“What’s a vagina supposed to look like?”
You ask. Tia answers. #TiaTalkTuesday
When most people think of Barbie, they think: big boobs, tiny waist and legs for days. “Vagina” is probably NOT the first word that comes to mind…
(Perhaps because Barbie doesn’t have a vagina?!)
Yet, more and more women in the U.S. are electing to go under the knife to make their vaginas look more like…. well, Barbie.
This #TiaTalkTuesday, we’re unearthing the rise of “labiaplasties” — an elective surgery women are undergoing in record numbers to change the shape of their vaginas — by answering the top asked question:
As it turns out, just like our physique varies in shape and size, so do our vaginas. There’s no one way a vagina is “supposed to look.” In fact, the opposite is true — the diversity of vaginas is quite profound.
In 2005, a team of researchers at University College London set out to get more scientific about the ranges of what a vagina can look like by measuring the hoohas of 50 premenopausal women ages 18–50.
They found that the various parts of women’s vaginas ranged significantly in size. To give you a sense of these ranges:
Vagina length? 6.5–12.5 cm 🙉
Clitoral length? 5–35 mm 🙉🙉
Labia majora length? 7.0–12.0 cm 🙉🙉🙉
Labia minora length? 20–100 mm 🙉🙉🙉🙉
(If you need a quick refresher on your vagina parts — or, to use the anatomically correct term, your VULVA parts — check out this beauty by my friends at Duvet Days!)
So, where does our perception that there is one prized-jewel vagina aesthetic come from?
You guessed it… the media.
To better understand the effect of the media on our vagina self-image issues, a team of researchers at Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion conducted a study analyzing 647 photos of nude women in Playboy magazines from 1953–2007.
Not surprisingly, this study found that as women became increasingly skinnier in magazines over the years, they also had less and less pubic hair. More troubling, they found that of the 185 photos of women plastered across Playboy in 2007, 90% of them had no inner labia showing.
So, what’s the big deal?
Given the variation that we know exists across women’s vaginal anatomy, suggesting uniformity of our vaginas is not just misleading, but damaging to our self-esteem, causing many women to feel confused and embarrassed about how their own genitalia looks.
Unlike an arm, leg, or tummy, we’re much less likely to see others’ vaginas out in our day-to-day lives, which makes any image we see in a magazine, on TV, or in porn, that much more impactful on our psyche.
Coming full-circle… According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, between 2011–2012 there was a 64% rise in the number of labiaplasties. Between 2012–2013, there was another 44% increase.
And get this: The number one requested look is the “Barbie” — the clamshell-like look that’s plastered all over magazines like Playboy.
So, moral of this #TiaTalkTuesday — there is no “normal” when it comes to vagina looks. Just like most women don’t look like Barbie (and thank goodness for that), most vaginas don’t look like Barbie’s either.
If yours doesn’t match what you see in a magazine or movie, know you are not alone, and you are PERFECT just the way you are. ❤️
#TiaTip: to celebrate the diversity & beauty to vaginas of all shapes & sizes, check out our new favorite Instagram handle @the.vulva.gallery . This artist posts watercolor portraits of vaginas from around the world!
Tia is a personal, private chat-based assistant that you message with about birth control and sexual health. Made by a team of women’s health experts, Tia knows you, learns you, and is your go-to for all those “ugh!” , “oops…”, and “huh?” moments. On Tuesdays, we surface the top *anonymous* questions from the community and report back with the answer. Have a burning q you want us to tackle? Leave it in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org