(Estimated reading time 8 minutes)
Women often share with me that they think their vagina is ugly, and when they say vagina, they really mean their vulva – the external area of the female genitals, vagina being the inside area. Watch the video below or read the transcript.
This is a question that is so close to my heart because it is a question that deeply troubled me at one time. I hated my vulva and truly thought she was ugly. This really affected my ability to relax and enjoy pleasure and it also affected how I was in the world and how I related with people because deep down I thought there was something really wrong and disgusting about me.
Feeling negatively about your vulva undoubtedly impacts how you feel sexually and your enjoyment of sex and it also impacts the rest of your life. There is a saying ‘how you are in anything is how you are in everything’ and these feelings ripple out into the rest of your life affecting your love for yourself and your confidence.
Browsing through Cosmopolitan magazine at the age of 29 I saw an advert for labiaplasty. Labiaplasty is cosmetic surgery which involves the shortening or reshaping of the labia – either the inner or outer vaginal lips. I had never heard of it before but it gave me hope. In an emotionally abusive relationship as a teenager, my then partner would call my vulva names and look at her in disgust. Then later in childbirth, one of my labia was cut and left me with one labia that was shorter than the other. I thought I was deformed. Knowing part of me would do something as drastic as to have part of my labia cut off was a defining moment. I knew I had to do something about how I felt as this shameful secret was affecting my whole life and this led me on a healing quest.
I went on a women’s workshop and we looked at each others vulvas from a place of love and curiosity. We shared our fears, our traumas, our pleasures and our joys, telling stories about our vulvas.
Seeing other women’s vulvas and appreciating that our vulvas are as different as our faces was such a relief. I knew then I was just fine and literally skipped out of that workshop with a smile that lasted for days, knowing that what I have between my legs was totally natural and totally healthy.
I went on a quest to really discover myself, to really get to know my pleasure, and to fall in love with my vulva and vagina and it has been truly life changing for so. It has led to years of research and study and now a decade of supporting women to love their vulvas. I have worked with 100s of women on this and it one of the most fulfilling and beautiful parts of my work.
Getting to know your vulva
One of my deepest joys is creating the space for women to connect with their vulvas. Women may start from a range of different feelings – they may feel their vulvas are strange and foreign lands visited more by partners and doctors than they do, they may feel ambivalent towards their vulvas, they may even loath them.
The women have so many questions that are not easy for them to ask for example, are my lips too small, too big, am I ugly etc And I’ve worked with so many women who are considering labiaplasty and when we explore this, they realise they just don’t need it. If you have concerns, don’t stay in silence, check out the resources below or contact me.
In my work, I’ve had the privilege and honour of seeing hundreds of women’s vulvas and each one is absolutely unique and beautiful and never ugly.
The key influence on how women feel is the impact of porn. The vulvas that you commonly see in porn are often shaved, with small and symmetrical lips and people perceive this as how women “should” look. There is the equivalent for penises as well. The idea penises should always be big, long and hard and that this is somehow better than any other penis.
All of this creates unrealistic and unhealthy standards of how we “should” look, just as we have unrealistic standards in the beauty industry. Women unconsciously or consciously compare their vulvas to those in porn and think theirs is abnormal.
100 Vaginas, All Vulvas Are Beautiful and The Great Wall of Vaginas are just three examples of recent and wonderful projects advocating for the diversity and beauty of all women’s genitals. It is great to look at images of real women’s vulvas to see how incredibly different they all are.
How do you change your relationship with your genitals?
Start by getting to know this part of your body. My blog on ‘How your genitals are unique and perfect as they are’ is a great place to start.
Let go of what you think you “should” look like or comparing your genitals, you really get to know what’s true for you so your vulva doesn’t seem to be something unusual or hidden that you never see or connect with, but a place you are making friends with. Looking at her every now and then is really important. Often your lovers and your doctors have seen your vulva more than you have!
Looking at your genitals in the mirror can be scary at first but it’s important to be able to look at her. If you didn’t look at your face in the mirror for 10 or 20 years, you would have a shock when you did and it’s exactly like this with your vulva. If you get to see your genitals every so often, then she becomes familiar and not so unusual. You can then start to connect with what you like about them, maybe even what you love about them, and that happens and grows with time.
As you get familiar with knowing your vulva, you can also see when something has changed that may be important to get checked out with a doctor. Having a good relationship with this part of yourself can feel empowering when you visit a doctor too as you know what is normal for you. For example, I have worked with so many women where doctors have told them there is nothing to be concerned about but they just knew something was off. When you know your body you can feel more confident, trusting what is true for you. Watch my IG video about how to have an empowered pelvic exam.
And your pleasure – get to know what is pleasurable for you, what do type of touch you like and where. Learn about your anatomy for pleasure. Women’s Anatomy of Arousal by Sherri Winston is a great place to start.
I love to witness that as women tune into their pleasure, how you look become less important as you focus on how you feel and what you are enjoying. And the more you just enjoy your body, over time this really shifts your relationships with yourself and you start to see more of your beauty that is always there. Your vulva and vagina wakes up and you feel her aliveness and this radiates out.
If you find any areas in your genitals that feel numb or uncomfortable, this is not unusual and it is great to notice. Sometimes this can be as this area of your body has little attention. This may for SO many reasons such as you rarely touch your self or you are sat down all day and not moving your body or trauma. Self massage can be very healing for this area of your body – giving your genitals a massage as you would your foot or your belly. However if you are not sure what to do reach out to someone like myself or a doctor for some guidance. Watch my IG video on how to heal your relationship with your vagina.
Getting to know your vulva and vagina is like a cultivating friendship and a relationship – it takes time and commitment so be patient! These explorations will take you on an incredible journey so that you can reclaim this part of your body for you – it really is worth it!
If you are feeling that this area of your body is ugly, or you feel disconnected or you are not experiencing pleasure there, take a look at my 1-1 sexual empowerment coaching programme for women or Ignite Your Sexuality, my self study course for women that has two modules dedicated to vulva and vagina loving!
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