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Top 10 Ways to Love Your Vulva

 
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“Um, yes?” was my hesitant answer as my new Nurse Practitioner (N.P.) asked if I wanted to see my own cervix during a Pap smear. No health care practitioner had ever asked before, and I actually didn't know it was an option. The N.P. propped me up to a sitting position with a few more pillows, and with the speculum already in, she gave me a hand mirror and showed me around. It was really interesting, and I had a newfound appreciation for my body. It wasn't gross or awkward; the N.P. seemed happy that she had “enlightened” another woman about her own body.

How would you react in that same situation? What are your feelings about your body in general, your genitals in particular? No matter where you are on the love-hate relationship spectrum with your external genitals (vulva), here are a few tips on moving closer to appreciating, and hopefully loving, your own body.

1. Be curious. Check out other vulvas! As the author of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler said, there is a “secrecy surrounding vaginas”, and it creates insecurity among women. Stop the secrecy--half of the population has a vulva! Vulvas are walking around everywhere...going grocery shopping, watching movies, having sex. You can view true-to-life images of vulvas depicted non-sexually, including asymmetrical labia and pubic hair.

2. Learn. Educate yourself about vulvas. Learn how your entire body works, not focusing on only the outward appearance of the skin, but also the underlying parts: muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Learning anatomy expands your awareness from “nit-picking” certain visible areas toward a broader understanding of the greater body and its functions.

3. Laugh. Read The Vagina Monologues, and you will laugh (and cry), and have a "context and community" of other vaginas. Another humor-strategy is to view art with possible “hidden” meanings. The most infamous paintings that have been speculated as vulvas being the subject matter are by Georgia O’Keeffe.

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Thank you, Alison! As one of the women whose vulva is depicted in (now sadly out of print) Femalia, a book published in the 90s by the publishing company owned by Good Vibrations, I can attest that many, many women do not even know what vulvas are supposed to look like and cannot assess whether theirs are "normal." Another GREAT resource is the artwork (and writing) of Betty Dodson. Oh, and Eve Ensler: would you please learn the word "vulva"?! Vulvas and vaginas are two different things!

August 6, 2010 - 3:47pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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