Warning: This article contains images of real vaginas in all their unique glory. You should definitely read it. Just not at work.
It probably doesn’t surprise you to learn the likelihood of seeing a naked women on screen is twice as high as the chances of seeing a nude man.
But, it may perplex you to learn that, while most censors don’t have a problem with showing a penis, they do have one with showing a vulva. The vaginas we see in print and on porn are so heavily edited they in no way reflect reality. In fact, the people who choose which vaginas make the cut are extremely selective.
For example, Australian censorship laws dictate what vaginas have to look like if they are going to appear in magazines and soft porn. The Guidelines for Classification of Publications require the labia minora and clitoris to be airbrushed out of photographs. They call it ‘healing to a single crease’.
While the UK and the US don’t have laws dictating what kinds of vulvas make it into popular media, the single crease, flattened-out ‘Barbie vulva’ is the one which appears almost all of the time, across the world. In pornographic videos, it’s often the result of a labiaplasty – a procedure in which the inner vaginal lips (labia minora) are essentially trimmed back, so they don’t protrude as much. And in print, it’s thanks to heavy Photoshopping.
But the truth is, while a seemingly labia-less vagina can be perfectly normal, it’s not the only kind of vagina. In fact, it’s more common for the labia to protrude and for the lips to be at different lengths. If your labia is so large that it’s causing you discomfort during sex or wearing underwear, then a labiaplasty can be a useful procedure. Disturbingly though, the majority of women undertaking the increasingly popular surgery are seeking it for purely cosmetic reasons.
Northwestern University’s associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Dr Lauren Streicher, says worrying about what a labia looks like is a relatively new concern for women.