what every woman should know about their vulva

Jul 28, 2020
Written by
Leah Stark
Photographed by
N

early every girl and every woman in Western culture has a complicated relationship with her “private parts”--and maybe that’s because we have been taught that we have to call them “private parts.” 


For all intents and purposes, I will use the words “vulva,” "yoni” and “pussy” interchangeably. Observe your reaction to any of those words. What comes up for you? Shame? Shock? A little bit of embarrassment, perhaps? You’re not alone.

Quickly, for the clarification + education of all, let me clarify that the “vulva” is the entire area encompassing the outer and inner labia, the clitoris, and the vagina. The vagina itself only encompasses the birth canal.

Most families don’t talk about the vulva at all. We teach our young girls, “this is your nose, this is your elbow, this is your tummy,” but there is something blatantly skipped over. It must seem so strange to a young girl that there is something mysterious between her legs that is desperately whispering to her--”hello! I’m here! I’m a massively important part of your life!”--but that it is so very hush-hush around the household. If parents aren’t even willing to speak about it, then of course there is going to be confusion and shame.

As if that weren’t enough, we learn most of our anatomy lessons from mainstream porn at a very vulnerable age, and there is definitely a standard for how a pussy is supposed to look. The porn vulva is almost always light pink, hairless, almost airbrushed looking, and so small that the girl represented barely even has labia.

And the reason for that is simple yet horrific: many of these girls get labiaplasty - an elective surgical procedure that snips the inner labia off to change its appearance to fit the mold of what’s acceptable. The end result appears almost as though there’s nothing to the vulva but the hole itself. Over recent years, labiaplasty has been on the rise among teenage girls. Girls as young as nine years old are seeking the cosmetic procedure, and it’s becoming increasingly popular among 12, 13, and 14 year old girls. (S. Nicole Lane, 2018).

The major issue is that there is no representation of what a normal pussy looks like, making women feel like there’s something wrong with them. I’ve heard personal accounts of women thinking that they had a small penis because their inner labia was longer than what they’d seen in porn! I’ve also heard about girls going to their gynecologist and being told the unsolicited advice: “don’t worry, we can fix this” upon seeing the girl’s vulvas. The ABSOLUTE HORROR! I probably would’ve kicked my gynecologist in the face at that point. 

Ancient cultures worshiped the pussy as sacred, and some still do. Imagine that. It is considered to be a sacred portal, and a magical, erotic space of divine creation. In Hinduism, the Hindu goddess Shakti is a symbol of cosmic energy, and the yoni is revered as the source of all life. In Ancient Greece,  the act of anasyrma - lifting up your skirt to show your yoni - was said to ward off evil. (Unbound Magazine, 2018). The list goes on and on.

It’s hard to believe how far we’ve strayed from worshiping the space from which we give birth to life and all creativity and that it’s actually become something taboo.

It is time to return to ancient wisdom. 

We can begin by realizing that our pussies are, indeed, normal.

There are resources online that allow you to view pages and pages of pictures of NORMAL vulva's, not the “perfect” airbrushed version of a vulva. Scrolling through @the.vulva.gallery on Instagram has been super powerful for me, as well as the various pages that the Google search “normal vulva” brings up.

And once we realize that we are normal, we can step into knowing that we are sacred, powerful beings with boundless creative power: PUSSY POWER.

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