The idea for a resource about anything and everything related to vaginas started when Zoe Mendelson had an argument with her ex-boyfriend about whether all women squirt.
That led her down the Google rabbit hole, where she encountered heaps of low-quality, unreliable web pages. She then steered in the direction of medical journals—and while they were a little challenging to get through at first, she found they had the most valuable information.
“I started realizing there was a lot of information that I should have always had and that I felt everyone needed to know,” said Zoe. “So what I’d been doing before was a lot of different projects that all had to do with taking complicated concepts and making them into accessible, engaging content. So I thought, ‘Okay, well, we could do this about vaginas.’”
Thus, Pussypedia was born.
Journalist and author Zoe Mendelson teamed up with artist and illustrator María Conejo to create Pussypedia, which started as a website. They wanted to provide factual, reliable, yet wholly approachable content on a topic that often gets covered from a male perspective and that some consider inappropriate to discuss. Even the name—Pussypedia—reclaims a word that is hurled as an insult and regarded as a curse word.
“When you reclaim an offensive word, it makes you think about why this word is so offensive,” Zoe explained. “And the reason isn’t that it’s a swear word. ‘Fuck’ is a swear word, and it’s not nearly as jarring as the word ‘pussy.’ It’s so jarring because it’s referring to vaginas. Just invoking vaginas embarrasses people, so it’s a stigma and taboo that we’re trying to get rid of. But if people really can’t get over it, then let them eat pussy.”
Pussypedia also just got released in book form. Unlike a boring high school textbook or an undecipherable medical article, this is a comprehensive resource that's equally entertaining, educational, and empowering.
“I felt like every sexual education book that I consulted was never honest to me,” María said. “They all tried to talk about sex in a very superficial way. They talked about our bodies without really talking about them. They used metaphors to refer to our intimate parts, or they covered everything with shame. With Pussypedia, we are trying to be honest about it in a joyful way so we can talk about these issues without shame.
“These conversations about our pussies can happen on a daily basis, so we can talk about this with our friends and our family, and it’s okay because it’s just a part of ourselves.”
Whether it’s someone who has a pussy or someone who loves them, Pussypedia is an extraordinary read. Zoe shares insightful interviews with experts that break down intimidating content into something much more manageable and shares plenty of her own personal experiences. It’s science-backed research and girl talk in one. María’s illustrations walk that line, too. You’ll find labeled anatomical diagrams, menstrual products, or women and women’s bodies. Her inclusive drawings highlight the beauty of being female—one that is celebrated and proud.
“We are used to seeing representations of our bodies and sexuality in a very passive way,” María said. “We’ve seen diagrams in history of the pussy illustrated by men, and their result depends on the cultural things that are happening at the moment. Since this project began, I’ve been looking through pussy iconography throughout history, and I think that helped me to create illustrations that felt universal. I was trying to depict sexual experiences and the perception of our body that’s relatable and real. These are real experiences that happened to me, and I tried to translate them and use this other information so that it could be understood in the same way by a lot of people.”
While digging through medical research to put Pussypedia together was difficult, Zoe said she appreciated how the book required her to do some serious self-exploration. She had to be more honest with herself than she’d ever been before so she could, in turn, write from the heart. That honesty showed, too, in every word on the page and influenced the illustrations.
“What she was writing was at some points therapeutic,” María admitted. “Doing these drawings made me question all the ideas I held about my own body, my own sexuality, and my own experiences. At some points, it was hard, but in the end, I feel like this book and everything Zoe wrote changed my life in a meaningful way.
“I hope that everyone who reads this book feels the same way and that they go through this process of being honest with themselves.”