“You’re comparing an innie to an outie,” Lita Ford tells me. “It would be a little difficult to take a plaster cast of that. You know what I mean?”
I laugh nervously, because that’s the only reasonable thing to do when you’ve just asked the former lead guitarist for the seminal girl-rock band the Runaways, the woman responsible for the scrotum-rattling riff in “Cherry Bomb,” whether she would ever immortalize her vagina in plaster.
“It’d be like taking a plaster cast of the inside of your mouth as opposed to your finger,” Ford says. And then, after a pause, “I don’t know how to answer that, I honestly don’t. I’m absolutely at a loss for words.”
It’s probably the best I could’ve hoped for. What was I expecting her to say? “Yes, I think my vagina is pretty spectacular. It should be in a museum somewhere.” But why not? Jimi Hendrix’s penis — or at least a plaster cast of it — was exhibited at New York’s Thread Waxing Space and San Francisco’s Artrock Gallery, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been trying for years to get it in their collection. Why shouldn’t Lita Ford’s vagina get the same reverence? Is her vagina any less worthy of veneration than Hendrix’s schlong?
I probably wouldn’t be asking Ford awkward vagina questions if it wasn’t for the Michigan House of Representatives. When they tried to cock-block Rep. Lisa Brown from saying the v-word, it sparked a lot of interesting discussions, both online and otherwise, about why vaginas are so scary. And then later, with vaginas already on my mind, I was doing research for an interview when I somehow stumbled onto the website Groupie Dirt. (Actually, it’s no mystery how I got there. Google the words “penis” and the name of any rock star who’s ever worn leather pants and you’ll probably find it.) If you haven’t heard about Groupie Dirt, I highly recommend a visit. You could waste an entire afternoon reading about the sexual prowess (or lack thereof) of your favorite musicians. It’s like the Yelp of rock penises, and the details are staggeringly specific. Did I need to know that Glenn Danzig has five inches of manhood? No I did not. No more than I needed to know that Eminem’s slim-shady has “plenty of girth,” or that Lars Ulrich is uncircumcised, or that Trent Reznor has exactly 4.5 more inches of penile length than Billie Joe Armstrong, who is described unceremoniously as “little willy.”
The penis details aren’t what shocked me. What shocked me was the lack of vagina details. Courtney Love is the sole woman represented in Groupie Dirt, and the most we learn about her is that she’s “an unfaithful slut.” Which, compared to the andrological information provided about male rockers, is embarrassingly sparse. How do we live in a world where it’s public knowledge that Simon LeBon has a curved penis and yet Courtney Love’s vagina remains a mystery? It’s certainly not because she’s bashful. “My genealogist and my gynocplogist (sic) know i do my Kegals like a snatch the cig off the table thai sex worker,” she tweeted in 2010. So why is nobody else talking about her vagina? (Besides the Nirvana song “Heart-Shaped Box,” but Kurt’s intentions are still debatable.) Is her vagina that unmemorable? Or are we just more comfortable gossiping about (and fetishizing) rock cocks than rock vaginas?
You don’t have to look far to see penises being exalted in music. Male junk is everywhere, from songs like KISS’s “Love Gun” and Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” (to name just two of literally hundreds) to the Stones’ Sticky Fingers album cover to the Tommy Lee Jones sex tape. I don’t even like the Doors, but I could tell you about the time Jim Morrison took out his ding-a-ling during a Miami concert. In the late ’90s, I almost got the chance to interview Jesus Lizard’s David Yow, and I was told by several people (mostly women) to ask about his penis puppetry, for which Yow is apparently legendary. “If he likes you, he’ll take out his prick and do a puppet show with it,” one female friend told me, as if this was a performance I should be delighted to witness.
Not to sound like a guy who went to a liberal arts college (which I did, full disclosure), but what are the vagina equivalents of all this cock worship? There’s, well … that rumor about Marianne Faithful shoving a Mars candy bar up her lady business (but that might’ve been Mick Jagger’s idea, or it might’ve never happened at all.) Yoko Ono showed off her not-so-secret garden on the cover of Two Virgins (although John Lennon’s boiled shrimp of a penis got all the attention.) Britney Spears exposing herself doesn’t really count, because it was unintentional. It’s about as badass as Justin Timberlake getting out of a limo and not noticing that he’s got a ball stuck in his zipper. It’s not sexy, it’s embarrassing and stupid. I can think of only two examples of rock vaginas given the glory their deserve (and please correct me if I’m forgetting something.) One was L7 and their enormous camel toes in the 1994 John Water film Serial Mom, but that was meant as a joke. And the other is Christina Aguilera’s glowing heart crotch at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, which was awesome just by lack of competition.
Once you start thinking about vaginas and rock music, it can easily evolve into an obsession. I made a list of every song about vaginas I could think of— “Cherry Pie”, “Squeezebox,” “Winona’s Big Brown Beaver,” “Brown Sugar,” “Little Red Corvette” — and every one of them was written and performed by men. Even “Sugar Walls,” Sheena Easton’s classic vagina anthem, was written by Prince. If you dig deep, you can find a few vagina sing-a-longs by women. PJ Harvey’s “Sheela-Na-Gig.” And Aguilera’s “Woohoo.” And, uh … wow, I don’t know. I’m sure there’s something I’m not thinking of. Liz Phair probably did a vagina song at some point, but all I can remember are the ones about blowjobs and male viscous fluid.
“No one talks about flaccid penises,” Jamie McCartney tells me. “Everyone’s interested in erections.