I hate my vulva: The pressure to conform to unrealistic genital beauty standards

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Photo courtesy of Medium.com
Photo courtesy of Medium.com

There’s a post on Medium that caught my eye the other day, Vulvas: Shapes, sizes and misconceptions, that I found quite interesting and even therapeutic…

Cultural influences like porn have led the labia minora, also known as the “vaginal lips,” to become a distinct factor in what is deemed attractive for genitalia. Pubic hair removal has also contributed to this notion as it exposes the genital area. Tiny labias have become glamorized and ubiquitous in the limited (and often artificial) depictions of vulvas out there. And this is perpetuating the idea that there is just one ideal labia, when they come in many colors, shapes and sizes.

This is fueling insecurities and could be why more people — and in particular teenagers — are turning to genital plastic surgery such as labiaplasty for purely cosmetic reasons…

Positive genital self-image correlates with greater sexual self-esteem (6). And feeling sexually attractive is surely a good thing for your overall self-esteem and intimate relationships. There is still a long way to go in portraying female, intersex and trans genitalia, as well as dismantling the narrow and damaging vulval archetype.

Head over to Medium and read the rest of the article. Then come back and let’s talk!

Do you think there is a pressure to conform to unrealistic genital beauty standards?

Comments on I hate my vulva: The pressure to conform to unrealistic genital beauty standards

  1. I was completely unaware that this is a thing and frankly, I am outraged. We women put ourselves through so much pointless self torture in order to conform to the current standards of beauty. The problem is that the fashions in physical beauty are always changing and it is largely women who drive the change by copying whatever seems to be the next thing. While many individual men have preferences as to body types, for every body type out there, there are men who love it. It has been my experience that most of them won’t turn down sex just because you don’t fit their perfect image of the ideal woman. Hell, most of them don’t even care if you’ve shaved your legs. While many younger men have their own ego wrapped up in having great arm candy, most men seem to outgrow it and eventually, they just want a woman who will love and respect them. Those who don’t outgrow it, seem to end up alone. While it is great to feel beautiful, and we all want that feeling, it is important to remember that it is our individuality and self expression that makes us beautiful to others and not some new fashion in cosmetic surgery.

    I think anyone suffering from this level of insecurity or self criticism should read the post about the Fuck-Off Fairy. I have found that post so helpful – not just in dealing with body shaming by others, but in dealing with self criticism and insecurity. Anyone who would criticize a lover based on this definitely needs to be told to fuck off! But sometimes it is our own inner critic that needs to just fuck the hell off!

  2. I have thought about the appearance of my genitals for a long time. Watching all my friends dress I noticed that their inner labia are smaller and stay “tucked in”. Mine are longer and kind of dangle out for lack of a better phrase. When I was younger I thought this was how boys “knew” you weren’t a virgin since I was raped at 3. I was ashamed of them. It took a long time to get over it. That most men don’t care if you are a virgin and the appearance of the genitals. I have more thoughts running through my head more feelings but I can’t get the words through. So I think I need to end this here.

    • Jo Ann, I’m sending loving, healing thoughts your way.

      My abuser spread rumors about the size of my labia. It’s so strange and horrible that something we had no influence in controls a part of our self image, and that those who hurt us can take advantage of that to hurt us further, even years after the original abuse.

  3. Maybe I live a sheltered life, but I had no idea this was something to think about. When I was in school, I played sports and now go to a gym, but I have never seen other women’s vulvae/labia. Is this concern a product of porn (or rather, not porn itself, but the industries treatment/depiction of women)?

    • I read an article that in Australia for a while* this was actually regulated by obscenity laws. Visible labia minora were labelled obscene or “hardcore” (which meant an opened genitalia but ALSO included labia that simply were visible when the legs were closed). So many photos were photoshopped to not violate obscenity laws. It was codified IN LAW that visible labia minora were more obscene than the tucked in ones. Talk about image issues.

      * May still be the case, I don’t know

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