NSFW: Here’s What A Vagina REALLY Looks Like

WARNING: This article is definitely NSFW. (Pics of real vaginas ahead).

The female form is forever being sexualized by society, and beauty standards and expectations for women are at an all-time high, so it really is little wonder there’s so much pressure on girls and women to look Insta perfect in every way. Pictures of Photoshop-flawless women’s bodies are everywhere.

For example, the likelihood of seeing a naked women on screen is twice as high as the chances of seeing a nude dude. And even though there are way more naked women, there’s a shockingly small presence of vulvas in film and other media. If one is seen, it’s usually through a photo in a magazine, or in porn.

While every other aspect of our beautiful bodies are often criticized, Photoshopped, airbrushed and sometimes even completely removed (I’m looking at you, Photoshopped thigh gaps), at least magazines leave well enough alone and don’t do any of those things to our vah-jay-jays…right?

Well, actually, the vaginas we see in print are so heavily edited they in no way reflect reality. In fact, the people who choose which vaginas make the cut are extremely selective.

For example, Australian censorship laws dictate what vaginas have to look like if they are going to appear in magazines and soft porn. The Guidelines for Classification of Publications require the labia minora and clitoris to be airbrushed out of photographs. They call it ‘healing to a single crease’. Yep, even our vaginas don’t get a free pass from being airbrushed like the rest of our bodies. It’s a weird – but not totally unsurprising ­– double standard, as penises are allowed to be shown with no airbrushing at all.

While the UK and the US don’t have laws dictating what kinds of vulvas make it into popular media, the single crease, flattened-out vulva is the one which appears almost all of the time. Even though the vagina is much more complex (and curvy) than that, and often compared to a blossoming flower, because all its layers of folds resemble petals of a blossoming rose, it seems like publishing executives aren’t interested in showing this.

Whether it’s because there are laws in place, or just what we’re exposed to, there’s an alarming number of women who don’t actually know what a real vagina looks like, and as such, feel extremely self-conscious about their lippy lady bits.

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A PlayBoy model sporting the infamous ‘single crease’ vagina

This has led to a massive increase in the number of labiaplasties being performed in plastic surgery offices around the world. A labiaplasty is where any ‘excess’ parts of the labia minora are cut off, and a study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine found more women sought labiaplasties purely for aesthetic purposes than for medical reasons. The most common age for women to seek out labiaplasties is in their young teens to late 30s.

Northwestern University’s associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Dr Lauren Streicher, says worrying about what a labia looks like is a relatively new concern for women.

“When I first went into practice in the 90s, I can’t think of anyone who came in and said, “I’m concerned about my labia”,” she says.

“But, now, a week doesn’t go by that a woman doesn’t ask me if she looks normal.”

The search for a designer vagina is well and truly on the rise. Though Streicher says there are times when labiaplasties are required for medical reasons.

“I’m only concerned if there’s new development of moles or discoloration, which could be an indicator of skin cancer. Beyond that, women generally have nothing to worry about.”

If a woman’s labia minora hangs particularly low, it can rub on her underwear and cause pain and discomfort, and this would be another situation where a labiaplasty might be done for health reasons, but there are risk factors involved, including loss of sensitivity. And a labiaplasty is one surgery which can be particularly devastating if it ends up being botched.

“For the most part, women really shouldn’t be messing with this area. There are a lot of blood vessels down there, so when you have plastic surgery in that region, you risk having significant bleeding. There are issues with infection, and you can end up with scarring, which can actually make it look worse,” advises Streicher.

So how do you know if your vagina’s, well, normal? According to Streicher, there’s no such thing. Every vagina is different, and they’re pretty much as unique as our fingerprints.

“Just as a lot of women have one breast that’s bigger than the other, there will often be one labia [the vaginal lips] that’s a little longer.”

Need proof? Here are nine healthy women’s vulvas, thanks to website The Labia Library, an online project aimed at breaking the stigma surrounding the ‘perfect’ vulva by encouraging real, everyday women to anonymously share photographs of their lady gardens. As you’ll see when you scroll, no two are the same…

1. This hoo-hah.

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2. This beautiful flower.

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3. This pink bit.

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4. This rose garden.

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5. This delicate vah-jay-jay.

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6. This wonderful blossom.

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7. This marvelous muff.

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8. This pierced beauty.

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9. And this lovely lady bit.

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In a world where talking about vaginas and female sexuality is already widely considered taboo, it makes it easy for these representations of ‘normal’ to be overshadowed by warped images. We already feel pressure from every other aspect of our lives to change and become ‘good enough’; do we really need to start worrying whether our genitals are acceptable, too?

Images via The Labia Library and Playboy. 

Comment: What do you think about labiaplasties and plastic surgeries focused on the vagina?