch of times and having it bleeped out,” says Long. “I want people to watch and share the video, and sign our petition so we can get a meeting with Facebook to just explain the issue. I am positive that a human being on the other side, and hopefully Sheryl Sandberg, would hear our story and say 'that’s crazy.'”

“We are considered obscene and vulgar because we are talking in very direct language about a woman’s anatomy.”

The use of the word vagina has been headline news in recent years. Just seven months ago a teacher in Michigan was fired for using the word in an art history class while describing the reproductions of flower paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe. Similarly, back in 2012, a female legislator was banned from the House of Representatives for the same infraction.

"It's insane," says Long. "This is 2016 and unless people get mad-and it takes bravery to get mad-it won't change. We've created a culture of embarrassment surrounding this issue."


“We say things like down-there or ‘vajajay’ or “hoo-ha,” and we think it’s cute and funny but we don’t recognize the reason behind why we’re doing that or about the ramifications of using that language."

-Karen Long

“'Vagina' is a metaphor for the bigger issue, says Long. “We can’t talk about sexuality in this country. We’ve created such taboos around periods, and such a problem around sex. It’s the pinnacle of taboo and it absolutely shouldn’t be.”

While sex in general is a difficult topic for Americans to deal with, Long says it's even worse for women, which only further cements the need for a new conversation to emerge.

“We educated the world on male sexuality when Viagra launched and that was 17 or 18 years ago,” she says. “I think Viagra helped pave the way for the conversation about male sexuality and we haven’t had that with women. We haven’t talked about women’s health, period. Pun intended.”

Why should we put women in a place of shame in order to comply?

Despite the discrepancy, Long is focused on the future. She hopes to create a movement that will change the way we teach about female health, and most importantly, the way we address it.

“Ultimately, the goal of the campaign is to grow from a small group of entrepreneurs saying 'enough is enough' to include all of humanity,” she says. “It’s a human issue. We’re talking about sexual health and it’s no different than talking about the skin on our face. I really want to engage people in this dialogue, because if nobody starts talking about it, it’s going to be 1873 all over again.”

5 min read

3 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress Each Evening (Instead of Reaching for Another Cocktail)

When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.

The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.

While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.

Risks of Reaching for Another Drink

Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.

Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.

While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.

Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress

Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!

Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
  2. Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
  3. Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.

Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.

Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First

It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.

However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.

If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.

I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.