The porn festival will take place during Valentine’s weekend (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Contrary to its name, a vagina quotient (or VQ) isn’t actually something you measure.

The term, which was thought-up by the founders of Bean Flicks – an ethical feminist porn festival that will be hosted in Birmingham next weekend – actually relates to the level of knowledge you have about the vagina.

From periods and menopause, female pleasure and desire, the vagina quotient is all about learning more about women’s sexuality, and by doing so, destigmatising these often taboo topics.

We caught up with Dr Keeley Abbott and Dr Gemma Commane, researchers in healthy, psychology and media at Birmingham City University, to hear more about the VQ and why they’ve decided to host a feminist porn festival.

‘The VQ is a play on IQ/EQ, so it’s vagina quotient – basically, it’s a way to up your vagina knowledge,’ Dr Abbott tells us.

‘It’s an initiative that brings together female-focused sexual health businesses and organisations, as part of a pop-up project, and promotes female health and wellbeing, as well as provides a space for women of all different ages and backgrounds to gain access to information.

‘We tend to not talk about women’s sexual health and women therefore don’t know what is normal and natural, for them individually, and can’t identify when something isn’t normal or where there’s a health issue.

‘We’re taught in society that we shouldn’t talk about periods, for instance – they are taboo and dirty.

‘But also menopause in older women – again they get over one taboo and then go straight into another. Not many people know what the symptoms are or how severe symptoms can be, so they kind of suffer in silence through these things, in the same way that young girls are suffering in silence.’

VQ isn’t just about educating girls or women, we’re told.

It’s equally important that men take part in the conversation.

Dr Abbott says: ‘If we are going to overcome stigma, taboo, silence, we need everyone to be part of the solution, and the discussion.

‘Lots of young boys are in families with sisters, and their mums, and they know that women and girls go through things like menstruation and periods, so they need to be educated on this.’

This is where Bean Flicks comes in, with artists, performers, activists and porn stars hosting talks on topics such as ‘what is ethical gay porn?’, sex education in British schools – the improvements needed and the distinct lack of LGBTQ information – as well as stigma around desirability of disabled people.

All the research that I’ve done with young people, and by observing classes and lessons shows that British sex education isn’t comprehensive

‘It’s limited to the very basics; puberty and STIs – all the negative elements of young people’s sexuality and sexual health. It’s also very gendered and focuses a lot on women being the recipients of the message.

‘Teachers are often speaking directly to the girls in the classroom when they’re talking about contraception for instance, because they see them to be the responsible gender.’

Dr Commane also explains that the lack of inclusivity when it comes to genders and sexualities is ‘problematic’.

‘VQ is around acknowledging and celebrating female sexuality, desire and promoting pleasure’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

There are some big names appearing at the festival, including Pro-Dommes Mistress Tess, porn filmmaker Vex Ashley, specialist sex education teacher Gill Leno and disabled actor and writer, Mat Fraser.

You can also, of course, expect a whole load of ethical, feminist porn.

We want them to see different porn than what is currently out there in traditional mainstream porn. We want them to see diverse bodies, sexualities, female pleasure, we want them to see ethical, inclusive diverse pornography.’

Sounds dreamy to us.

Porn plays a big part in increasing VQ, Dr Commane explains.

‘VQ is around acknowledging and celebrating female sexuality, desire and promoting pleasure.

‘A lot of women, especially young women that I speak to, don’t see porn as being for them. And when they do, they see bodies that don’t reflect theirs or certain images and bodies that then make them feel as if they have to adhere to certain body standards and ideals.

‘They often also see sexual acts that they maybe don’t find pleasurable or which look painful, so porn that is made by women for women is ultimately a chance for them to see different bodies and sexual acts that facilitate more pleasure for women.’

This isn’t the first time Bean Flicks has taken place; a smaller, pilot version of the event was hosted last year – but why Birmingham?

This is the only ethical porn festival that’s held outside of the capital, so we just thought having something in Birmingham was really important,’ says Dr Abbott.

‘What we noticed [after the pilot] was that there’s a real need for it, especially considering the protests that we’ve seen around LGBTQ inclusivity in sex education.

‘It’s a debate that is happening nationally, but because of the way it’s played out in Birmingham I think it really highlights a need for us to come together in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

‘We’re so, so excited about the speakers that we have and it’s a really open event.

‘They will be doing short talks, which are really informal, and hopefully there will be lots of audience participation and lots of sharing.

We want them to see different porn than what is currently out there in traditional mainstream porn. We want them to see diverse bodies, sexualities, female pleasure, we want them to see ethical, inclusive diverse pornography.’

As part of the festival, Dr Commane and Dr Abbott, along with fellow organisers Dr Annalise Weckesser, Gemma Williams, Andrew Bradbury, Pip Langstrompe and Michell Chresfield will also be putting together Birmingham’s first sex-positive manifesto. 

Want to enjoy a safe space where you can chat all things sex, porn and sexual health?

Bean Flicks takes place next weekend on 14 and 15 February, and also includes a ‘slumber party’ to wrap up the chats. Ticket prices start from around £6.

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