I was dressed modestly in a knee-length black dress, white Converse, and a denim jacket, and felt as comfortable as any stripper can when behaving as a civilian at a strip club event. Although Portland is home to about 45 strip clubs, its downtown entertainment district only has five, but on this Thursday evening, Club Rouge was already thumping with activity. I proudly displayed my black and pink VIP pass to the door attendant, feeling like vaginal royalty. About three dozen women of various ethnicities and body types strutted and mingled.
The judging panel was comprised of local Portland celebrities and industry folks: Tres Shannon, the delightfully eccentric owner of Voodoo Donuts, heavily bearded Jedediah Aaker, promoter of Tonic Lounge, who sports a leather thong in IFC’s Portlandia, traveling drag performer Miss Sasha Scarlette, an owner of a marijuana dispensary who wished to remain anonymous, and the unnamed owner of the upscale Stars clubs, who looked like a slightly more heterosexual John Waters. I was the only judge with an actual vagina. "I feel a lot of pressure was on your shoulders to maintain order and balance," host and creator of the Annual Vagina Pageant, DJ Dick Hennessy, later told me.
20 contestants, 19 of whom were strippers, were vying for the title of Miss Pretty Vagina 2013. Scoring was based on three categories: Stage Talent (20%), Attractiveness (20%) and Vagina Beauty (60%). One young lady, appropriately dressed as a cute (yet clichéd) school girl, was introduced as having never stripped a shift in her life. While I admire the bravery of any woman willing to bare all in an industry competition, I was already dreading watching an amateur "dance."
Club Rouge and Hennessy had attracted a diverse crowd. Twentysomething bros laughed and drank among well-dressed older men, a pack of women whispered into their hands and pointed at the strippers, and the Old Guy Who Sells Roses was weaving his way through the audience, muttering "Rose for the lady?" Dancer Ari from the Boom Boom Room giggled to me, "I just saw my dentist. He asked me, "How’s everything going? I asked him, "Like, in my mouth?" A fish-faced middle-aged man stood behind the judges, his mouth agape, not moving except to lick his lips every few minutes.
The bartender laughed at me when I asked "Do you serve hot tea?" and instead I settled for ice water with a lemon, dunking in my own smuggled tea bags. Once the contest began, the next four hours were a blur of vaginas and stilettos.
The judges passed magnifying glasses between ourselves, some equipped with flashlights. As the only female on the panel, I fretted for the ladies who hadn’t been able to wax in preparation. Dull razors and lack of exfoliation are enemies to a flawless bikini zone. And it’s rare for a vagina to look perfectly flawless under the scrutiny of bright, white light.
Some dancers were masters of the pole, some moved lithely along the floor, and a couple relied on humping the male portion of the panel and fingering themselves. Most of the vaginas had nary a landing strip or patch of pubic hair. One familiar stripper had the creativity to plan a sacrilegious performance set, complete with a handmade crucifix that had a Barbie affixed to it. Now I can check "seeing a naked, spread nun" off of my life experiences list.
When one particular contestant approached, my brain cried out in protest, but I maintained my smile. I was suddenly wishing I had somewhere to escape. I didn’t want to see this woman’s vagina. A vagina event would be a prime opportunity to wash yourself, but she had a face like Mr. Burns, framed by long brown hair, and a proud FUPA. Her eyes belied a general anxiety, I’m sure felt by all of us, but also like she was coming off of some serious pharmaceuticals. Toenails longer than Miss Sasha Scarlette’s fake fingernails were curling over her platforms, her toes grasping on to the outer sides of her shoes.
There’s an old saying about female grooming: If a lady takes care of her feet, she takes care of everything else. I didn’t want to see her feet, let alone her vagina, which looked like a mini sarlacc, gaping and grizzled, with inch-long pubic "stubble" expanding across her crotch and dotting her butthole. I was waiting for it to snarl. I was more displeased than surprised when she displayed to us a vibrator and frantically began fucking herself with it. Still smiling politely, I kept my lips tightly pressed together, praying to the stripper gods that she wouldn’t fling anything our way. When the plastic green device popped suddenly from her vagina, Shawna the drag queen reacted by attempting to catch it. Yet as the vibe touched her fingertips, the chagrin showed on her face and she held her hands to her sides, in an effort to shake them off, and then wiped them on her chair, still grimacing. Fish Face Guy was still standing behind us, licking his lips.
At one point I’m sure that Jedediah had his nose inserted into a vagina, when an especially nubile young dancer shoved his face with both hands, into her crotch. One unsuspecting competitor accidentally flipped herself and Judge Tres backwards in the chair while attempting a handstand, because "I didn’t know they are on wheels!" The newbie amateur nearly fell out of her shoes, and grabbed tightly to the pole while popping and spreading, yet made it to the top of the score. Mostly due to the fact that she was 18 and had a beautiful vagina, and that the judges were predominantly male.
One lovely competitor looked familiar to me. Later when I asked, she said that we had indeed worked together before. "You spilled vodka on my leather jacket." Oops. Hopefully the fact that she had earned a 10 on my scorecard slightly made up for that past offense.
The scores were tabulated and the winner, Miss Jordan from Club Heat was announced. The quietly confident young lady smiled big and stood proudly as her trophy, nearly 5 feet tall, was placed beside her. Below is a short interview with Miss Beautiful Vagina 2013:
Was this your first competition?
Yes, it was my first competition, and to prepare, my good friend Beetle bought me a new outfit, new shoes, and then I decided on some songs. I practiced a little but was really just planning on being myself and dancing the way I normally dance.
Where do you work and when can people find you?
I work Wed-Saturday at Heat 6pm-Close and Tuesday at Club 205 10am-9pm, and should hopefully soon be getting more shifts at 205.
And what will you do with your prize money?
I spent some on me, of course. I also took my sister and my newborn baby nephew out shopping and put the rest in savings. But the trophy is one of my favorite out of the prizes because it’s something that I can keep, money and gifts come and go.
Throughout the event, I was pleased that few people tried to take pictures. I would attribute this to the huge security presence or the fact that none of these pics would be postable on social media. I applaud the 20 women who braved the magnifying glasses, flashlights, and who kept their game faces on despite opening up to strangers, in the most literal way possible.
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