What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
“I love you, in or out.”
This is how my mom ended an email to me the other day. I had written her to ask about what kinds of vulvas she sees on the day-to-day at her job as a midwife because, well, girls don’t see each other’s vulvas like boys see each other’s penises at the urinal. I wanted to know what the stats were on “innies” and “outies.”
Men know from when they are little kids that there are loads of different penises, because men see real life penises -- even if it’s just a sneaky glance at an awkward time when they’re just wanting to check if they are normal. I’m not saying dudes just stare at each other’s Ds all day at the urinal but, unlike girls, they have the chance to see another regular dude’s peen pretty much whenever.
In the minds of most girls I have talked to about this, there is this blurry, half-seen image of what a vulva "should" look like. It’s kinda based on hearsay and soft-focus, airbrushed images you’ve seen in porno mags someone snuck into school, and maybe porn you’ve seen when the vaginas on show were "otherwise engaged" so not viable for comparison with what you see in your little hand mirror when you lock the bathroom door for a peek.
India Jewel just posted a piece about “What Makes a Vagina Pretty.” The comments were great and showed xoJane readers have a fantastic, informed idea about the variety among cooters but I think the general consensus among people who don’t know much about vaginas, vulvas, labia, all the parts is that they are "supposed" to be small, pink and all tucked into the outer lips, the labia majora.
Mine isn’t. Mine looks like a hot dog in a bun, just to use a foul and SFW analogy. The clit hood and the inner labia are short, pink and symmetrical but they are on display all the time. They don’t "tuck in" to my outer labia (the labia majora for those unsure and with access to Wikipedia). My coochie is an "outie," you guys.
There was a time, about two years, between when I got pubes that covered my vagine and when I found out that there were people you could pay to wax them off (I don’t like pubes on myself and even when I have spent long periods out of the sex game I have still regularly gotten waxed).
During that time, I had obviously gone through puberty but no one mentioned in the sex talks at school that pubic hair isn’t the only change your "area" goes through during puberty. My inner lips were not completely inner anymore.
I never felt like this wasn’t normal, although I don’t remember discussing it with anyone. I had sex, I kept getting waxed, dudes went down on me and I got health checks (for regular stuff, not for the outie) at the doctor. No one ever mentioned anything. Everyone, for different reasons, seemed pleased with my little lady (gross word but I am trying to get a good mix in here).
Even though I knew my vulva (vagina is the inside part guys!) was normal, healthy and people I was sleeping with seemed to like getting real close to it on a regular basis (one boyfriend said to me once, “I knew when I met you you’d have the good kind of pussy”) it was always in the back of my mind, I suppose, that I was "other."
You guys, I wasn’t. MOST adult women have at least a little bit of inner labia peeking out of their outer labia. A lot of women have more than a little bit. Some women have none, too.
In researching this article, the best analogy I came across is that vulvas are like a face. Everyone has two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Some people have big eyes, some have small. Some people have big noses. Some have big mouths. Some people don’t. Some girls have big clitoral hoods and some girls have big clits (I am envious of those girls. I would love to have more of that).
There is no perfect vagina. All of them are beautiful in the eye of the beholder. Without exception, all the people I spoke to who like women said that, in the throes of passion, no matter how you are put together, your vajayjay looks amazing.
Never be ashamed of your body. It’s not always going to look the way it looked when you were 14 and it’s not going to look the way it does now forever, either. The rise in labiaplasty for cosmetic reasons terrifies me. That feeling of otherness I felt before I found out I was one of many on a wide spectrum of what constitutes "normal" was so scary and awful, I can’t imagine how the girls who have nothing wrong health-wise feel that leads them to get parts of their most personal area cut off surgically.
The culture of quiet whispers and tortured wondering needs to stop. Don’t be ashamed to Google it. Don’t be ashamed to look at the Wikipedia page. Don’t be ashamed to look at Jamie McCartney’s artwork The Great Wall of Vagina which is made up of plaster casts of vulvas of all shapes and sizes, all normal. It’s pretty apparent that many women and girls feel like there is a uniform way that they should be down there, which is horrible considering there is nothing uniform about any of our body parts, other than that they are made of the same pieces.
Unless you are in pain during regular activities like exercise, sex or anything else, no matter how your lady flower looks, it is completely normal. Outies are beautiful. Innies are beautiful. Big lips, small, lips, whatever you’ve got is beautiful because it’s part of you and home to pleasure both for you and others.