After googling the phenomenon of squirting (as we all probably have), Zoe Mendelson was disappointed by a lack of information and misguided articles on the subject. While feverishly scouring through content, she realized that her knowledge was lacking when it came to the anatomy of her own body. That’s when the journalist and content strategist, who is based in Mexico City, decided to team up with her best friend from college, Jackie Jahn, a PhD student at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health, and Maria Conejo, a visual artist and designer, to create Pussypedia.
The team of women launched a Kickstarter campaign, after working on the concept for a year, to create a free, bilingual, digital encyclopedia of the vagina. The women have aimed to construct an interactive platform that is also free of taboo and stigma.
“I’d like to stress that it was the two of them [Jackie and Maria] that took my vagina-internet-wormhole-induced idea and gave it substance and meticulous quality,” Zoe tells HelloGiggles, when speaking about her collaborative efforts with her two close friends.
To start off, why the word pussy and not vagina?
The vagina is the canal leading to the cervix, which means that it’s only a specific part of the female reproductive system. “Pussy” is all-encompassing and can be used as an expanded definition for all people. “‘Vagina’ comes from the word ‘sheath,’” says Zoe. “So ‘vagina’ kinda means, ‘that thing you put a penis in.’ Vulva was an option, but it sounded too clinical. Also, ‘pussy’ is grabbing back. It’s already being reappropriated and we like that.”
Pussypedia aims to make a positive change in sex education through their 3D rendering of a vagina, which will accompany articles on the website. The rendering will help “you understand and visualize what your parts are and where they are in relation to one another.” When reading sex and health articles on the internet, terms like clitoris, vulva, ovary, and cervix can all be incredibly confusing, especially with no clear map of where these areas are on the body.
How can Pussypedia improve sex education?
Pussypedia will highlight topics such as “pussy hygiene and pleasure; STI prevention for queer and poly people; and menopause.” Zoe explains that “so much of the focus in sex ed is about pregnancy prevention, which is really important, but I want Pussypedia to talk about the other topics that aren’t discussed as openly.”
Sex education in school is widely known as being problematic, unhelpful, and lacking in several resources. Maria recalls a time in school when she brought in a magazine featuring an article on cunnilingus. “A teacher took that magazine away from me. After that, I was called to the principal’s office and they sent me to therapy because they told me I had a sexual disorder,” she says.
The articles and content on the website will take scientific articles, which are difficult to understand, and explicate them in a way that the average person can comprehend. Jackie says, “I also didn’t absorb much during sex ed growing up. I think that was partly because I was very distracted by the shame I felt about my body, being/’becoming’ a woman, and sexuality.”
Learning about our bodies shouldn’t involve a decoding mechanism. Pussypedia is here to empower us as it gives us the knowledge we deserve and demand.
How can Pussypedia be a safe space for readers?
Pussypedia comes with incredible illustrations, active resources, and a completely open and positive space for readers to learn about their bodies. Especially as adults, it can be difficult to admit that certain areas on our own body are foreign to us. Pussypedia is a space where no topic is left unanswered while taboos and stigmas are left out to dry.
Maria says in the Kickstarter video, “It’s important for us to show womxn’s bodies as something positive, as something you can talk about without feeling ashamed.”
What are ways in which Pussypedia is inclusive?
The team plans to utilize the money from the Kickstarter to hire on trans and non-binary consultants to crowdsource for specific content.
Pussypedia went over their goal on Kickstarter of $8,000 by raising $13,000 to begin their website, build portals, and create sample articles. The launch, in total, will require approximately $20,000 for the overall infrastructure. “Our articles will be expensive to produce. We need to write, fact check, translate, design, and program the 3D model into all of them,” explains Zoe.
Reliable and digestible health information for women is difficult to locate, as the medical community hasn’t always been concerned with the female anatomy. Moreover, Pussypedia wants to cover topics that society has told us to be ashamed of, topics on menstruation, masturbation, and infections.
Medically vetted information is pertinent for young people, as well as adults. Sex education shouldn’t stop in grade school — curiosity lasts a lifetime.
Zoe says, “We have 17 more days to raise money, we’re hoping to fund more content.”
Pussypedia is raising money for their launch until December 30th. Prizes include stickers, totes, and prints that are way too amazing to pass up.