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(sex)uality : what does a vagina look like?

In issue 19 of Lip, we had an article called ‘The Quest For The Perfect Vagina’. The spread (pun intended) for the article had a blown up image of a slightly-unfurled pink rose dominating most of the page.

Every time I showed the issue to a friend, they would immediately flick to the article, and 9 times out of 10, would scrunch up their faces in distaste while staring at the rose, and say something like ‘Ewww!’ or ‘Is that really a vagina??’.

To which I would reply with a deadpan, ‘No… seriously??’.
And again – seriously??

It was somewhat alarming to see how many people could construe flora for the female genitalia – and even more alarming to think that soft pink tones and curling, undefinable layers are what people think the vagina looks like.
This is a topic that has been covered endlessly, on all manner of forums (ok, mostly women’s websites and magazines), but I’m going to add my voice to the millions.

Why is it that we’re all so awkward about vaginas? Not just talking about them, but looking at them? I think if anything, we’re becoming far more comfortable with talking about vaginas in general conversation (the amount of times I’ve found myself talking about various kinds of bikini waxes over brunch), but less comfortable with looking at actual vaginas.

Ladies – hands up, how often have you properly examined your vagina? And I don’t mean glanced down while showering, or while changing, I mean really looked at it?
Think about how well-known the general shape, look, feel and biology of the penis is and then think about the vagina – female genitalia is treated like some kind of mystery cave that is full of hidden delights/terrors, but that is best examined by touch rather than sight.

I’m certainly in no position to be holier than thou on the topic though – I can’t remember the last time I glanced at my vagina for longer than I was in the shower (and I’m strictly a two-minute-shower kind of gal).
Why is it that vaginas are so often overlooked? What is it about them that makes us want to look the other way?

Perhaps it’s the last vestiges of the general ‘female sexuality is somehow dangerous therefore we should avoid thinking about it/educating women about their parts’ conspiracy that’s been doing the rounds for centuries.

Popular culture has never been particularly kind to the vagina – rumours of it smelling oddly fishy, being weirdly squelchy and generally not being too attractive have pervaded film and literature for decades.
One friend of mine has used the metaphor of pulling open a cheese toasted sandwich to describe one vagina he encountered many times, to huge amounts of revulsion from his audience.

Try as I might to locate some kind of logical reason for this great vagina cover-up, I really can’t seem to find one. In fact, it’s beginning to seem more and more absurd that I don’t really have a clear visual of my vagina at all, especially when I think of how well most guys must know their penises.

Vagina’s are a big source of all that’s good in the world. Babies and sex are the first two things that come to mind, and no one can deny they’re awesome!
I’m going to make an effort to stop thinking of vaginas as being anything but awesome, and I hope you’ll join me in that resolution.

Grab a hand mirror, ladies, and book yourselves some alone time. It’s time we got to know ourselves down there!

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One thought on “(sex)uality : what does a vagina look like?

  1. I think I’ve recommended them before, but Vagina Pagina’s (both the site and the livejournal) Everyday Body project has a vulva section! It was awesome to look through the photos and see vulvas that looked like my own.

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