This Ain't No Porn Star Vagina: Large Labias Need Love Too

As someone who doesn't even regularly watch porn, why would my expectations for what a vulva looks like be formed by an industry that I don't consciously take a part of?

Feb 21, 2013 at 1:30pm | Leave a comment

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In a welcomed contrast to all the news about the rising popularity of vaginal rejuvenation surgeries like labiaplasty, a counter movement has been quietly gaining steam across the internet with several female-run websites popping up to encourage women to show off their natural vulvas no matter what shape they take.

The Large Labia Project (NSFW), a popular Tumblr that encourages women to pull back the curtains on their curtains, has pages and pages of photo submissions of anonymous vulvas, almost entirely from women who are insecure about their vagina's appearance. Emma, the blog's 24-year-old creator, told Salon, "A whole generation of young women who have grown up with ready access to the Internet are learning about their bodies and sexuality through this medium...Often the first and only way girls get to have a good look at other girls' naked genitals is through pornography, [which gives] a false view of what real women look like."

It's interesting (and mildly depressing) to see how the norms of pornography become pervasive in mainstream culture. As someone who doesn't even regularly watch porn, I was surprised by my own reactions while clicking through the pages of the Large Labia Project. While I didn't find any of the women unattractive, I was taken aback by the diversity of shapes and sizes that were depicted. Why would my expectations for what a vulva looks like be formed by an industry that I don't consciously take a part of?

While Emma mentioned that porn is often the first opportunity that young girls get to see other women's labias, it's also — obviously — the first exposure that the vast majority of young men have to the female anatomy as well. If all they see up until the point where they have a real-life vagina in front of them is hairless Barbie labias, then anything other than a hairless Barbie labias is going to seem strange or wrong to them. And this is why, heartbreakingly, we have 13 and 14-year-old girls shaving off their pubic hair, getting waxed and freaking out about what their vaginas look like before they even have a chance to realize that owning a vagina, no matter what it looks like, can be a lot of fun.

While things like the Large Labia Project are definitely a step in the right direction towards female body acceptance, a reformation from within the porn industry would be even more helpful. It's unfair to say that all porn promotes unrealistic and singular depictions of the female body because there is a wide wide world of what's being produced out there (a friend/porn reviewer once told me about a video she saw which was literally just Georgia O'Keeffe paintings morphing into one another). Still, mainstream pornography, for the most part, is pretty homogeneous. The introduction of more diverse-looking actresses would be helpful to everyone because — man or woman — no one benefits when there's one vulva to rule them all.

Reprinted with permission from Jezebel.