Purple vulva Well we’ve made our introductions, and it feels like time to switch from vocabulary into visuals. Yep. Time for a look.Practicalities: For your privacy and comfort, I would suggest the smallest room in the house – it has a lock and you can wash up before and after if you feel the need! Prop up a free-standing mirror against the bath or the toilet and sit facing it, legs out of the way so that you can see what you are looking at. Something to lean against is good, and perhaps a cushion or folded towel to sit on. You may be here a little while, and you want to be able to relax comfortably…

If you’ve never done this, you must!

The first time I did it was… well, let me tell you all about it!

I had gone my whole childhood and most of my adult life without any particular curiosity about what It looked like. Thinking about it now, I believe it was not so much a lack of interest as a suppressed worry that it was Ugly and Horrible, and since I didn’t want to risk finding out that I was repulsive, I didn’t want to find out anything else either.

This was wholly unanalysed at the time, but it is now absolutley clear to me how I came to have such a daft idea. In a word: porn.

A growing girl is both curious and impressionable, and when her only images of vulvas (vulvae?) are the neat, glistening, inviting cunts of a porn star*, something bad is bound to happen. In my case, what happened was that I formed the impression that you were supposed to look neat and tidy, everything tucked away. Something like the vulva of a little girl, only bigger, and glistening. Totally non-threatening: exuding invitation and submission; either completely hairless or with groomed, attractive hair. You know. Like a porn star.

[*Not that I have ever been a consumer of porn, but even someone who tries to avoid it and is made to feel uncomfortable by it can’t help but catch the odd glimpse now and again.]

My vulva does not look like that. I knew that without eyes, because I could tell by touch that it was not neat and tidy, and tucked away. It certainly wasn’t hairless or neatly groomed, and I doubted very much that it would glisten… So I knew that my vulva was Bad and Ugly even without looking. I had no need to look, just to make myself feel worse.

And then, one day, I looked.

Warning: Some people will tell you that vulvas are beautiful. What a load of crap. Beauty is a social construct anyway. But if you look at your vulva expecting it to be “beautiful” or expecting at least that you will be able to learn to think of it as beautiful, you are quite likely to come away from the experience feeling a bit let down. Each to her own, of course, but to my eyes vulvas are not ordinarily especially beautiful. That’s not what they are for! A vulva is for sex, for masturbation, for childbirth, for menstruation, for urination. Stuff like that. Aesthetics don’t come into it, and any pleasure we get from just looking at the thing is a bonus…

Now look.

Mine is not beautiful. It is a bit scruffy. The labia minora are wide and baggy. The colouring is dark and reddened. It all has a scary, jagged look. It reminds me of when I had just given birth to Ariel and the midwives were trying to work out how to stitch me up. They couldn’t work out which bit went where. I guess that’s because of those big flaps of skin. The labia.

Now touch.

Poke and prod things a bit. Move that out of the way and look underneath. Lift that up. Open the labia, what’s inside? Wow. That must be where Ariel came out. Cool! My anxiety has gone now. I’m starting to feel not just a general curiosity but a specific interest in my anatomy. Getting to know how it all fits together. How I fit together.

My doubts about how I was ever going to think of this part of me as beautiful, as aesthetically pleasing are gone as I realise that it doesn’t matter. Who the hell wants to be beautiful? What I’m feeling as I look and look and probe around is a growing sense of power, a growing sense of self-knowledge.

And suddenly, writing this post, I’ve realised that porn doesn’t beautify cunts because men like the aesthetics of a trimmed and tidied vulva. Porn beautifies cunts because it wants to control them. Because the real thing is frightening. Because real vulvas don’t look like inviting openings, they look like attack weapons. With teeth.

If I have a reader that has never taken the time to look at her own vulva, I urge her to do it.

And if I have a reader with a growing girl, who wants that girl to have a healthy attitude to her bits, I urge her to expose that girl to the sight of real unpornified vulvas. Because if you don’t get to her first, then porn might fill the void.

I have got Femalia for Ariel.

As an aside, one review of Femalia on Amazon says: “I felt completely disapointment by this book. I don’t criticise the photos but their content. If what is shown in this book is what a normal man desires, something is wrong. Ugly, scaring details of anatomy, a total turn off. I would be happy to return the book.” Another says: “Save yourself the money and go pick up a men’s magazine. The pictures there will be a lot better, and you will get more for your money. Some of the vulva’s pictured here would scare an average man.” I laughed and laughed and laughed, as I clicked Buy, Buy, Buy! Their warning was all the recommendation I needed. And I liked that both of these reviewers used my own favourite word: they thought real vulvas were scary.

Back to the point of this post:

Vulva Images on the Internet

You would not believe – or perhaps, you would! – what it is like to search the internet for non-p@rnographic images of vulvas.

Still, I braved it, winced a few times, and came up with a list of links. I was hoping to find the vulva equivalent of say 007 Breasts or The Shape of a Mother, but this was the best I could do:

(Add a comment if you know of any good ones I should include!)

1001 Vaginas
Lots of pictures of ordinary vulvas: some are a bit alarming*, but on the whole, out of the ones I sampled (there are more than one person can scroll through without getting bored!) lots of plain vulva shots. Just be careful of the dodgy-sounding sponsored links!

[* When I say alarming, I mean the poses and photography, not the vulvas themselves!]

Betty Dodson’s drawings
All sorts of other female sexuality stuff on the same site too.

Vulva Velvet
An odd mix of the arty, the probably-meant-to-be-erotic-but, and the ordinary. Also, quite a lot of flower imagery.

Again, lots of pictures, again far more than I had the time or inclination to look at! You’ll need your pop-up blocker switched to ON. Sadly, not too many proper hairy ones, but really lots and lots of pictures. They aren’t sexed-up at all, either, which is good. Some of them have been digitally altered (presumably to blank out identifying marks).

The Vulva Wonder Show
Photographs of vulvas, placed in nature. Odd, but beautiful.

Digital art meets real vulvas. Disconcerting, but compelling! This was the source of the metallic-purple-slugs effect vulva pictured above. Also available in Swedish.