VulvaLove knows that one of the best ways to reduce feelings of self-consciousness and unhappiness with your genitals is to learn how much female bodies vary. Thorough sex education can lead to greater confidence, contentment, and pleasure.
Even though they are external, many women have never seen their vulvas in their entirety. You may have seen your outer labia and some of your inner labia, but somehow the thought of looking at your whole vulva makes you feel uncomfortable and awkward or even weird. That’s okay. It’s important, however, to your overall health and wellbeing to become familiar with your genital anatomy. The more you know about your genitals and how they function, the more likely you are to take care of them and experience the full range of pleasure that they can provide.
Here’s a great way to start: make yourself comfortable in a private space—your bedroom, the bathroom, or wherever you feel at ease. Take off your underwear, sit down, and spread your legs. Angle a mirror between your thighs so that your vulva is in view. Make sure the lighting is good. You might have to adjust your pelvis, tilting it up or back so you can see your entire vulva in the mirror. Take a deep breath, and now take another one.
There you go! You’re looking at your vulva.
With curiosity, an open mind, and purposeful lack of self-judgement, sit with yourself for a while and notice what you see. Try not to compare yourself with anything you’ve seen before.
Take note of your individual landscape. Does anything surprise you? What? Is there anything you like more than you thought you would? What are you observing?
What colors and shades can you identify? Are your labia majora puffy, flat, or somewhere in between? Are your labia minora long, short, or asymmetrical? What does your clitoral hood look like? Can you find the tip of your clitoris when you pull back the hood with your fingers? Can you see the opening of the urethra? It is often hard to locate, as it sits deep between your clitoris and the top of the vaginal opening. Can you see how the labia minora go up and form the clitoral hood? This is all normal anatomy! It’s you in your natural state of beauty!
Whatever you see and feel here, remember that your vulva is unique to you. There’s pleasure to be found in that!
The image below was created by the women artist of VaginaChina.org using actual molds of women’s vulvas. See if you can find one that looks similar to yours.
There Is No One “Normal”: Raising Awareness of Genital Diversity
As we’ve said, vulvas are wonderfully diverse, just as variable as the lips on a face. Even two sisters in the same family are highly unlikely to have identical labia. The idea that there is one normal is a myth.
If you’ve never seen labia like yours, that doesn’t mean there aren’t women with labia that look just like yours out there.
Women often feel a great deal of shame around their bodies and their sexuality. As a result, they often don’t talk openly about what worries them or what excites them. This can lead many women to feel isolated and strange, suspicious that they are the odd ones out.
In fact, many myths about the “ideal vulva” are based on harmful ideas about feminine “purity.” Labiaplasty often aims to make women look like dolls or young girls, not like the complex, glorious sexual human beings they are.
Luckily, there are many people who are fighting the stigma in their attempt to de-mystify the vulva. It’s possible to (safely and privately) look at and celebrate all the different labia the media edits out.
We’d like to point you to some wonderful resources about genital diversity. We hope you’ll explore these books, websites, art projects, and films featuring educators, artists, filmmakers, and writers from around the world.
With these resources, you’ll have the opportunity to see the variety of vulva sizes, shapes, and colors, as well as brave girls and women sharing their vulnerability. This art expresses the beauty of vulva diversity.
- Feminine Beauty: A Celebration, by Mukee Okan: A book of color photographs, displaying diverse genital anatomy.
- Petals: Fine Art Photography of Vulvas, by Nick Carras: Photography celebrating unique vulvar shape, size, and color.
- Femalia, edited by Joani Blank: Color photographs reflecting female genital diversity.
- Cunt Coloring Book, by Tee Corinne: Beautiful drawings of diverse female genitalia.
- The Labia Library: An educational website featuring a gallery of photos of diverse labia
- The Labia Project: A body-positivity blog that invites women to send in photos of their labia, along with stories about their personal relationships with their genitals
- Tryst Network: A website featuring sex education articles, such as “An Uncensored Guide to Your Lady Parts” and “16 Tips for Anyone With a Vagina.”
Art and Artists
- The Vulva Gallery: An extensive gallery featuring wonderful watercolor illustrations of various vulvas.
- Betty Dodson: Features artist Betty Dodson’s detailed, black-and-white vulva drawings.
- The Great Wall of Vagina: Much like it sounds, this art project is a wall of sculpted vulvas.
- Vagina China: This art project celebrates the vulva with “vagina china,” or unique ceramic plates depicting genital diversity in bright, lovely colors.
- Suzanna Scott: The website for artist Suzanna Scott’s vulva coin purses
Films and Videos
- The Centrefold Project: A free animated documentary short film about labia reduction.
- The Perfect Vagina: A free, hour-long documentary about female genital plastic surgery and the designer vagina controversy.
- The Pussy Talks: A documentary of women sharing their most intimate sexual anatomy. The creator wrote “For women in particular, viewing The Pussy Talks is an introduction to witnessing and connecting with the most sacred part of themselves and all women.”
We have collected even more informative, affirming resources on our website’s “Resources” page. We invite you to take a look!
What if something really is wrong?
After looking through these images, you might still worry that your labia are abnormal, or that something is wrong with your genitals.
In this case, you might wish to talk to your doctor. We urge you, however, to remember, doctors are often uniformed when it comes to labiaplasty procedures, risks, and outcomes. Some will even go so far as labia reduction based solely on their personal preference and opinion.
We warmly invite you to reach out to us with your concerns. Or, find a women’s health physical therapist, sex therapist, sexological bodyworker, somatic sex educator, or sex-positive sexuality educator in your area. These are some of many skilled professionals who can help you without suggesting a surgery you don’t need.
Loving Your Labia
It can be difficult to unlearn all the negative messages that you’ve absorbed about your body over time. Stopping the cycle of critical self-talk also takes time, patience, and self-compassion.
You don’t have to do it alone.
It’s very possible that your friends and loved ones are struggling in secret, agonizing over what their vulvas look like too. We encourage all girls and women to engage in healthy, open conversation about female genitals and sexuality. When you talk to other women, you have a chance to hear just how wonderfully different our bodies and sexualities really are. Genital diversity is normal.
Whatever your vulva looks and feels like, the tissue, nerve endings, and glands down below are designed to offer you sexual pleasure. There are plenty of ways to enjoy your sexuality without cutting off parts of your body. As you work through negative self-image, you can also discover how your labia can help you enjoy sex in unique, surprising, and exciting ways.
While the clitoris is the primary source of orgasm for many women, the good news is that the labia are also a place to feel pleasure.
The labia are erogenous zones, or areas that respond to sexual stimulation. Just like the clitoris, these sexually responsive tissues are packed with nerve endings and blood vessels. As this study shows, stimulating the labia can lead to the same amount of sexual pleasure gained by stimulating other genital organs. This is true regardless of labial size.
If you’ve never given your labia positive attention before, now is a great time to start. Just as you did when you looked at your vulva, find a private, comfortable place. Then, gently, explore touching your labia. We recommend using a massage oil that’s safe to use on the genitals. (A favorite of ours is coconut oil.) Offer yourself plenty of time to go slow and get to know what feels good for you. Notice how it feels to stroke, tug, pull, tickle, and wiggle the tissue, if your labia size allows such movements. Experiment using different speeds and varying pressure.
Remember the labia minora form the clitoral hood. While touching your labia, you can indirectly stimulate the clitoris, resulting in pleasure.
As you get to know what feels good for you, you may feel better equipped to discuss your preferences with your sexual partners. You might also help them understand the truth about genital diversity and that yours are perfectly normal in size, shape, and color. By enhancing your partner’s understanding, you become a teacher, helping them learn your unique anatomy.
Sexual pleasure can be good for your physical health and mental and emotional wellbeing. For more resources about sexual pleasure, check out the “Bring Back Joy” section of our website.
Say “No” to Surgery and “Yes” to Self-Love
No matter what brought you to this page, we hope you gained some valuable information about the limits of labiaplasty. More importantly, we hope you’ve learned that you are not alone, abnormal, broken, or in need of fixing.
Your vulva is as much a part of you as your nose and ears. It shouldn’t be an off-limits part, separate from the rest of your body. What you might have seen as a mystery full of shame and fear before may now be a place of interest and curiosity. Keep learning and taking pride in the journey of understanding your vulva. In diversity, there is natural beauty.
Sources for Parts 1 – 3: