Is my vagina normal?
Are my labia too big? Should my vagina smell? And what the hell should I do with my pubes? We take a tour downstairs with the help of Dr Ranj Singh.
Lady-folk rarely spread their legs and compare over cocktails, so it can be hard to know if your vagina is normal. And we know lots of you worry that yours is not perfect.
We could blame porn for giving women an unrealistic view of the vagina aesthetic. But other factors are at play too - like biology textbooks. That's right. Chuck one at your teacher's head because those nice, tidy vaginas in scientific diagrams are NOT scientifically accurate.
We're here to tell you just how ordinary your vag is. (Unless of course you've glitter-glued it together - in which case, go to the doctor's ASAP.)
Learning to love your vag
At the risk of sounding like stoned hippies, your vagina is a powerful and clever thing. It brings actual humans into being after all. So why not get to know it properly?
We know you'll have heard this a million times, but rule number one for getting acquainted with vagina-land is to whip out a hand mirror and take a look. Remember that whatever you see is completely normal and every other girl will have had the exactly the same worry at some point.
Here are some of the most common fears:
My vagina lips are 'wrong'
The most common worry of all is that your vagina looks wrong. Repulsive even. And it has dangly bits that it shouldn't. And that anyone 'down there' is going to recoil in horror.
The truth? Every vagina is different. And not all of them are tucked away neatly. Your labia lips may well hang quite far down below your outer lips. And there may be extra skin all over the place. This is normal. This is normal. This is normal. Shall we say it again? This is normal.
"It's like worrying what your ear looks like. Like ears, a 'normal' vagina covers a huge variety," says Dr Ranj. "A lot of people worry they should look a certain way and that everyone else has tidy vaginas but that's simply not the case."
My vagina is a weird colour
If you're not flapping about the size of your...erm...flaps, then you're worrying they're the wrong colour.
Again, hurl a book at your biology teacher. Because those scientific diagrams you learnt about periods from in school only depict vaginas in a fetching shade of peach or light pink.
But lady parts can be purple. They can be brown. Reddish. They can even be grey. In fact, peach is the least likely colour they're going to be.
"Genitals are generally darker than the rest of your body," says Dr Ranj. "There's a huge spectrum of colours they can be. Only unnatural colours, like blue or green, are something to worry about."
My vagina smells. Do I have a problem?
Every secondary school has a passed-down rumour about some guy going down on a girl whose vagina smelt of fish. It's an urban myth, like the sexual equivalent of the finding-a-rat-in-a-hamburger story - and probably just as untrue. Yet it's enough to make a lot of women worry about the smell and taste of their vaginas FOREVER, even making them feel too insecure to have - or enjoy - oral sex.
The fact is, your vagina is supposed to smell. "Vaginal odour is natural," says Dr Ranj. "Even quite a strong odour is natural. It's only when the smell is very strong and offensive that there's a concern because it could be a sign of an infection."
Should I wash my vagina?
Not really. Not the inside anyway. Of course don't leave it completely alone - make sure the exterior is kept sanitary. But if you're worried about smelling or being unhygienic, interior spring-cleaning is actually the worst thing you can do.
"The vagina is a very complex, self-cleaning ecosystem that keeps everything in balance all by itself," says Dr Ranj. "When you start mucking about with it by putting soap or deodorants up there, you wash out the natural bugs and can get smelly infections."
Basically - excessive cleaning of your vagina can actually lead to bad smells. So let Mother Nature do her thang, and reallocate your time to receiving oral sex neurosis-free.
What am I supposed to do with my pubes?
Pubic hair - and what to do with it - is one of the great questions of our time.
"No one really knows why we have pubic hair," says Dr Ranj. "One theory is that it traps your pheromones so you smell sexually attractive. Another is it's a way of showing you're sexually mature in the animal kingdom."
Presently, fashion is dictating that women have minimal amounts of pubic hair. Waxing, vajazzling, or shaving it all off is commonplace. What you choose to do with your bush is totally your own decision, though. There's no normal or not normal. Whatever you feel comfortable with is the answer.
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