Dear Elle: Loving your hoo-ha, lady bits—folded fig of wonder

Q: I’m super self-conscious of my vagina and it impacts my sex life… what should I do????

Darling, I just want to say thank you for this wonderful question, and more importantly, that you are most definitely not alone. Unfortunately, the majority of women I’ve come to know have worried about their vaginas in one way or another.

But you’re not here to find out if other women feel the same, so let’s address the issue: you’re insecure about your vagina, hoo-ha, lady bits—your beautiful, folded fig of wonder. Although you didn’t tell me why your vagina makes you self-conscious, I’ll assume your insecurities concern the smell, taste, shape, or all of the above.

If you’re self-conscious about the smell or taste, know that these are two very normal parts of the vagina. That little organ down there is hard at work to keep you clean and ready for whatever kinky fun you (want to) have. You have to trust that natural process, and as difficult as that might seem, the reality is, our bodies usually know us better than we think. For example, if the smell starts to seem a little funky, you know it might be time for a checkup. And if you’re really worried about whether everything down there is truly normal, a quick gynecologist checkup never hurt anyone. In fact, believe it or not, the Student Health Center doctors are happy to take a peek up there and reassure you that your parts are perfect. But never assume that it’s gonna be peaches and roses down there; that, my dear friend, is never the case. 

Now for the big “does my vagina look normal?” dilemma. Yes, it does. I might not have a visual reference, but I will bet money that I’m right. But what’s the best way to realize that for yourself? Well, I find that getting familiar with your vagina is a good place to start. If you don’t masturbate yet, try it out. Cozy up in your room, lay down, think of something sexy, and let your fingers do some exploring. Intimacy with yourself is not an easy feat, but it’s important. If you don’t let yourself appreciate your own body, feel it, and understand it—well, it’s going to be even more difficult to let anyone else do the same. It sounds cliché, but cliches exist for a reason.

I would also recommend starting up the conversation with your friends. I’ll save you the details, but I’ve seen and talked about many vaginas, and I can confidently say it helps in the insecurity department. No, I don’t compare, or look down on anyone’s lady bits; I just let myself appreciate the differences. And I’ve learned that for some, the labia are long, short, dark, wrinkly, asymmetrical. Some have bumps and others don’t shave. Some even stick out a little. There’s no such thing as one, “correct” looking vagina. Next time you hang out with your friends, slide in a candid “the beauty standard for vaginas is really annoying.” It might be uncomfortable at first, but that’s likely because your friends are just as self-conscious. So bond over it. And if they make you feel worse, send them the link to this column.

Lastly, if you’re not comfortable with the first two suggestions, do some searching. Google might be corrupt, but it’s extremely convenient. In fact, I have a wonderful site I’ll put right in this very paragraph for you to look at: http://www.labialibrary.org.au/.  The website is dedicated to showing you what real vaginas look like. It has an entire photo gallery devoted to various vaginas, and I have to say, it’s wonderful. And realistic. And for all those pervs who decide to click the link, at least try to learn something while you’re at it.  

I also want you to know, my anonymous friend, that society puts an unfair amount of pressure on women to have a certain “type” of vagina. And before you scoff at the word “society” hear me out. For most women, our first introduction to the vagina besides our own are the ones presented in the media, which most definitely don’t match the diversity of unshaved, multi-shaded, layered lady bits out there. The expectation is ever-present, extremely unrealistic, and difficult to overcome. And it’s not like boys are getting an accurate education on anatomy in the porn department either. Sex is far from perfect, so the expectation that the parts involved should be is bullshit if you ask me. I know it’s hard, but try to look past that expectation, and focus on the pleasure, fun, and freedom of sex.

I hope you come to love your vagina, my dear, because she’s a keeper.

Yours,

Elle

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