Labia can be pink, brown, reddish, and everything in between, just like the lips on a person’s face. Some women’s labia minora or inner lips are longer than their majora and hang lower down. In short, every woman’s genitals are different, and if you think about it, that’s to be expected. After all, there’s just so much difference in the way women look, from the texture of their hair, to the colour of their skin, to the shape of their bodies.
Like a little girl
But despite this, the vulvas shown in the media and in pornography all pretty much look the same – like the private parts of a little girl. The trend these days is towards an ideal vulva that is round, smooth, has little or no pubic hair, and labia minora that are hidden. The reality is that many times vulvas need to be photoshopped to look this way.
This can give women the wrong idea – they may think the size or shape of their private parts isn’t normal, when it definitely is. In fact, many women of all ages feel anxiety about the way their genitals look and poor genital self-image is not uncommon, Australian research has shown.
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That’s part of the reason for the worrying increase in female genital cosmetic surgery in countries around the world, from Mexico to Australia. These surgeries are not performed because there’s anything wrong with a woman’s genitals. Instead, the goal is to change the way they look, for example by increasing the size of the labia majora, decreasing the labia minora, or changing the shape of the hood of skin which protects the clitoris.
Some women may have been led to believe that getting the surgery done will give them more youthful-looking genitals and improve their sex life. But there’s no real scientific evidence that these surgeries work, and what’s worse, they can be pretty dangerous.
It’s perfectly normal for a woman to wonder about the way her genitals look. If you’re not sure what a healthy vulva looks like, head to The Labia Library, a website run by the Australian not-for-profit Women’s Health Victoria. The site includes a vulva photo gallery that shows pictures of real and healthy vulvas and just how different they can be.
The abstract to the Australian and Mexican research can be found online as part of the PDF from the 2013 WAS congress.