The first vagina I saw was my own.
It was also the only vagina I’ve ever seen in person – until my daughter was born. I didn’t grow up in a very nude household and I have no clear memory of seeing either of my parents naked. I have no sisters.
I never really thought much about my own vagina until I discovered my older brother’s stash of porn magazines in our basement one day when I was about 16. They weren’t particularly hardcore – not compared to today’s porn – but one thing struck me straight away. The vaginas looked nothing like mine. They were all pink and… ‘pristine’ is the word that comes to mind. I just remember feeling suddenly like a freak. The women in the magazines had these neat, hairless vaginas. They were innies. Nothing was on the outside. No protruding labia. No hair even. They almost looked like Barbies.
It wasn’t until years later when I read an article in a women’s magazine that I learned that these vaginas weren’t real.
In Australian magazines, all vaginas have to be ‘healed to a single crease’ according to the censors. I’ll never forget that description. Anything ‘outside’ the crease has to be photoshopped away.
I spent the next few years feeling very self-conscious about my vagina. Thinking there was something wrong with it and wrong with me.
Men never complained – and it’s not like I ever brought it up – and I went one on to have a very happy normal sex life. But I always felt a bit worried that I was abnormal or unattractive down there.
Last week when I read on Mamamia about the students who had anonymously photographed their vaginas for their university magazine that was then deemed to be ‘offensive’ and had to be pulped, I clicked on the link to see the uncensored images and was blown away by what I saw. They were so different! And some looked like mine! (You can see the uncensored – and not safe for work – Honi Soit cover by clicking HERE)
Why did nobody show me something like this when I was growing up?
It’s been a long time since anyone new saw my vagina – I’ve been married for 16 years – and I rarely think about it anymore. I’m not so self-conscious (I’m more concerned about the fact that I wee when I try to jump with the kids on the trampoline but that’s a whole other story….).
But it got me thinking that there needs to be more awareness among girls - and boys - about what a 'normal' vagina looks like. The fact is they're all a bit different and they look nothing like the kinds of vaginas you see in porn. I've read about how porn stars often have operations like labiaplasty to reduce their labia and make their vaginas 'neater' and more like those airbrushed Barbie vaginas you see in men's magazines like the ones my brother used to look at.
Since so many teenagers these days are exposed to porn, what must they think about vaginas? That's why I've decided to send these photos of vaginas to my son who is 14 and my daughter who is 13.
I talked to my husband about it and he said the first time he saw a real vagina he was surprised that it was so different to the ones he'd seen in porn mags and videos as a teenager. He thinks I'm a bit nuts but when I explained to him why I wanted to do it, he supports my idea.
They've both reached puberty and I'm sure they've probably seen porn or will see it soon. I'm not happy about that but I'm realistic. There's not much I can do to stop it because they both have smartphones.
So I want them both to know what actual vaginas look like and - short of showing them mine which would be weird - I thought this was a great way to do it.
I'll explain to them that the images they might see in porn one day are not indicative of what male or female genitals really look like.
There's so much talk about body image and educating our kids about the way magazines manipulate the photos we see, I think this is just the same. I want my kids to feel comfortable with their bodies and accepting of other people's bodies.
And this is an important part of doing that.
Will you be showing this image to the teens in your life?