What we look like
Today I was looking through a flipbook of vulvas made by last years’ female sexuality class at Carleton. I was struck by the immense varieties of vulvas: colors, shapes, hair. I think one of the reasons shame can surround womens’ feelings about our bodies and sexualities, is what we don’t see.
I think the actual aesthetics of the vulva is somewhat mysterious to girls when they are growing up. I never really knew what it was supposed to look like, but I knew that I thought mine looked kind of weird. There are so many things that we feel like can go wrong: are the labia too big? how much hair is it supposed to have? what about the amount of fluid? is it healthy? is it beautiful? While I don’t know personally, this sort of body-shaming from lack of positive or realistic portrayal of genitalia, is part of men’s experiences of their bodies as well.
Luckily, there is the Genital Art Gallery, created by Betty Dodson, with viewer-submitted pictures of their genitalia along with short essays about their relation to them. She says she created the gallery so that:
Never again would another woman think there was something wrong with her vulva for lack of positive imagery. By then, I knew guys had their own concerns about the size and appearance of their penises.
I encourage you to look through and see what real genitalia looks like – and stop worrying about how you look “down there”.
Also check out the Beautiful Cervix Project, which has pictures of the cervix from various stages of life, days in the cycles, and pre- and post-coitus.