Grey Line by Georgia O’Keeffe, 20th c. American painter
Pretty much all of us wonder at some point if our genitals look normal and how they compare with others of the same sex. Young women especially are becoming more and more self-conscious of the appearance of their vulvas, from the shape, size, and symmetry of their labia to the color of their skin and the amount and style of their pubic hair.
“Am I normal? Is someone going to reject me because of the way I look?!!” you ask. We don’t know. They might. We all get rejected either because someone doesn’t like our personality or the way we look – including the way our genitals look. AND IT’S OK. It’s all part of the process of finding the person that likes you the way you are. Being conscious about how you look is natural – you want to feel beautiful and be attractive. We are not here to tell you that you are beautiful exactly as you are, because the truth is, what we think doesn’t matter. Everyone has their own preference about what is beautiful, sometimes it’s not going to be you and sometimes it will be. The whole point is that at the end of the day no one else’s opinion about your body matters as much as your own.
It took both of us years to accept and appreciate the way we looked. To make it more personal, we’ll both share experiences about how we came to love the way our vulvas looked:
Keeley: When I was young, not sure the exact age but around age eight, I watched a documentary on TV about children who were born with ambiguous genitalia and how doctors decided the gender of the baby. The doctors would do surgery on the baby’s genitals giving them what is called an assigned sex. After that video, I was certain I was one of those children. When I would look in the mirror at my privates as a little girl, I could not find the vaginal hole and all I could see was large flaps (I now know them to be my inner labia). This was a confusing time. I am not sure how long I lasted in this confused state. When I actually found my vaginal opening I felt so relieved. I still remember that day, “I AM a girl” I said to myself.
In my teens I heard my boyfriend’s friend (someone I had not been sexual with) talk about how pussy’s with “long inner lips” were gross. I took that to mean that most women do not have long inner lips and I must be weird, and even weirder because my lips were not only longer than my outer lips, but one was longer than the other. He also went on to say that if the lips are saggy then you can tell a woman is “easy” or likes it “hard” because that is what happens to women when they have a lot of sex. I had never had sex before, but was worried when someone finally saw my pussy, they would judge my long inner labia.
I got quite lucky the first time someone did see my pussy. They were sweet, gentle, and seemed genuinely excited about me sharing her with them. There was no judgment or questions about how much sex I had been having because my labia was long. As I began to explore more with various partners, I started to get really good feedback from them about how she looked. They would say that they liked having something to suck on, pull on, play with. It also helped that it felt really good 🙂 It was a gradual process to get to the place where I love my pussy. It did not happen overnight, it was a long continuous process of learning about pleasure, self expression and self acceptance.
Nikita: Even as a young teenager, before I had ever really seen a dirty magazine, I thought my “area” – as I called it at the time – was unattractive. I just wanted it to be clean and tidy like the rest of my body, but it wasn’t. I didn’t like how it looked, I didn’t like the smell, and I was terrified no one else would like it either. Plus I didn’t know how to deal with pubic hair and having sensitive skin. Shaving made things worse, plucking took forever, and waxing would have raised too many embarrassing questions. So I didn’t wear a swimsuit practically all of high school and didn’t have sex or let a guy touch me there until the end of high school.
Finally, when I did work up the courage to act on my desires, I didn’t get much feedback. My first 2 boyfriends didn’t say anything – positive or negative – so I just figured it wasn’t that bad, or they didn’t care. My 3rd – very short-lived boyfriend – told our mutual friend – another guy – that he didn’t like the way my vulva looked, that I was “puffy” and he liked something else. I knew he was just one person but it still made me insecure about that part of my body and I didn’t date anyone for another 2 years. I would probably still be self-conscious if I didn’t get such nice compliments from every partner since. I remember quietly asking, “do you think I’m puffy?” to my next boyfriend. He said no, and that he thought my pussy looked great. Then came words like beautiful, exquisite, amazing, lovely. And slowly I let the insecurities go. Then I started enjoying how all the different parts of my vulva functioned and even began to appreciate how it looked. I have seen pussies I think are more attractive than mine, and ones I think are less attractive; I don’t think about it much because I don’t really care. Mine suits me just fine.
Something you may want to be aware of if you haven’t heard about it already, is just how many images of women’s vulvas are “touched up” digitally before publication. Please read this article from Mama Mia about this trend of “discrete” vaginas with just one crease being more socially acceptable and less likely to be flagged by censorship boards. If you want to see a photo gallery of non-airbrushed, un-photoshopped vulvas, have a look at the Labia Library, 1001Vaginas, or 101 Vulvas, you will see a lot of variety! Molly of Molly’s Daily Kiss has also amassed a large collection of stories (and some photos) from women about their vulvas as part of her Pussy Pride project.
We hope this helped reduce some of the anxieties you may have had; feel free to send us your own stories so we can post them below.
– Keeley & Nikita
More stories from our readers:
Sarah: No one ever told me anything about my vagina. Ever. The only resource I had to prove my “normalcy” was the diagram of female anatomy in my high school biology book. You all know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one where the figureless woman is made up of a pair of spread open legs and you can’t see the rest of her body because it doesn’t exist. I just assumed that that’s what everyone looked like, including myself, and I was always curious as to what other women looked like. God forbid we should even consider asking another woman to see her bits. In any case, I never looked at porn, I never saw anyone else’s vagina, I never asked, and no one ever told. I guess I just accepted that my vagina was mine and that it probably looked like everyone else’s. I had many boyfriends who also never said anything. They never told me how it smelled, tasted, or looked. Maybe they were being polite, I’m not sure. My most recent boyfriend did tell me that he liked “what I had going on down there,” so I guess that was a positive response.
When I was 26, I finally got out the mirror and had a good look around. I noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I consider myself to have an “inny,” with outer labia that cover up the inner labia. Nothing sticks out or hangs down. You really have to push the outer labia aside to get to the rest of the vulva. My clit is hidden somewhere up at the top and you have to pull back some other vulvar parts to really see it. It looks nice, I think. Contained and neat. From the front, when I stand up, you can see a nice slice of pie between my legs and a teeny tiny slit where the outer labia start.
Once, while really rooting around down there, I noticed two small ridges at the bottom of my vaginal opening. I freaked out and went straight to the gynecologist who told me that those were leftover bumps of flesh from when my hymen broke. I think it’s cool and I’ll gladly show you if you ask! It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 when I started seeing other women’s vaginas and realized how absolutely varied they all are. Like fingerprints, which everyone has but all are different, and all are considered “normal,” we all have our unique, normal vaginas!