Yoni: Divine Female Energy
Rufus, please define the word Yoni for our readers.
YONI is a term borrowed from India’s ancient language, Sanskrit or devanagari (“divine language”). Yoni is sometimes translated by English concepts such as “origin”, “source”, or “womb”, yet it specifically refers to the vulva and - in extension - to the entire female genital system (vulva, pubic triangle, labia, clitoris, vagina etc.).
Yoni is the most respectful and beautiful word available for naming what most languages refer to by a variety of medical and/or vulgar terms such as vulva, pussy or cunt - or with the popular but technically wrong term vagina (“Sorry, Eve - but I did appreciate your Yoni Monologues.”).
The word stems from a culture and religion in which women have long been regarded and honored as the embodiment of divine female energy and where the female genitals are often regarded as the foremost sacred symbol of the Great Goddess.
The name of your website translates as “Yoniverse”. Why do you call it that?
When Christina - my lover, friend and wife - and myself decided to get our own domain on the net, we were looking for a name that clearly reflected what we are doing. With her being an artist specializing in intimate portraits that show the yoni in glorious color and detail - and with me having written a complete book about the yoni almost ten years ago, it occurred to us that our personal universe is very much centered on the yoni - so the term Yoniverse appeared almost effortlessly out of the blue. Searching the net for it, we discovered that someone had thought up this already - so we adapted it to the Dutch language (as we live in the Netherlands) in which it reads Yoniversum; an exact translation of Yoniverse.
As long as you've brought it up, & we'll be using much of her artwork to illustrate this interview, let's discuss the intimate portraits your wife makes for women or their lovers. It's breath-taking! But, do people actually dare to do this and how does it work?
Oh yes, people do dare. She’s had husbands who sent her photographs of their wife, there has been a lesbian couple who gave her photographs of each other and asked for a drawing each, and we’ve also had a few women pose for her or my camera in our home. You must realize, each of these drawings takes much too long - from several days to a whole week - for anyone to pose for them live.
So all of Christina’s yoni portraits are based on photographs and most of them are very realistic - except for the soft and subtle colors. With color, she takes her liberties, but never with the seize or shape of lips, hood or anything else.
Of course, there have also been women who wanted to have a portrait of themselves, yet when they were asked for photographs they simply did not dare to go to a shop to have them developed. Now, however, with many people having a digital camera, that problem is solved forever. But we get other shy people as well. I remember a woman who visited, looked through all available drawings, and finally picked one with the statement: “I’ll take this one, it looks the most like myself.”
I love it! (laughing) Tell me more about people's reactions to Christina’s art.
Yes, I can - because some of the more general mails I have actually read, others Christina just told me about. Most comments of actual clients are thankful, mainly containing praise and surprise at the realism, at the fact that they actually can recognize themselves in the drawings.
Most reactions, however, are in another category - real “fan mail” in fact based on the gallery on our website. They come from both women and men who thank Christina for her efforts in presenting the yoni with such subtle beauty, as flowers of passion and - simultaneously - as a powerful symbol of womanity. One man even ordered all nine images of the ‘Blue Series’, writing he’d already cleared the space in his house where he envisioned to put them up.
As far as I know, there’ve been only two cranky mails with a lecherous or obscene tone and feel to them - most people who write in are serious and decent and very appreciating.
The most deeply touching mail - in my memory - was from a gay man who wrote, more or less, that looking at these drawings made him almost wish to change his orientation. I think that’s an amazing compliment; don’t you?
What are your thoughts on the various cosmetic surgeries available to 'refine & perfect' women's genitalia?
Well, I’m glad you asked - I would have forgotten to mention this. I think it’s a shame - and a sham - that there are individuals and organizations who promote these practices. It only serves to help the cosmetic surgeons to live more luxuriously, while at the same all women are turned into Barbie-dolls, now even between their thighs.
To me, it looks like the modern, Western equivalent to the hideous Arabic-African practice of FGM (female genital mutilation), although here in the West one makes it look as if it’s a purely voluntary and free choice. Next thing you know, someone may even call it “empowering” and we’ll have a new generation of semi-feminist teenagers submit to the knife before anyone can tell them that nothing is wrong with them.
Myself, and many other men and women I know, prefer Her in Her natural state: large or small; just as the previous Yoni created Her in Her own image.
Is appreciation of the Yoni anti-male?
Being a man myself, and hetero-sexual, I simply can’t imagine how it could be.
Appreciation of the yoni is “pro-female”, and all that is “pro-female” is - by definition - also “pro-life” and thus “pro-male” as well. Of course, plenty of people will disagree with this equation - especially the so-called “pro-life, anti-freedom-of-choice” people in the US. However, after having been “pro-women” for almost four decades now - this is the only way I can think about it.
Please, continue to read more about the Yoni, as our interview with Rufus continues...
All pencil drawings by Christina Camphausen, Copyright © 2005
Photographs by Christina and Rufus C. Camphausen, Copyright © 2005