Question: What does a normal vulva look like?
Answer: Exactly like yours.
How many real-life vulvas have you seen in your time? Chances are, it’s not many.
FYI, a vulva is the correct term to describe women’s outer genitals. People often say ‘vagina’ when they actually mean vulva – it’s important to note that the vagina is in fact the internal passage between the uterus and the external genitals.
Unfortunately, many women’s best reference for what a normal vulva looks like are the genitals they’ve seen in pornography or in magazines.
That is hopefully set to change, thanks to a new project called The Labia Library, a website that aims to showcase the natural diversity of women’s genitals by featuring real, unaltered images of different vulvas.
Launched in response to an increase in women seeking genital cosmetic surgery, The Labia Library is a resource designed to educate women of all ages about what normal, healthy vulvas look like.
The site addresses common questions and concerns about vulvas and vaginal health, and includes a collection of photographs of real vulvas.
“We were really concerned by the increase in women seeking cosmetic surgery procedures for their genitals,” The Labia Library told Birdee.
“The idea of the website is to give facts and give women a chance to understand what a normal vulva looks like… sometimes it isn’t obvious from what you see in magazines and pornography.”
In Australia, images of women’s genitals must comply with Australian guidelines which require the labia minora and clitoris to be airbrushed out of photographs. If you think it sounds crazy that we’re not actually allowed to see normal, real pictures of vulvas, you’re right. It’s crazy! It means that we all walk around fretting over whether or not our bits look ‘normal’ when we needn’t worry.
Healthy vulvas come in all kinds of shapes and sizes – labia (the inner and outer lips of the vulva) especially vary in colour, shape, size and symmetry, and continue to change throughout our lives in response to our hormones.
But despite the fact that everyone looks different, a growing number of women are undergoing cosmetic surgery procedures to ‘neaten and tighten’ their vulvas.
According to a report by Women’s Health Victoria, girls and women seeking cosmetic surgery are motivated by the desire for their vulvas to look “normal” – they describe feeling “odd” and like “freaks” because their own genitals don’t look like the genitals they’re seeing in the media. (Um, duh! Those images have been digitally altered – they’re not real!)
While there are some medical circumstances which require women to have surgery, for most of us, it’s completely unnecessary.
The Labia Library is launched only weeks after the cover of University of Sydney student paper, Honi Soit, was pulled from newsstands following concerns that the images of vulvas on its cover were “indecent” and would have legal ramifications.
As Honi Soit said in a Facebook post at the time, “We are tired of society giving us a myriad of things to feel about our own bodies. We are tired of having to attach anxiety to our vaginas… We want to feel normal.”
Here’s hoping The Labia Library can assist in helping women to feel exactly that. In the meantime, the more images of real, normal vaginas out there, the better.
What do you think of The Labia Library?