It’s about time we start celebrating vaginas

I remember going for a wee when I was around twelve, looking down at my vagina and being baffled by the sudden appearance of labia minora. I had literally no idea what they were…

I remember going for a wee when I was around twelve, looking down at my vagina and being baffled by the sudden appearance of labia minora. I had literally no idea what they were.  

Before that age, I obviously wasn’t familiar or interested in the lower realms of my body and so hadn’t noticed it changing during the start of puberty. Suddenly, I was realising that my vagina looked different. Gone were the days of me feeling comfortable to run around naked or talk about my body. How was I supposed to find out if this was normal?

After a few weeks of regular investigation into whether these new pieces of skin had disappeared, I plucked up the courage to talk to my mum about it. She said that everyone with a vagina has labia and that they come in all different shapes, sizes and colours. This reassured me a bit. Despite the motherly reassurance I still wondered if my vagina was normal, if it was ugly, how a future partner would react to it.

Over the next few years, during moments of insecurity, I googled vaginas online. Sometimes with positive results and other times were particularly toxic. When delving deep into the internet I found a feminist tumblr site where women post their very real and varying vaginas. This was also reassuring.

However, porn is the most obvious and easy place to go with vagina related questions. It is also the place where many young men will see their first vaginas and expect what they see to be replicated in their day to day life. What is so toxic about this is that mainstream porn sites aren’t representative of the diverse reality of vaginas.

These unrealistic bodies in porn, the lack of conversation about the pleasure of vagina owners, and also vagina jokes (focused on smell and labia) is what leads to those with vaginas believing that theirs is gross. No wonder some womxn are feeling the need to go as far as plastic surgery. In 2016, 45 per cent more labia plastic surgery procedures were carried out than in 2015, according to data gathered by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. This is extremely upsetting.

Drunk on new year’s eve a few years ago, my friends and I somehow got onto the topic of vaginas. We realised that all of us were insecure about ours and so decided to show each other. It left me feeling empowered and more confident. All my friends had lovely but different vaginas and this reaffirmed how diverse vaginas can be.

I am unbelievably lucky to have a ridiculously open friendship group, a comfortable relationship with a female family member, a feminist boyfriend who is extremely praising and to have found positive internet sites. And despite this I still don’t love or feel completely confident in how my vagina looks! All somebody needs is for one of these parts of their life to have said the wrong thing, or nothing at all to be hateful towards their vagina.

This can negatively impact on the pleasure and sex life of womxn and vagina owners. If they feel insecure about a man going down on them they might not be getting the stimulation they need.

This is not helped by the taboo nature of female pleasure and giving head. In year 9 I remember in a game of ‘would you rather’ I said I would rather give anything and do anything to a future male partner than be given head because I found the concept so embarrassing and traumatic.

Often men don’t help to combat this. Back in school, I had a friend who’s boyfriend told her that his exes vagina was much less nice than hers. When they broke up she heard from a friend that he’d said the exact same thing about her to the new girl he was seeing. This makes all the women involved aware that vaginas are something that they should be insecure about. Even though I wasn’t involved, hearing the story made me rethink my feelings towards my vagina. Once again, I was wondering if a guy would think mine was ugly.

Recently, a study from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has shown that women being insecure about their vaginas has even more worrying consequences than just lack of pleasure. When surveying 2,005 young women/ vagina owners, the charity found that 81% said they either delayed or didn’t go to their cervical screenings due to embarrassment. This highlights how important it is that we push to make women feel comfortable and happy about their vaginas. It can impact negatively on when or if they have vital medical check ups.

So, how can we make those with vaginas feel comfortable about them?
Women/ vagina owners should talk about receiving head more amongst their friends.
Their partners should talk about and celebrate giving head more amongst their friends.
People should praise their partners vaginas and not by saying their are better than another woman’s.
Porn should show a more diverse range of bodies. (But that’s a given, and is a far fetched goal).
And lastly, there should be more positive places online where anyone with a vagina can discover that their vagina is normal and beautiful without relying on a partners validation. These places shouldn’t be porn-related as porn can be traumatic for young people who are just starting puberty.

This is why Clitbait wants to include a gallery where the diversity of bodies (and vaginas in particular) can be explored and celebrated, in a non-sexual way.
We want all vagina owners to love their vaginas from as early as physically possible.

Lilah Hyman