Vulva Diversity: Uh-Oh.

God, I’m such a know-nothing. First I find out about “slut shaming” long after all the other sluts, and now I see there’s a movement for Vulva Diversity.

An organization called New View, whose worthy mission is to “challenge the medicalization of sex,” also launched a campaign in 2009 to celebrate genital diversity, including an arts and crafts exhibit and conference.

Here’s the deal:

“Popular knowledge about women’s vulvas comes disproportionately from commercial sources such as magazines, pornography, and on-line surgery sites that are likely to digitally alter or airbrush genital images or include only selected models. There are very very few books that feature a range of real genital photographs.

The result of this distortion and silence is widespread ignorance and genital shame which harms women and girls and results in vulnerability to ads and tv shows promoting cosmetic genital surgery.”

Shit.

Obviously, I am against cosmetic genital surgery, since I’m not insane. What a   terrible and tragic pursuit! The whole idea that there is some norm of beauty in genitalia that would induce women to willingly mutilate themselves is beyond repugnant.

However. I now realize the vast range of Vulva Diversity and I am genuinely shaken. I had no idea! Did I NEED to have an idea, though? I’m not a lesbian, so I wasn’t likely to be confronted with this much Vulva Diversity. I clicked on a “Labiaplasty” site recommended by New View and nearly fainted.

What a big baby I am! I told my husband about this before-and-after gallery and he asked me to refrain from speaking about it. He may be a big baby, too.

I’m going to give you a chance to look or not look. Want to look? Okay, click here, if you’re sure you want to.

I hope it’s safe to note that I personally am in the After category, but I see how you could feel concerned if you were in the Before category. You would wonder why your own Look was not represented in art or photos.   You might feel insecure, like the first time I saw a belly button with a big knot-thingie and wondered why mine looked so empty.

Jesus.   Does any9one have any thoughts on Vulva Diversity that are less infantile and more useful than my own?

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34 Responses to “Vulva Diversity: Uh-Oh.”

  1. Brie Says:

    I am guessing that all it takes is one guy you really care about to make a disparing comment about what your vulva looks like to make a woman wonder if she is freakish down there. Espeically when you are young though older women are not immune to taking comments like that to heart.

    Even a woman who is self-confident would have to talk herself out of questioning a moronic comment made by an equally moronic man she was involved with and may love…especially if it dealt with part of her body. Lots of idiot men out there trying to help chip away at a woman’s self-esteem.

    I never even give what my vulva looks like any thought. To think women go through painful surgery to “correct it’s appearance” really is shocking to me….yet on second thought it isn’t.

    Women worry about body issues on their own…without others pointing out flaws or preceived flaws. Then they have family members who may comment on these “flaws”, then school mates will, then friends, then magazines/media, then other women, and, finally, idiot men they date or get into relationships with. Because of this I am not shocked that women would have worries about the appearance of their vulva…just that they would go to such extremes to correct this preceived flaw.

    What a sad world we live in sometimes.

  2. Dexter VanDango Says:

    I know one thing for sure: They seem to have personalities and moods of their own. They can appear apprehensive, annoyed, frustrated, disgusted, hostile.

    In fact I’ve even read somewhere they can even appear satisfied and content.. though I don’t put much stock in science fiction..

  3. elle Says:

    It’s one of the few aspects of my body that I realised I just don’t give a shit about. Apparently a common side effect is loss of feeling in the entire region… I think I’d rather have an out of vogue labia, – hell, even a frankenstein labia – than have a “perfect” one that doesn’t work.

    If I had a partner who said something about my vaginal region, I’d kick them in the face? And why are they wasting time down there inspecting everything anyway? Get to fucking work.

  4. Jane Schott Says:

    I can’t look. If I have made it to the age of Social Security and not missed seeing the deformities, I can go to the grave without the visual. Great fun tho’.

  5. Cricket9 Says:

    I looked. Jane, you can look – I don’t see any deformities there.”Before” seems perfectly normal to me – not that I looked at many personally, but I did look at a book of pictures of vulvas at a sex shop once upon the time. The book compared vulvas to orchids and the variety of shapes and colours was incredible.
    The “after” look is all about making everything “neat” and “tucked inside”. Then you shave it, spray with vaginal deodorant and who knows what else. Puritanical repression at it’s worst, if you ask me…
    I had number of sexual partners that is, ahem, on a large side (no slut shaming please – firstly, I don’t give a fig, secondly – it was after the sexual revolution/the pill, and before AIDS. Yes, we were sleeping around). Not one, ever, made any disparaging or critical comments about any part of my body, all the contrary. Not because I’m such a goddess, but maybe European men know better. Thinking of it, Canadian men know better too…

  6. marie Says:

    i second Cricket9, and even for good ol boys from the U S A. most dudes don’t give a shit, they just want to get down. this is for sure something ladies are more sensitive to, feeling they may wrong or abnormal in a place they may already feel weird about.

    one friend of mine thought labia stretched as a result of vigorous sex, so of course, ladies with visible labia would be dirty sluts – this discussion came up after a bunch of us went to a strip club. we all had a show and tell, and i think everyone learned something.

  7. y n c Says:

    i fall into the “before” category and even though on principle i’m opposed to weird-ass elective surgery, i’ll admit i’ve googled labiaplasty before just to see what it’s all about. as a teen i was practically celibate because i feared any one night stand participant would find it gross and tell people/talk shit on it afterwards. the “first time” with any boyfriend has always involved crazy nerves for me based mostly on my dumbass labia. now i’ve been in a relationship for a few years and my bf claims to love it, but i secretly harbor fears that we’ll break up and i’ll have to bust out my crazy labia with a new dude.

    it feels creepy typing this ughhghghghgg

  8. Babsalicious Says:

    Thank you for sharing.

    All the before pictures look like wild vulva angels having a far out cosmic party, arms flailing and skirts billowing.

    The after pictures look like tidy prim vulvas enjoying a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

    I fall somewhere in between, so I suppose it could go either way.

    In the old days this sort of genital mutilation was only permitted if there were problems during cycling or horse riding. This then lead on to if a woman wanted to be ‘honeymoon fresh’ ‘for’ her husband. These days it seems that anything goes. Women can just trim bitz off purely because they ‘feel like it’. What I can’t understand is why there isn’t a fund somewhere in the developing world to raise awareness about this issue and perhaps bring about a ban?

  9. Andra Says:

    Two weeks ago I had a small operation for a hernia which had formed after my gall bladder was removed 3 years ago.

    I was home the next day and feeling rather sorry for myself when I realised that something was amiss in my nether regions.

    Feeling around and then peering through a magnifying mirror revealed a very swollen “fanny” which rather made me look like a deformed, hairy Ubangi in my privates.

    An icepack helped and the swelling went away after 5 days or so.
    When I saw my doctor last week for a check-up, I mentioned my Ubangi fanny to him and said I thought I had probably been bitten by an ant or something.

    He asked if they had given me antibiotics in hospital.

    “Yes, they did” I said.

    “Eureka”, he cried, or something similar. “Antibiotics can sometimes cause your fanny to turn into a Ubangi.”

    Who knew??

    A timely warning for us all.

  10. dust Says:

    Yep, this is what people spend their money on, on snipping labias. I would get it if it had something to do with the way the sex feels, but for looks only…
    Every pair of hanging balls deserves its pair of stretched labias!
    Freedom to all!!!!!

  11. mhdbass Says:

    Cricket9 and Babsalicious are so right – it’s just about making the vulva ‘neat’ and manageable and non-scary for blokes who have all their bits out in the open where you can see what’s going on. In fact, it reminds me of a wonderful post you wrote on pubic hair a while ago! I have no idea whether my vulva is ‘normal’ or not but I’d like to keep a bit of wildness and feminine mystery about mine, whether the boys like it or not. (They like it…)

  12. Vanessa Says:

    I’ve actually been a consultant for a surgeon that performed labia reductions. About half of the women are getting them done for purely cosmetic reasons (they just want it to look different). The other half are usually feeling restricted either in the activities that can do, the type of clothing they can wear or pain during sex.

    I’m all for vulva diversity. But it won’t do much to stop people from wanting cosmetic surgery, just as a nose diversity campaign won’t stop nose jobs!

  13. NotanotherJane Says:

    Whew.
    I was so hoping for a puppet with hair and a special sand kit at a small extra fee….

    (don’t care to watch the pics, can see all shapes and sizes for free in the gym showers here – mine is a underdeveloped country :D)

  14. sisty Says:

    When I was a freshman in college in 1974, we had a “Meet-and-Greet Your Vulva and Beyond” session in the dorms, complete with speculums and volunteers willing to show it all off, up to and including the cervix. To me the idea of vulvoplasty is ludicrous, and ranks up there with the things I truly don’t give a shit about — like space travel — and I don’t think anyone else should give a shit about it either.

    Notanotherjane — what kind of gym do you belong to? Do they have a trapeze class?

  15. Sister Wolf Says:

    elle – If I had a comment-of-the-week award, yours would win. Let me quote from it for anyone who missed it:

    “And why are they wasting time down there inspecting everything anyway? Get to fucking work.”

  16. Marky Says:

    I looked.

  17. Sister Wolf Says:

    CRicket9 – “Puritanical repression,” yep.

    ync – See elle’s comment! xoxo

    Babsalicious -Well, there ARE organizations trying to end clitorectomy in the third world, but it would be nice to see some outreach to all young girls, to eliminate the market for this idiotic “cosmetic surgery.”

    Vanessa – Maybe a Nose Diversity campaign WOULD help eliminate nose jobs.

  18. Aja Says:

    Elle definitely wins this one.

  19. theresa Says:

    just spent the last 30 minutes looking up online labia discussions. “what are pretty labia?” “why don’t men like large labia minor?” (“labia minor” is a new addition to my vocabulary by the way.)

    in one discussion a guy called camillus says, “I personally like the beef curtains, they look like sleeve of wizard.”

    thats my favorite.

    and thats the most mature addition to this discussion i can make.

  20. HMA Says:

    I looked, and I’m in the before category. I don’t really know what to think, i guess i’m disheartened a bit, realising for the first time that i’ve an apparently undesirable vag. I don’t watch porn so i wouldn’t know what the “ideal” was.

    y n c: i feel you exactly. My partner sees nothing wrong with me (pfft, as if he should!) and willingly goes down, and one time i was self conscious but it is such a non-issue to him that he just laughed and said i was perfectly normal, so i haven’t thought about it since then. He’s a sweetheart. He was my first and we’ve been together for 3 years, I’m 21 but now I’ve got the weird worry that should we break up, future guys will be grossed out. I hope we do stay together if only for my self consciousness’ sake. And that makes me feel really pathetic and piss-weak. :(

  21. Tanya Says:

    @HMA One just has to be smarter than the porn industry, I guess. Unless you have a debilitating condition or a tumor growing down in your nethers you are allright. Fuck the ‘befores’ and fuck the ‘afters’ figuratively and literally. Be healthy and happy. End of story.

  22. Hammie Says:

    Now you won’t see that on Sesame Street, thankfully xx

  23. Alicia - Sea Of Ghosts Says:

    The first time I heard about this procedure was in a magazine that I’d been flipping through in a waiting room. The article was written by a woman who elected to have this surgery because she spent years experiencing pain during sex amongst more everyday things like bike riding or even wearing certain types of clothing. The idea of the procedure seemed shocking to me but it’s the kind of thing you never think of – that maybe someone really is suffering and that this is the best solution for them. The writer of the article seemed to stress how having the procedure really changed her life for the better – how can something that’s improved someone’s quality of life really be that idiotic?
    Like all things, there are right and wrong reasons to do something… but considering there ARE right reasons, perhaps we should learn to be a little more pragmatic before condemning something simply because it’s referred to as “cosmetic”.

  24. Alicia - Sea Of Ghosts Says:

    And just to clarify – clearly several commenters have also acknowledged that there can be legitimate reasons to have [this] “cosmetic” surgical procedure, I’m not accusing everyone (or anyone specifically) of overlooking that! I’m talking on much bigger terms.

  25. Cricket9 Says:

    People, really! Guys “disgusted”, “grossed out” things “not normal” – please! If you MUST worry, let’s worry about something else – I dunno, world hunger, or something. Men “don’t like large labia minor”??? IMO, men like vulvas, period, and those who don’t – well, not labiaplasty will bring them to your team. Enough brainwashing!
    Are you ladies disgusted, grossed out and/or scared by penises, balls and scrotums? Is a non-circumcised penis good enough reason to kick a man out of bed or run away screaming in horror? Just asking.

  26. Marky Says:

    Any straight man worth having sex with would be totally into vulvas of all shapes and sizes. Any ‘straight’ man who wants it all tucked away neatly, is probably gay.

    Is straight porn really that vulva-homogenous? I haven’t seen any straight porn in a while, but I remember coming across a Hustler magazine when I was 12 (30 years ago!) and being surprised at all the shapes and permutations of vulvas. One woman was able to tie her labia in knots. While this was a scarring image–one that reaffirmed my innate homosexuality–it did teach me at a young age that vulvas are like faces–each one is different.

  27. Sheri Says:

    “Obviously, I am against cosmetic genital surgery, since I’m not insane. ”

    One of the best lines ever.

    And no, you didn’t need to have an idea; nobody does. As if there aren’t enough things for us to worry about regarding how we look.

    http://ahmjustsayin.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/beautiful-beautiful-me/

  28. Constance Says:

    Do people actually care what vulva’s look like? What really disgusts me is the thought that there are men out there that do care about this things.

    And Cricket i totally agree, and as an european i never slept with a man with a circumcised penis, something that probably would gross out a lot of women of other continents , but that’s cultural relativism for you.

  29. Sister Wolf Says:

    Alicia – Of course, a surgical procedure that solves painful sex is a good thing. Otherwise, I am strongly in favor of Leave Your Genitals Alone and Enjoy Them.

    I am also against circumcision unless there is a medical necessity for removing a foreskin. Vulvas, foreskins, if they ain’t broke, don’t break ‘em.

  30. Jaimi Says:

    I don’t want to look – not because of the befores, but the afters! Oh god, the thought of surgery there…elective surgery there! Why, why, why?

    At the very least, that’s one thing I NEVER thought to be insecure about.

  31. slimeylimey Says:

    I thought everyone knew that the vadge is one of the official gates to heaven [I’ve forgotten what the others are.} Thanks for the link sister. i clicked, I looked, I left. heavenly!

  32. kate Says:

    they call it bumping uglies for a reason. genitals are not there to look good. it’s great that some people find them beautiful and unique and whatever, but it’s my opinion that the after pics aren’t aesthetically an improvement over the befores. basically, i second elle’s comment.

  33. Dexter VanDango Says:

    They say the first test of beauty is symmetry. Perhaps that’s why genitals seem to fail, as they are often the least symmetrical part of the body. One testicle hangs lower than the other, the left labial lip doesn’t exactly mirror the right, foreskins look hap-hazard and badly thought out.

    So we all prefer breasts, geometrical perfection that when newly mature look like happy baby heads (..it’s only in very old age when they get the fried egg-hanging-on-a-nail affect that mirrors one testicle hanging lower than the other.

  34. tartandtreacly Says:

    So we all prefer breasts, geometrical perfection that when newly mature look like happy baby heads (..it’s only in very old age when they get the fried egg-hanging-on-a-nail affect that mirrors one testicle hanging lower than the other.

    One of the few times I wish there’s a Facebook “Like” button.

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