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Apr 11, 2012
Your vagina isn’t gross because it’s normal. I can 99% guarantee that your vagina and your vulva are totally normal, no matter what they look like. And unless you’re being spoken to by a licensed gynecologist who is addressing a serious medical concern, anyone who tells you differently is wrong. I promise.
When we say “vagina,” what we’re often talking about is actually the “vulva,” which is basically what’s outside of your body, around the opening to the vagina. Every vulva is different. These differences are often centered around the inner and outer labia. You may have learned about these “lips” as the labia minora and labia majora, but it’s actually more accurate to say “inner” and “outer” because their size does not always match their names.
This area of the body, despite its importance, is hardly ever talked about. Outside the mechanics covered in a typical sex ed curriculum, much of what is said makes it seem like a dirty, smelly, gross place that no one would ever want to go. But that’s not true! We should be furious at the amount of messaging (and marketing) out there trying to convince us that a part of our body which we should be able to take pleasure in is in any way too gross to even want to think about. Most women have never looked at their vulvas. Granted, it’s not easy to see without holding a small mirror, but we shouldn’t accept the idea that our vulvas or vaginas are anything to be ashamed of.
Commercials for “vaginal douches” such as Summer’s Eve are marketed to women as a feminine hygiene product, but the truth is that using these products are actually unhealthy.
Vaginal douches only because popular because generations of women before us were taught that our female parts were dirty and in need of cleaning and deodorizing. Problem is, the artificial washes they devised (did you know Lysol disinfectant spray used to be marketed as a vagina freshener?) did more harm than good — aggravating infections, messing up women’s pH balances and so forth. Nature was way ahead of us in this game.
Nature gave women self-cleansing vaginas. Menstruation and other vaginal discharges help maintain vaginal health by flushing out any debris and pathogens that may be trapped in the vagina.
It is the prevalence of lies like from companies like Summer’s Eve and the intentional uniformity of vulvas put on display in pornography that lead some women to think that there must be something wrong with them, leading them to take drastic measures. Labiaplasty is a cosmetic surgery that alters the size and shape of the (usually inner) labia that is quickly becoming popular, even among young women. When I say that every vulva is different, I mean it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Love and enjoy your body the way it is. There’s no reason to change the way your labia, clitoris, or vagina looks or feels because there is no “right” or “better” way for you to look. The way you look is the way you’re supposed to look, and it’s not gross. It’s your body and it’s normal.
Grab a mirror and take a look if you don’t believe me!
But, if your still struggling, I highly recommend the excellent advice from Scarleteen on being comfortable with your body.
I’d also recommend watching this documentary, following UK artist Jamie McCartney on the making of his Great Wall of Vagina art project. Over five years, he made plaster casts of 400 women’s vulvas, ranging in age from 18 to 76.
“For many women their genital appearance is a source of anxiety and I was in a unique position to do something about that.”
Vulvas and labia are as different as faces and many people, particularly women, don’t seem to know that. McCartney hopes this sculpture will help to combat the exponential rise, seen in recent years, of cosmetic labial surgeries. This new fashion for creating ‘perfect’ vaginas sets a worrying trend for future generations of women.
I adore the message of this project, and I hope that it makes you feel good about your body!
*Note: I realize this post was largely messaged to cisgender females, so I want to acknowledge that not all females have vaginas and that transgender men who have vaginas have every right to dislike that fact and be able to change it.