Love your Vulva – a self-esteem guide to your sensitive bits!


Love your Vulva – a self-esteem guide to your sensitive bits!

Popular culture makes lots of jokes about boys and men asking if their penis size or shape is normal, but no mention is made of girls and women wondering the same thing about their vulvas (“vulva” is a word for a woman’s entire genitals – clitoris, labia / lips, as well as vagina canal).  Countless jokes abound about unpleasant vaginal odors turning off sexual partners, and advertisements (especially those from the 50’s and 70’s, but some persist today) urge people to use douches (non-medicinal chemical, perfume, or herbal vagina rinses). Fashion magazines and cultural messages teach us to prefer some pubic hair styles over others.  With so many messages, how can we be confident about ourselves?

Many women wonder, “do I look ‘normal’?” Locker-room culture and the more prominent male genitals mean that many more boys and men have seen other boys’ and men’s genitals, but often women don’t have the opportunity to see a wide range of vulvas –Pubic hair and the more “closed/smaller-and-below” nature of female genitals means they tend to be less visible in change rooms, etc., giving women less opportunity to see a range of “real” genitals.

Visual culture isn’t necessarily helping provide good answers, either.  In Art History, antique Greek and Roman sculptures do not have carved clitoris or labia, or much female pubic hair, for that matter, just a stylized cleft – so how are we to know? (They all seem to have unrealistic breasts, too!) Even more ancient goddess-type prehistoric drawings and carvings are the opposite – sometimes a woman’s entire body is taken up by a pair of stylized, birthing lips!

So, let’s see “real” human bodies – what about porn?  These are flesh-and-blood bodies, but many adult film actresses have had plastic surgery, including labiaplasty – cosmetic shaping of the labia / lips of the vulva – so perhaps you are only seeing the same “idealized” vulva shape, even if you’ve seen dozens of porn actresses! Also remember, each actress has been chosen because she looks a certain way.  You probably won’t see as much diversity as in real life. Specialty porn sites catering to those looking to see only big lips, or only small lips, do exist, but again, these may show extremes, not the wide range of typical diversity.  Visiting these sites, people may think all partners prefer one or another shape and feel upset about their own unique shape.

What we need is a positive lesson about vulvas!

1.       Female External Genitals: The majority of people with XX chromosomes  are born with a clitoris, clitoral hood, inner lips, outer lips, and inside, a vaginal canal. Not everyone has only XX or XY chromosomes, nor does the presence of XX chromosomes guarantee that all of these structures will be present. Some people are born with some of these structures, some with all of them.  Some people once had some of these genital structures and they were modified or removed due to cultural or medical practices, with or without the person’s consent. Some people choose to create some or all of these structures with surgery, including sexual reassignment surgery.  Some people choose to identify as female or “woman” who do or do not have some or all of these genital structures. Some people who have some or all of these structures do not identify as female or “woman.” (These individuals may choose to identify as Trans, ie TransWomen or Transgender or Transexual or Intersex). Important to remember: you can appreciate and provide pleasure to your own or your partner’s genitals regardless of the size and shape of them.

2.       Great Variation: Everyone’s genitals are different, and that’s great. Variations in size, shape, structure, color, and sensitivity abound.

a.       Clitoris: Did you know that the clitoris is the only part of the human body that’s sole purpose is pleasure? The clitoris has no part in reproduction besides bliss – how great is that? There are over 8,000 nerve endings in the tip of the clitoris alone, and  sex therapists estimate that 80% of women require direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm. Some people have a small clitoris, some have a large one. Sometimes the clitoris will be small and hard to find under a clitoral hood, or it may protrude, even an inch or more, when aroused, as it contains erectile tissue just like a penis. Clitorises may differ in sensitivity – some people might prefer gentle stroking, licking, and vibration, while others might prefer much stronger stimulation. It is very individual.

b.      Inner Labia/Lips: Some lips might be small and short, and others might be larger flaps of skin that protrude past the outer lips and dangle down an inch or more below the pelvis. Some will be bumpy-textured (they are made of the same type of tissue as the scrotum) and be wrinkled, some will be smooth. Some will plump up noticeably and change color as blood flows into the tissues when arousal happens.  Many partners find many shapes and sizes appealing. Often, one side of the lips will hang lower than the other! Totally normal. Some lips will be pale pink, others dark pink, red, dark red, purplish, light brown, or dark brown.

c.       Outer Labia/Lips: Some lips will appear more closed, hiding the inner labia, some won’t. Some will have more pubic hair on them than others.

3.       Different cultures teach different genital preferences – this might surprise you.  What messages are you getting, and from whom? Porn and fashion trends in North America from at least the 1990’s onwards tend to idealize smaller inner lips, but at the same time, in Rwanda, women and men say they admire longer inner lips. While many people in North America and parts of Europe opt for waxing off pubic hair, Koreans desire lush public hair and receive pubic hair transplant procedures. Be open to appreciating your own genitals and the genitals of your partner!

4.       It is healthy and important to know your own body. Learn about your genitals. Look at them. Do you love them? Great! No? Can you learn to like or at least accept them? Use a mirror and a flashlight. Lay on your back, spread your legs, position the small mirror so you can see the vulva, and shine a light on yourself if necessary!  Be curious. Touch yourself with fingers or a sex toy. Discover what gives you pleasure, and how your body responds. Your overall health, as well as your sexual pleasure and well-being, depend on your being familiar with your own genitals. Knowing how to arouse yourself and finding pleasure in the activity can help you to gain appreciation and vulva self esteem.

5.       Look at genitals! Check out a wide variety if possible. If you are curious and have a great anti-virus program, try Googling “vulva” as an image search. Otherwise, check out some medical books, medical websites, fine art and photography dedicated to genitals, this radical “Cunt Coloring Book” by Tee Corinne ( This artist is a particular favourite of mine: Jamie McCartney, who has plaster cast a wide variety of vulvas to create the Great Wall of Vagina ( His goal? To chance perceptions of women’s bodies (for the better!) through art.  Carolee Shneeman, creator of the performance piece and video Interior Scroll, is another well-known female, feminist artist passionate about the vulva ( The number of artists of all genders passionate about celebrating the wonderful diversity of vulvas is numerous, and always growing. Check some out today, and try to improve your self confidence.

6.       Worried about scent? Remember, many people either actively like or at the very least do not dislike the smell of a clean, healthy vagina. All genitals have a unique scent to them, due to sweat, fluids, pheromones, and hormones. As long as you have recently bathed, chances are your natural odour is fine. Still worried? Try trimming your pubic hair a bit and using a mild, soap-free exterior cleanser (we recommend, and sell, Sliquid Splash) to diminish odor. We recommend avoiding douching products, as some women find the perfumes and ingredients irritating to the sensitive walls of the vagina. There is also an increased risk of yeast infections if the douche solutions upsets the ph balance of the vagina too much. Remember, there are partners out there who relish the chance to experience each vulva’s unique scent and find it arousing. Now, if you do find you have a strong, foul-smelling discharge, with or without the consistency of collage cheese, you should visit your doctor to check things out as it could be a sign of a yeast infection or other medical issue.

7.       Believe your partner when/if they compliment you and your genitals. Try asking your partner what they like about the way you look. Return the compliment.

I hope you enjoy these tips and become more confident about your own, or your partner’s, unique vulva.  Any questions? Post them below!

Do you have a story of vulva self-esteem, positive or negative? Share below in the Comments!

By Lana Wilson


Rwanda women and long lips: (accessed as of March 3, 2012)

Korean women and pubic hair:

(accessed as of March 3, 2012).


more articles in the Library For Kinksters.

7. Believe your partner when/if they compliment you and your genitals.


But also 

8. On the other hand, if/when your partner expresses a negative opinion about you or your genitals?  Get a second opinion.