#happyYOUyear: why The Happy Vagina podcast is your next must-listen

Get ready to talk vaginas, bodies, periods, sex and getting tested with Mika Simmons

Mika Simmons is one busy lady. The film maker, actress and founder of women’s health charity The Lady Garden Foundation has turned podcast host, with her first offering affectionately named The Happy Vagina. In a world where the word ‘vagina’ can feel taboo or make some feel uncomfortable, The Happy Vagina Podcast opens up a dialogue about fundamental issues around women’s experiences and gynaecological health – and we’re totally here for it.

What is your intention for the podcast?

To be fun and entertaining for listeners, but also educational, and not just a chat. Don’t get me wrong, I love a chat podcast, but I wanted this one to have a focus around women’s health – and a point to being recorded.

When did the idea come to you?

For International Women’s Day last year I hosted a panel event called, ‘how to make your vagina happy’. The event completely sold out, showing to me a desire for the conversation. And so, following founding The Lady Garden Foundation in 2013, the podcast felt like a natural progression to do.

Tell us about the guests we can expect…

I’ve gone for a variety of women across all generations and who have something to say. From Loose Women’s Andrea McLean, who is post-menopausal, to the young cast of Netflix’s Sex Education. 

The Happy Vagina

Sex Education stars Aimee Lou Wood and Tanya Reynolds are your first guests on episode one. How did it go?! 

I’ll admit, I felt a minor degree of nervousness ahead of interviewing them, because they had an intimacy therapist on set – and I thought they might think my questions were stupid! But they were amazing; I loved hearing their ideas on what sex education in schools should be, and what it was like filming sex scenes on set.

Are you a fan of the show?
I love it. Setting the show in a school was really clever, because it reminds you of your school time. My school years were equally as difficult, in terms of finding out who you are and what you like, when it comes to friendships and sex.

Why do you think the word vagina is still taboo, and can make people feel uncomfortable?

The vagina is connected to sex, and for some reason it’s difficult for us to separate the anatomy and what we can do with it, in terms in pleasure. They’ve become entwined and we forget that we have to look after our health above the shame around sex.

Why do you think there is shame around sex?

I think it comes from religion. Sex has been seen as a sin as far back as the days of Adam and Eve.

How would you summarise your relationship with your body?

It’s changed dramatically over time. It’s been a life’s work to be completely at peace with it, and I am now. As an actress, the pressure I got put under to be thin didn’t have the best effect on my health, or my mental health. I think Instagram is one of the most amazing creations, purely because it’s been a game changer in allowing different shapes and sizes of men and women’s bodies to be shown. The media had control and Instagram changed that. Now, we control our own images. We no longer compare and despair.

Have you ever felt pressure to conform to ‘social norms’ like marriage and motherhood? 

No. When I was growing up, my mother was part of a feminist movement. Getting married just wasn’t a conversation in our family house. It wasn’t a route or a focus. It was a huge gift to have a mother who was so liberal and open minded. That said, I haven’t been married and I would quite like to. And when it comes to children, I’m almost definitely not going to have them – and I can’t stand the pressure that we all get put under by society. I’m in my forties now and there’s this belief that there is something wrong with you if you haven’t had children. Change needs to happen – it doesn’t mean women are not whole if they haven’t had children.

You founded the Lady Garden Foundation in honour of your mum, who died from ovarian cancer aged 54, and to raise awareness about gynaecological cancers. Did you ever expect the charity to become so successful?

It’s always scary starting a project, but I believed in it, I wanted to save lives, and the timing was right. That, and my friend and co-founder Chloe Delevingne getting Cara to post on social media helped [laughs]!

 Any final words of wisdom for us?

Ladies, you can go for a smear test even if you haven’t had a Brazilian, and you’ve got hairy legs [laughs]. But seriously, there is a bit of an epidemic with women not going for smear tests, and people genuinely cancel because they haven’t shaved. This is about your future health. And it’s not just cervical cancer; a smear test is not a check for all gynae cancers. Get to know your body and your cycle. There are amazing apps that monitor it, and then you’ll really to recognise if something is wrong.

Did you know?

Mika reveals three things she’s learned about the vagina that she didn’t know before recording the podcast… 
  1. Our clitoris and G spot are actually the same thing – the nerves at the back of the Clitoris are the G Spot! I hope this fact will make it easier for listeners to find…
  2. Sleeping with a nightlight on can help regulate our menstrual cycles. Light exposure affects the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, which helps control the release of the female reproductive hormones that determine when your menstrual cycle begins and ends.
  3. In medieval times, it was thought that female orgasm was necessary for reproduction. It came from the mistaken belief that female genitals are the same as male and, therefore, women have to orgasm to produce a baby. Actually – the truth is, its not a prerequisite – but it can help!

The Happy Vagina episodes can be found at thehappyvagina.co

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