There is no cookie cutter image of the ideal vulva. Viva la difference!
When editor Amelia McDonell-Parry of TheFrisky.com posted a personal essay titled, “Girl Talk: I Have Long Labia,” she bravely opened up publicly about her most private part. In the piece, McDonell-Parry discussed how her ex-boyfriend had joked about the size of her vulva, leaving her feeling insecure about it. In a few short weeks, her article received nearly 17,000 page views, revealing she is not the only woman to look down and wonder, “Am I normal?”
Like most teenagers, Melissa*, 28, struggled with self-esteem—but of a very specific kind. Since puberty, she had been comparing herself to the picture perfect vulvas in her father’s Penthouse magazines. When one of her first boyfriends made a joke about her ample inner labia, Melissa admitted she couldn’t help but think, What is wrong with me? She carried that painful thought well into adulthood.
Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of She Comes First: A Thinking Man’s Guide To Pleasuring A Woman, says there’s been a rise in women evaluating the appearance of their vulvas over the past decade or so. “Our mother’s generation didn’t think much about genital self-esteem,” says Kerner. “They didn’t think about whether or not they needed to shave or trim or wax their pubic hair.”
What Waxing Has Revealed
Was ignorance bliss? Quite possibly. Kerner feels that women’s self-consciousness about the appearance of their vulvas can primarily be traced back to bare-down-there professional porn stars. “With the rise and proliferation of pornography, especially through the Internet, the fashion of pornography trickles down and becomes mainstream,” Kerner reasons.
Many women jumped on the Brazilian wax bandwagon as they would any other fashionable trend because either that’s what they saw other women doing—well, their fellow females flashing their vulvas on camera—or because their girlfriends saw it and were buzzing about it. “After all, women don’t usually have other women to compare themselves to,” notes Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., author of What Your Mother Never Told You About S-e-x and a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University. “ ‘Show and tell’ is not something that we usually do with our girlfriends!”
When McDonell-Parry got her first Brazilian wax, she was caught completely off guard when the aesthetician put a mirror between her legs so she could inspect her work. “I was kind of shocked because I realized I was actually seeing my vagina, without anything in the way, for the first time,” she shares. “Instead of finding it childlike, I actually felt more womanly in a way, seeing my business just out there.”
Adds Rudy*, 48, who confesses that her labia are “meatier than most”: “I’m glad I was older when this whole Brazilian nonsense started because I had sex with enough men who were happy to do me, meaty lips, pubic hair and all.”