These descriptions come from a fun study done by the people that run LargeLabiaProject.org. The sample is clearly not representative, and the study is not peer-reviewed. Nonetheless, they report some interesting findings. The section in which they provide women’s descriptions of their vulva is particularly compelling. You can read the whole paper here. And some of he descriptions (check the main document for many, many more):
Passed long by an ex-student (thanks!). Surprisingly accurate. Buzzfeed usually takes a beating for click-bait and credibility, but this is pretty spot on.
29 Things Everyone With A Vagina Should Definitely Know
by Carolyn Kylstra
The clitoris is not a button — it’s more like a wishbone.
When most people think of the clitoris, they think of the small visible part. But research indicates that it actually has branches that extend down underneath the skin, along either side of the vulva, kind of in a wishbone shape. “These branches can potentially be stimulated from the outside,” Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana University and author of The Coregasm Workout (Seal Press, 2015), told BuzzFeed Life. GOOD TO KNOW.
What you think is your vagina is probably actually your vulva.
The vulva refers to the outside, visible parts of your genitalia. It encompasses basically everything you can see — the labia, the clitoris, the urethra, the vaginal opening, and so on — and it’s usually what most people mean when they say “vagina.”
The vagina, on the other hand, is the muscular passageway that connects the vulva to the cervix.
Vaginas (and vulvas) come in lots of different shapes, sizes, and colors.
There’s a good deal of variation from person to person, and there’s no such thing as a “standard” vulva — and that’s according to science.
When aroused, the vagina can expand to around twice its normal size.
Unaroused, the average vagina is about three to four inches deep. But during sex it can expand to about twice as big, Dr. Herbenick told BuzzFeed Life. That’s partially because of a process called vaginal tenting, which is what happens when you get aroused. “When women become aroused, there’s more muscular tension in the body,” Dr. Herbenick says. “That muscular tension draws the uterus upward, creating more space in the vagina lengthwise.”
A repost every term:
As mentioned in class, the interview that made it famous. Take it away Ms. Hewitt…
And a more recent clip from Conan, from another student:
Check the reply section for a student’s account of the vajazzling experience.
As discussed in class last week, there are two main types of female circumcision: clitoridectomy and infibulation. Clitoridectomy is the removal of the clitoris, while infibulation is the removal of the entire vulva and the suturing of the vaginal opening. The procedures are predominant and culturally important in parts of Africa and the Middle East. Both are considered genital mutilation by the World Health Organization (WHO). More information from the WHO can be found here.
As Westerners, we are typically horrified by this tradition. The vulva, especially the clitoris, are considered essential anatomy for experiencing sexual pleasure. The procedures seem cruel and misogynistic, and it’s impossible for us to imagine how female circumcision could be a good thing, from any perspective.
But, is this a case of ethnocentrism, and should we mind our own business?
In these videos, women talk about the importance of female circumcision, as both a ritual and in terms of women’s worth as future brides.
*Disclaimer* I have no idea how accurate the translations are.
A group of Italian researchers who examined the effects of female circumcision on sexual functioning cautiously reported some surprisingly and remarkably positive results:
The group of 137 women, affected by different types of FGM/C, reported orgasm in almost 86%, always 69.23%; 58 mutilated young women reported orgasm in 91.43%, always 8.57%; after defibulation 14 out of 15 infibulated women reported orgasm; the group of 57 infibulated women investigated with the FSFI questionnaire showed significant differences between group of study and an equivalent group of control in desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction with mean scores higher in the group of mutilated women. No significant differences were observed between the two groups in lubrication and pain.
The entire article can be downloaded here: Catania et al., 2007.
Their results are hard to believe, as the circumcised women reported better sexual functioning than what you’d find in a typical Western population.
The study has been criticized for several reasons, including: poor control group; measures normed for Western cultures; and bias associated with self-reports. However, similar findings have been reported before. In these cultures, it’s likely that female circumcision is a key part of women’s identities as sexual beings. And perhaps that strengthened identity is associated with better sexual functioning.
Some have suggested that a possible compromise might be genital nicking. Rather than removing the vulva, the vulva are nicked instead. A description and background can be found in this New York Times article.
The New York Times has reported extensively on female circumcision. All the articles can be found here.
EDIT: I’ve left the comments from last term for those of you who interested in reading them.
As mentioned in class, genital shame is a growing problem. The data from the iClicker question about students’ perceptions of their vulva reflected this (more than half those with vulva reported some sort of dissatisfaction). This, in part, is due to the fact that most people don’t get the opportunity to see a wide variety of genitals, and therefore presume that there is one specific way in which they should look (i.e., symmetrical, tucked in labia minora, etc. – many have accused mainstream porn of creating this problem). Several user-content blogs have popped up, intended to showcase the massive diversity in appearance of the vulva. Presumably, the hope is that by publishing these sorts of images, that women who see them will feel less dissatisfaction/shame about their genitals. I posted one of these blogs previously: link (NSFW).
Naiomi from class a few terms ago passed along another (thanks!):
The questions, comments and replies are all interesting to read, too.
In class, we didn’t spend much time discussing the root causes of labia insecurity. There have been several theories proposed, one being the effect of pornography. This theory is particularly pertinent in Australia, where censorship laws are such that softcore porn cannot display inner labia (which appears to be entirely arbitrary – since when are inner labia more explicit???). Here’s a brief clip describing the state of affairs (NSFW):