A study of 657 external female genitalia, the vulva, has proved that there is no such thing as “normal” when it comes to female sexual anatomy. For two years, the Cantonal Hospital Lucerne in Switzerland recruited vagina-carrying Caucasian women ages 15-84 to participate in a study meant to define standard “vulvar morphology.”
From August 2015 to April 2017, in addition to other scrutiny, women willingly had their labia majora and minora measured, as well as their clitoral gland and the length from said gland to the urethral orifice. Baseline characteristics were recorded as well, and all data was considered against age and BMI.
The goal of this study was to establish standards to be used in gynecological cosmetic surgery. Yes, you read that right. This scientific venture was to better assist cosmetic surgery of the vag and her curtains, specifically labiaplasty surgery which reshapes and resizes the lips of the vagina in an effort to get the perfect looking “designer vagina.”
For the purposes of this article, when I refer to gender and sex, they will be one and the same. The study was defined as women with vaginas, so I will dive in using female labels.
However, gender does not always correlate with sexual anatomy. Most females have female genitalia and most men have male genitalia. However, a transgender man may have a vagina, a trans woman may have a penis, and an intersex individual may have variations or ambiguity to their genitalia. An intersex individual’s gender, like all of ours, is determined by switches and hormones in the brain, not by what is between their legs.
I also feel it is important to revisit that awful junior high school sexual education class we all had. It was awkward, the text book drawings of testicles and flaccid penises were gross, and the view of what was actually between my legs was like a road map I would never know how to follow home. I mean, this thing bleeds and has folds and hoods and two kinds of labia? WTAF?
As a refresher, the vagina is internal; the collection of other stuff is the vulva. We were taught to use a hand mirror to see what is going on down there. The idea was to see what was normal to us, to our bodies. Sure, it all looked weird and fleshy and well…different, but it was ours and we needed to take care of it. Honestly, from the different fluids and ever-changing thickness of shit down there depending on time of the month or states of arousal, the vulva and vagina are a lot to take care of.
A recent Twitter thread by Alison Pool reminded all of us that vaginas are self-cleaning and sometimes wet, with elasticities not dependent on sex with a penis. They are caves of perfection. She reminded us to see a doctor if things smell bad or hurt, but we really need to leave the vagina alone.
The vulva works the same way, folks. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But no thanks to porn, our perception of what female genitalia should look like (as well as the perception of our sexual partners) has been skewed. Spoiler alert: adult vaginas and vulva do not look like bald prepubescent mounds of tucked in perfection.
Yet, girls as young as nine have requested labiaplasty, according to Dr. Naomi Crouch, chair of British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology (BritSPAG). She’s seeing a trend in Western culture to paint the vagina as having small lips that are hidden and invisible to the eye. This is causing a spike in women seeking labiaplasty surgery. Yet, she also says that she has never met a girl who had the surgery who needed it.
“There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the practice of labiaplasty and the risk of harm is significant, particularly for teenagers who are still in stages of development both physically and psychologically,” Crouch said in an article published on The Independent.
This newest study out of Cantonal Hospital Lucerne pairs nicely with the health guide commissioned by BritSPAG titled “So What Is A Vulva Anyway?” Both remind women of the vast variety of ways the goods between their legs can exist. Averages of the measurements taken on parts of the vulva were recorded, but the results varied too much to say what was “normal.” There is no set standard when it comes to the cosmetics of our vulva and vagina.
No two vaginas and their accompanying parts are the same, so chill the fuck out with all of the vaginal rejuvenation and labiaplasty surgeries. Your bits are uniquely perfect.