The scenes and texts of PINK PORTAL are informed by the research process that happened not only through the laboratories with women of different ages and backgrounds and conversations about their experiences, but also through a wide and thorough theoretical and historical research. Even though some things you see on stage are ironic or exaggerated for the sake of theatricality, they are based on facts. On this page we have collected all the things we learned from PINK PORTAL and now we would like to pass them on to you.
Witchcraft – inspiration from the ancient Finnish traditions
‘I wanted to use the divine and magical energy of women in PINK PORTAL. To talk about the fact that women – and their energy and wisdom – were seen as otherworldly and powerful in the old times and in mythology. Women were worshipped, the vulva was sacred. The total opposite of the modern western world, where women are still seen as the ‘weaker sex’. The title of the piece is a nickname of the vulva but actually it is for me also a name that shows what women are: a portal of life. According to the beliefs of the ancient Finnish pagan tribes, women were mythical creatures with direct access to the underworld. This power was both respected and feared. Women were seen to be symbols of fertility, they could give children and make milk, bleed without dying. Because of my Finnish upbringing I was very keen to bring this energy and ancient knowledge on stage.’
– Cecilia Moisio
In the old days magic was called väki, meaning both “folk” and “power”. The väki of a bear or the väki of death were seen as some of the strongest, but one to challenge them was the väki of a woman. Unlike men’s genitals, women’s were hidden away where no one could see – this made the bodies of women even more mysterious. This secretive part of women was seen to have more power than anything else – vittu in Finnish, a vagina (also the swear word ‘cunt’ in more modern Finnish). Only the vagina of a respected older woman, who had given birth, could be called vittu – it was a powerful name you had to earn.
The väki of the vittu could be used to cast many different kinds of spells, but most commonly it was used for protection. One example of the power of vittu is the protection it offers from the forest beasts. In order to keep her cattle safe on the fields, the matron of the family would stand on the field with her lower body naked. When she bent over with her vittu facing the forest the beasts would run away from power much stronger than them. This is why it was also safe to go berry picking with older women – even the bear would stay away and bow down to the power of vittu out of respect.
Other forms of protection spells existed as well. Harakointi (haara = crotch in Finnish) was one of the most common ways of using the power – the magic was cast with a naked vittu, to expose the source of power. These spells were usually related to the things women were traditionally considered to be in charge of – the home, children and cattle. For instance, a woman could step over her child before a trip away from home, with her vittu exposed, to protect him on the upcoming journey. Another form of harakointi was performed after wintertime, once the cattle was released back to the summer fields. The matron of the house would stand astride on top of the door where the cattle would run to freedom. This way it was safe for them to graze without worries of beasts. Women were seen to be connected to the after-life world because of their body. Especially during menstruation it was thought that this path was directly open even for the dead to use – menstruating made the women’s väki active and sensitive. During a full moon it was prohibited to use the power of vittu because it would then be too strong – horses would go wild and faces would be covered with acne.
There is a powerful saying: Ella habla por en medio en las piernas, “She speaks from between her legs”. Little “between-the-legs stories” are found all over the world. One is a story of Baubo, a Goddess from ancient Greece, the so-called “Goddess of Obscenity”. She has older names and it appears the Greeks borrowed her from far older cultures. There have been archetypal wild Goddesses of sacred sexuality and Life/Death/Life fertility since the beginning of memory.
There is only one popular reference to Baubo in writings existent from ancient times, giving the direct impression that her cult was deliberately destroyed. But one shard of an archetype can carry the image of the whole. And we have the shard, for we have the story in which Baubo appears. Baubo is said to have amused Demeter when she was mourning the loss of her daughter, Persephone:
“This curious little woman who has no head, but nipples for eyes and her vulva as her mouth, starts to spew dirty jokes and for the first time, Demeter smiles. She smiles, she laughs and soon both of them are in deep belly roars. The laughter lifts Demeter out of her depression and gives her new energy to pick up her search for Persephone again, which in the end, proves to be successful.”
Baubo, a fun-loving, bawdy, jesting, sexually liberated, yet very wise goddess who plays a crucial, healing role. Needless to say her character has been censored and removed from mythological books. So, it is not by accident that few have heard of Baubo. But despite that she remains a much-honoured figure today among many women – celebrated as a positive force of female sexuality and the healing power of laughter.
The image of Baubo is used in PINK PORTAL: a head up and a head between the crotch talking and communicating. But more so Baubo inspired Cecilia to make PINK PORTAL in the first place: what would the vulva say if she could talk? How would she defend herself? What kind of stories would she tell? This is why PINK PORTAL is made from the point-of-view of the vulva, the personas on stage are alter egos of Baubo or the vulva – funny, witty, but also fierce.
Western Historical Timeline a.k.a ‘Where it all went to fucks for the vag’
We bet Plato doesn’t need a long introduction, we all know this famous ancient Greek philosopher.
The ancient Mediterranean world traditionally believed that bodily symptoms some would call hysterical were caused by a womb which wandered throughout the body. Interesting to know that Hyster is the Greek word for “womb”. Plato lived and wrote during the time of this medical enlightenment. Many researchers have stated that Plato agreed with an animistic view of the uterus and of hysterical symptoms: “the uterus was an independent animal which wilfully wandered the woman’s body and caused disease.” And of course, the views and works of Plato have had an effect on medicine, philosophy and sociology throughout centuries and up to this date.
The views of female body in Christianity and Paul the Apostle
From the story of Eve and her desire for forbidden fruit, Christianity has influenced the ways in which the female body is viewed and shaped. Christianity, like most religions, has all kinds of rules that govern food and – even more so – sex: what goes in and out of women’s orifices, in other words.
Beginning with the Virgin Mary, the restrained, virtuous women have been a recurrent theme in Christianity. They are praised, admired and respected. However, many other women that are different in their behaviour and preferences – free and sexually active women – are often categorised as a total antipode of Mary – an archetype of “the Whore”.
With early church fathers like Saint Augustine interpreting Eve’s appetite as unruly and sexual, women’s fleshly desires became the focus of suspicion. Throughout Christian history eating and sex have been considered to be activities that require control by men. Early church leaders claimed Adam was too intelligent to give in to carnal urges, so Satan picked on Eve. These ideas laid the foundation for western culture’s deeply ingrained association of women with their bodies and men with their minds.
“Eve” by Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930)
Not only is there a historical legacy of women being associated with dangerous, seductive appetites, but their desires are perceived to be disruptive to one’s moral or spiritual virtue. By implication, ‘women themselves came to be seen as obstacles in the path to men’s spiritual progress,’ says Dr Lelwica. From Plato to Freud and further on (as we will see later), the message has been that bodily urges are shameful, and that they should be suppressed by the higher faculties of the mind or the spirit. The key is control. Women’s bodies especially, which are considered to be prone to oozing and leakage, become the site of severe control. Whether it’s menstrual blood or excessive tears, women are considered to transgress boundaries more freely and in more unruly ways than men.
Do you recognise this curious device? It is a chastity belt!
Chastity belts were locking devices that women wore in the Middle Ages (although most recent research shows that they were most likely used a bit later – during Renaissance) to protect them from having intercourse or masturbation and generally prevent unwanted sexual temptations. The belts are thought to be introduced as an answer to unchecked female promiscuity when knights left for battles, pilgrimages or religious crusades.
Renaissance chastity belts were said to have had padded linings (to prevent large areas of metal from coming into direct prolonged contact with the skin), and these had to be changed fairly frequently, so such belts were not practical for uninterrupted long-term wear. Uninterrupted long-term wear could have caused genitourinary infection, abrasive wounds, sepsis and eventual death.
Henricus Institor – Malleus Maleficarum
Heinrich Kramer (1430 – 1505, aged 74-75), also known under the Latinized name Henricus Institor, was a German churchman and famous inquisitor. He wrote a famous book titled Malleus Maleficarum (1487). The book, usually translated as “The Hammer of Witches”, was essentially a guide on how to identify, hunt and interrogate witches. Malleus Maleficarum labelled witchcraft as heresy, and quickly became the authority for Protestants and Catholics trying to flush out witches living among them. For more than 100 years, the book sold more copies of any other book in Europe except the Bible. At the time of its publication, witch hunts were common and most of the accused were brutally tortured and executed by burning at the stake or hanging. Single women, widows and other women on the margins of society were especially targeted.
Shakespeare – objectification of female body in the theatre and shaming language of the female genitalia
Shakespeare’s presentation of women in his plays demonstrates his feelings about women and their roles in society. In Shakespearean time, women weren’t allowed on the stage. During Shakespeare’s active years, all of his famous female roles like Desdemona and Juliette were therefore played by men. Even more than that, Shakespeare used the language to shame the female genitalia.
In all the creations of the legendary playwright women are clearly restricted by their social roles. High-born women are presented as “possessions” to be passed between fathers and husbands, they are coerced and controlled by the men in their lives. Lower-born women were allowed more freedom in their actions precisely because they are seen as less important than higher-born women. At the same time, it is lower class female characters who are more sexualised. Sexuality or desirability can even lead to deadly consequences for Shakespeare’s women. This is seen in Titus Andronicus where the character Lavinia is violently raped and mutilated. Her attackers cut out her tongue and remove her hands to prevent her from naming her attackers.
King Lear is not only one of the most famous plays of all time, it is also one of the plays that features some of Shakespeare’s strongest language, especially towards women and the female body. Lear is revulsed by the female form. It threatens the aged ruler’s own waning virility, taunting his own “every inch” as a king (4.6.105). And it’s the vagina he most fears and loathes. Later in the play, Lear excuses the Earl of Gloucester’s adultery. Because women’s sexuality is diabolical:
Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above.
But to the girdle do the gods inherit.
Beneath is all the fiends’; there’s hell, there’s darkness,
There’s the sulphurous pit, burning, scalding,
Stench, consumption! Fie, fie, fie! Pah! pah! (4.6.121-26)
Yes, for Lear, “hell” is a smelly vagina.
Three Daughters of King Lear by Gustav Pope.
Dr. Edward H. Clarke – Sex in Education
Education was a hot topic in the 1870. How much education should one have and who should get it? Harward medical college professor Dr. Edward Hammond Clarke sought to put the debate into a new perspective. Although he claimed that women should be allowed to learn whatever they could, he did not think women had the same ability to succeed as men. In fact, he believed that women’s educational capacity was limited by their physiology.
According to Clarke, educating girls was fraught with danger. If girls during the ages of 13 to 17 spent too much time learning, the efforts they put into developing their brains would hinder the needed growth of their ovaries and uterus. “The regimen of a college arranged for boys, if imposed on girls, would foster it even more.” – Clarke said.
His theory was straightforward. “Brain work and stomach work interfere with each other if attempted together.” Boys, Clarke postulated, entered the world much more fully developed than girls. They would withstand the rigours of school and college and still turn into men with functioning reproductive organs. Girls simply couldn’t do both. What’s more, too much time in school doomed women to a lifetime of sickness, or as he put it: “A youth of study and an old age of nerves.”
Clarke published his theories in book form in 1873: Sex in Education: Or, A Fair Chance for the Girls. In the book, he added research from Europe that argued girls flourished when they dropped out of school as adolescents and pursued their studies more leisurely at home. The book had an influence that lasted long after his death, it went through 17 printings. The American Association of University Women, founded in 1883, spent decades funding research to debunk Clarke’s theories.
Sigmund Freud and female sexuality
Sigmund Freud’s views on women and female sexuality stirred controversy during his own lifetime and continue to evoke considerable debate today.
“Freud was a man of his times. He was opposed to the women’s emancipation movement and believed that women’s lives were dominated by their sexual reproductive functions,” said Donna Stewart, M.D., professor and chair of women’s health at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada. Freud continued to believe as late as 1925 that the sexes were unequal in position and worth, said Stewart. In his paper “The Psychical Consequences of the Anatomic Distinction Between the Sexes,” Freud wrote, “Women oppose change, receive passively, and add nothing of their own.”
Freud’s “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” published in 1905 mention that women are envious of the “anatomically superior” male penis, thus giving rise to the phrase “penis envy”. In his theory of psychosexual development, Freud suggested that during the phallic stage (around ages 3 to 6 years) young girls distance themselves from their mothers and instead devote their affections to their fathers. According to Freud, this occurs when a girl realises that she has no penis. “Girls hold their mother responsible for their lack of a penis and do not forgive her for their being thus put at a disadvantage”.
In the same essays he suggested two ways a woman could reach climax: vaginal, which was deemed “mature” and “healthy,” and clitoral, which was deemed “immature,” “infantile,” and evidence of a mental disorder.
Freud saw women as being sexually passive, engaging in intercourse merely to procreate. His views around female sexuality were phallic-centred, which limited his ability to delve into the complexities of female sexuality. His views were extremely male centred, which was quite the norm for that century, and mentioned that in ‘only men is sexual life accessible to investigation’ whereas in the female, it is ‘veiled in impenetrable darkness’. Unfortunately, Freud’s theories and views on women have been shared by some of his contemporaries around the world and are still used today to influence psychologists and sexologists alike.
Clitoridectomy as a treatment for masturbation, hysteria & nymphomania
As we have already established earlier, the first diagnosis of hysteria dates back to ancient Greece. In later centuries, it became a catch-all diagnosis for seizures, depression, pelvic pain, and women acting up (disobeying their husbands).
In the last half of the 19th century, the female disorders of nymphomania, masturbation, moral insanity, hysteria and neurasthenia were considered a serious threat to health and life. They were believed to be the result of reading inappropriate novels or playing romantic music. This was also the case with what was called ‘menstrual madness’ and insanity. They were diseases which required radical cure.
Because the clitoris was widely understood to be an important source of disease and the cause of this potential moral decline, the treatment was clear. It had to be removed or destroyed. If healthy women, then, were believed only to be sexual within the context of marriage and reproduction, what is a better way to explain these errant behaviours than by blaming the clitoris, an organ seen as key to female sexual instinct?
Doctors corrected a clitoris in an unhealthy state using one of the surgeries: removing smegma or adhesions between the clitoris and its hood, removing the hood (circumcision), or removing the clitoris (clitoridectomy) in order to correct a woman’s sexual instinct in an unhealthy state. Women suffered through mayhem and medical malpractice because doctors simply didn’t understand how our female body worked.
The Reference Man
Virtually everything in the world has been tested or matched to the ‘Reference Man’: a standard white man who is 180 cm tall, weighs 70 kg and has a “good” posture.
The dummies used in crash impact testing of cars? The best average temperature in an office building? Online algorithms? Architectural design? Medical research? You guessed it: they are all tuned to the standard white guy.
Because of the male crush test dummies women have a 45% higher chance of dying in a car accident. The average temperature in the offices is set to a man’s metabolism, so women often feel very cold.
A lot of medical knowledge is also based only on male bodies and there is often less knowledge about the female body. A lot of drugs are only tested on men. Because of the constant hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle, the research is almost never conducted for and with women. The information based on the processes in the female body is considered to be unreliable. But sometimes this approach has disastrous consequences. For example, women are often diagnosed much too late for such diseases as a cerebral infarction or heart attack, because the symptoms that women get are different from men.
Female Genitals Facts
Whether you have already seen PINK PORTAL or not, we hope you know that the right name for the female genitals is VULVA. Most people think it’s vagina, but the vagina is only the inner tube of the female genitals. Imprint it in your brain, spread the word and call her by her proper name!
And now let’s have a closer look at one of the most “mysterious” (wink-wink) parts of the female body – The Clitoris. Here are some exciting facts:
- A clitoris is like an iceberg – the part that we’re seeing and feeling is just this tiny little glans that creates the head of the clitoris. The rest of it divides into 2 legs and 2 bulbs that reach deep into the body. The complete clitoris can be 9 to 11 cm long.
- Clitoris is the only known body part with the sole purpose of pleasure! But still one in 10 women has never had an orgasm. The culture of shame surrounding female sexuality that suppresses scientific research and personal exploration is definitely the first to blame.
- Clitoris alone has 3 times as many nerve endings as a penis – 10000! It is made up of 18 distinct parts – a mixture of erectile tissue, muscle and nerves. All those little pieces are working together to create the amazing sensations that anyone with a clitoris feels when they’re having orgasms. The actual vaginal tunnel has almost no sensation at all – giving birth through something as sensitive as a clitoris would be simply impossible.
- All orgasms – even G-spot and penetrative orgasms – are clitoral. Both stimulate internal parts of the clitoris. It was only in 2009 that a small team of French researchers carried out the first sonographic mapping of an erect clitoris and made this discovery, even though the technology to do so had existed for years.
- In 1948 the clitoris was removed from the medical handbook Gray’s Anatomy. Many anatomy textbooks give inadequate information about the clitoris or neglect to mention it at all. The knowledge about the clitoris existed since 1559 and up to the 19th century doctors and biologists kept researching it. However, the 1901 edition of Gray’s Anatomy, illustrates only a tiny protrusion on the female genitalia with the label “clitoris.” The 1948 edition banishes the protrusion altogether – there is no clitoris at all! Somehow, over time, knowledge about the clitoris was forgotten, ignored, or deemed inconsequential.
- Nowadays, you’ll notice the clitoris in anatomical diagrams, but not very much of it. We rarely see, for example, that the clitoris has a hood or legs that extend around the vagina. Aside from limiting our understanding of sexual pleasure, this lack of information can be dangerous. Many doctors aren’t aware, for example, that episiotomies – incisions in the perineum and lower vaginal wall sometimes made during childbirth – can damage clitoral tissue.
- The first comprehensive anatomical study done by ultrasound of the clitoris was led by an Australian professor of urology Helen O’Connell and published only in 1998! A subsequent study in 2005 examined it under MRI. It was O’Connell who first properly researched and fully described the inner parts of the clitoris.
- Only in 2021 did the clitoris appear in Dutch school books fully for the first time!
- Studies show that at least 75% of women experience pain during intercourse at one time or another during their lives. However, painful sex IS NOT normal. Your clitoral organ needs to be erect and ready for intercourse – just like men need to have an erection too.
If you’re curious to read more and dive deeper into any of the topics, please feel free to refer to the list of sources: