Viva La Vulva

Illustration of a woman in underwear standing in front of a wallpaper of vaginas

Illustration by the amazingly talented Amie Wee from heyweeirdo

I guess you could say that my vulva and I were on pretty good terms until I eyeballed my first porn magazine.

I was a teenager, 15 or so, and I remember secretly perusing a stash of porn mags I’d found in Dad’s shed. I remember being mesmerised by those shiny, sexy pages bursting with perfectly-proportioned playmates, with breasts that defied gravity and bodies that boasted these suspiciously slick crotches that didn’t look anything like my own. Suddenly, I felt self-conscious about my own bits. Did the puff of pubic hair make my box too boisterous? Did having a lopsided lip make my fanny freakish? Did my cunt have a bit too much character? Or did I just possess a pussy with personality? And ultimately, who decided there was a beauty standard when it came to vulvas?

Ironically, it took working as a writer and designer for the very same men’s magazines that made me question my own vulva, as well as being exposed to vulvas 9-5 for a decade, to realise the diversity when it comes to vulvas, as well as celebrate my own somewhat wonky junk. I also learned that you definitely shouldn’t believe everything you read (in a porn magazine at least).

So if you’ve ever felt-conscious about your crevice canyon, wondered if your bits looked normal, compared your vulva to anyone else’s, or you’re an appreciator of other people’s vulvas, this is for you.

That’s not your vagina

First up, let’s define the vulva, as a lot of people use the word ‘vagina’ when they’re actually referring to this majestic piece of anatomy. While the vagina refers to the internal canal that connects the vulva to the cervix, vulva is the correct term for all of the external parts: the pubic mound, the labia major and minora, the star of the show – the clitoris and clitoral hood, vaginal opening and urethra (the hole you pee out of). 

There’s no such thing as a normal vulva or vagina

Like vaginas, there is no such thing as a normal-looking vulva. Vulvas are as unique as your fingerprint and can vary in size, shape, colour, texture and taste. Some are hairy, some are wrinkly, some are elastic tight and some have a little slack to them. Labia can be short or long, subtle, puffy or meaty, barely visibly or dramatically dangly, and like it’s pretty normal to have one boob that’s bigger than the other, one side of the labia can be longer than the other. Some vulvas have asymmetrical lips, prominent inner or outer lips, visible inner lips, open lips, or small closed lips that hide the labia and give the ‘clamshell’ appearance. And labia can be pink, purple, red, brown or a combination of colours. 

Don’t just take my word for it – research from a Swiss study has shown that there is no marker for “normal” female genitalia, due to the huge number of variations that exist. 

The study examined the vulvas of 650 women between the ages of 15 and 84 over a period of two years, with researchers finding the general appearance of all vulvas varied drastically between participants. For anyone who has ever questioned the size or length of their labia, it might help to know that the study showed that while the average length of the inner labia was 43 millimetres, sizes ranged between five millimetres and 100 millimetres in length. Likewise for the outer labia, which had an average length of 80 millimetres, while the smallest was 12 millimetres and the largest was 180 millimetres. Normal vulva diversity now!

The rise of the “designer vagina”

The trend of hair removal in favour of a smoother surface in the ‘90s put a lot of unnecessary pressure on vulvas. 

Suddenly, vulvas were in porn’s spotlight. With the camera now being able to get an unobstructed close-up of the hair-free goods, a lot more scrutiny was put on what’s behind the bush. A lot of people felt the pressure to own a porn-worthy vulva, which led to a rise in labiaplasty, with women going under the knife to achieve a “designer vagina”.

For the uninitiated, labiaplasty is a cosmetic gynaecologic surgery to reduce the size or alter the shape of the labia. It typically involves trimming or amputating labial tissue to give the vulva more of a clamshell aesthetic. The surgery can also include vaginal tightening, restoring vaginal tissue, clitoral hood reduction, laser vaginal bleaching and g-spot fillers.

Some medical professionals have even stated that labiaplasty is the world's fastest growing cosmetic surgery, with the number of labiaplasty surgeries in 2016 up by 45%.

Beyond cosmetic reasons, labiaplasty can also be accessed by women whose labia causes pain or discomfort during sex or exercise, or for childbirth reasons. 

The phenomenon of digital labiaplasty

Ironically, working for porn magazines has changed my relationship with my body (and vulva) for the better, because I’ve seen the effects of retouching. 

Over the years I’ve seen pimples and cellulite disappear, breasts change shape, nipples change colour, legs become longer, teeth whiten, eyes brighten and skin became flawless with a few clicks. I’ve seen ingrown hairs be zapped away, boob job scars vanish and facial structure change. And alarmingly, I’ve seen many labias lightened and tightened - getting a hefty digital snip and tuck to comply with Australia’s ridiculous censorship rules.

At one place I worked, a retoucher once even showed me their “bumholes and vulvas” folder on their desktop – a collection of photos of genitals they would whip out to digitally manipulate over a vulva that the censorship office might deem as ‘too hardcore’ – aka. Having too much flap.
I’ve even heard models question their own need for labiaplasty after seeing their bits retouched in print.

So for love of vulvas, stop comparing yourself to images that have been retouched within an inch of vag-reality, because sometimes not even the model looks like the model the magazine.

Watch more porn

So what’s the answer to loving your vulva and having vulva confidence?

Simple. Watch more porn.

Hear me out - porn gets a pretty bad rap when it comes to being responsible for setting the standard when it comes to labiaplasty standards, however in my experience as someone who spent 5 years editing porn for a living, and another 5 surrounded by it – you won’t see a more diverse buffet of vulvas than you will in porn. And that’s the way it should be.

Fuck vulva beauty standards! Viva la vulva!

The Labia Library is a website that was developed by Women's Health Victoria to show women that, just like any other part of the body, labia come in all shapes and sizes. The website is a world-first, featuring a photo gallery that shows real, unaltered images of women’s genitals, addresses common concerns around issues like labia size and shape and explains that women's genitals are often photoshopped in magazines and pornography.

16 comments

  • Darkstud Photo

    Darkstud

    More than a month ago

    The body and all its parts including private ones are a creation of beauty. A sexually active man would be automatically attracted to a woman and all that she has to offer. It is how much we understand and appreciate the sexiness of what we have to offer to arouse the partner that matters most. Attitude, hygiene and a good sexual drive is the key, irrespective of shape, size, colour or ethnicity.

    Reply
  • Boldpromise

    Boldpromise

    More than a month ago

    As a man who loves to worship pussy orally,I simply adore big labia and love to suckle on and tease a very large clit.

    Reply
  • alfa159 Photo

    alfa159

    More than a month ago

    I absolutely love big labia, in fact am disappointed when they are very small lips, but still love licking them anyway. But big meaty labia are gorgeous , please please dont ever think they are not beautiful, dont ever have an op to make them smaller xxx

    Reply
  • triXXXi66 Photo

    triXXXi66

    More than a month ago

    I have been labia shamed by some jerk on this very site. He didn't like the fact that i had long lips or that they were pierced. I told him the vulvas and labia he had obviously come into contact with were probably only ones he had seen in magazines or ones that had been worked on. Sad man to slag me off for my natural beauty!

    • IVAONE60 Photo

      IVAONE60

      More than a month ago

      I agree with you sad man obviously he has never been with a woman with larger labia and vulva lips. Me I love the bigger lips as you can have more fun lots more fun.

    • looking70s

      looking70s

      More than a month ago

      triXXi66 he was obviously a fool, his loss

    • triXXXi66 Photo

      triXXXi66

      More than a month ago

      Thanks ivaone60 and looking70s!

    • alfa159 Photo

      alfa159

      More than a month ago

      Wow lots loosers around. I just viewed your profile and you are gorgeous. Very beautiful pussy and lips! Especially love you are not shaved. What is the current trend with shaved and small lips ??!!! its ridiculous and definately NOT what most men appreciate. Your perfect x

    • triXXXi66 Photo

      triXXXi66

      More than a month ago

      Ahh alfa 159, thank you very much. I have never liked the look of the prepubescent vulva on adult women.. it only plays to porn obsessions.. not real women. I actually prefer my men ‘real’ also.. hair is natural. And so is the variety of different looks of vulvas.. including the lip size and length. Thank you for your appreciation.

    • Account closed

      Account Closed

      More than a month ago

      There was a young woman I once waxed that had some guy rudely say hers was like a car crash. She was just gutted, I think it shook her to her core. She desperately wanted to surgery but I said I think you’ve just got to embrace it. I never did find out if she had surgery.

    • triXXXi66 Photo

      triXXXi66

      More than a month ago

      Oh mandy maree, good on you! Yes.. young lads only know unrealistic porn vulvas generally.. so anything real scares them, they dont know what to do! I learnt in my 30’s my sister had reduction in her teens.. think i was told she was in hospital for tonsillitis!

    Reply
  • jenoo1

    jenoo1

    More than a month ago

    As long as they're clean, smell and taste nice, I love them! Especially when they're proudly on display in a vulnerable position !!

    Of course the same pressures apply to men and their dicks, arguably more so because they're more prominent and are easily measured. There's even an emoji to make fun of them.

    • Account closed

      Account Closed

      More than a month ago

      That’s true, I wonder if I was as rude to men as they are to women about the size of their cocks how would they feel ?.

    Reply
  • barkly48 Photo

    barkly48

    More than a month ago

    How does one get a job with the research teams? Asking for a friend….!

    Reply
  • looking70s

    looking70s

    More than a month ago

    All pussies are awesome, unfortunately I'm yet to meet a lady with a larger vulva to explore and pleasure, maybe one day.

    Reply
  • IVAONE60 Photo

    IVAONE60

    More than a month ago

    We all have different bits to me all the women I've been with have beautiful pussies. If a guy pays proper attention to the pussy then result is fantastic. I love eating sucking and licking a pussy can't get enough of it. So lady's don't worry about what you're pussy looks like. They are all beautiful to me.

    Reply
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