Oh, so that’s a vulva.

I’m 27-year-old woman. I have two daughters. And I’ve just seen my very first vulva.

Actually, thanks to Honi Soit (the University of Sydney student newspaper), I’ve seen 18 of them.  Eighteen magnificent vulvae in their full-frontal glory. Some are bare, others are rockin’ wicked fros worthy of an European birthing video*. All are beautiful, and yet bizarrely foreign to me.

Yep. I’m a university-educated, 27-year-old wife and mother-of-two who, despite being born and raised in Australia, HAS NEVER (UNTIL MOMENTS AGO) SEEN A REAL VULVA.

Visually, they were about as familiar to me as alien life forms.

Sure I’d seen my own (though thankfully not during childbirth), my daughters’, perhaps my mum’s fleetingly as a child and the odd highly-stylised nudie shot in True Blood – but that was it.

Intellectually I knew our hoo-has, like us, came in different colours, shapes and sizes. I knew that some women liked to wax, while others liked to vajazzle or leave their lady-parts untamed like the wild Borneo rainforests.

Other than that, I was pretty much clueless.

So much so, that my husband only recently (after a few too many beers) alerted me to the fact that I have an “outie”. Or, as some other charming and undoubtedly intelligent male-folk have termed it, a “roast beef” or “rooster head” vulva.

I learned there were different “types” of vulvae, some apparently more desirable than others (thanks to the hard work of the porn industry which reportedly favours hairless, labia-free “innie” or “rose petal” vulvae).

Unbeknown to me, I’d lived 27 years with a dodgy vag. Not dodgy in any sense known to me (I’ve had two fantastic births and even much, much more amazing sex) or to my husband (who has never been anything but admiring), but dodgy to society,

I’m 27 and I’ve never seen a real vulva before today because society didn’t want me to.

Today the covers of 4000 copies of Honi Soit faced the axe because they featured 18 vulvae. They were deemed indecent and offensive, despite being censored with opaque, black boxes.

Why were they on the cover? As the 18 Sydney University women put it:

We are tired of society giving us a myriad of things to feel about our own bodies. We are tired of having to attach anxiety to our vaginas. We are tired of vaginas being either artificially sexualised (see: porn) or stigmatised (see: censorship and airbrushing). We are tired of being pressured to be sexual, and then being shamed for being sexual.

How can society both refuse to look at our body part, call it offensive, and then demand it look a certain way?

Thank you to the 18 wonderful women for showing me something I have long been denied. Let’s talk about vulvae and dream of a future without shame, secrecy and ridiculous ideals about what our lady-parts should look like.

For anyone who is curious to see the uncensored image, Mamamia has published it here. WARNING: this link is not safe for work.

*Okay, I concede I have seen a grainy circa ’80s European birthing video in an antenatal class three years ago, complete with crowning shots and a lot of hollering.

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  1. […] Oh, so that’s a vulva. (bytheseatofmypanties.com) […]

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  2. […] exposing myself as the proud owner of an “outie” I had friends confess they too had been suffering a bad […]

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