Although there's no answer for "Is my vagina normal?" because there are so many awesome variations, people are really beating themselves up over it. Over a third of British adults are worried that their genitals aren't normal, according to a really depressing new survey. Over 2,300 Brits aged 18 to 30 were surveyed by MedExpress, and very disturbingly, 73 percent of those who believed their genitals weren't normal were female, and only 27 percent were male.
The number one concern? Forty-three percent said "my genitals look different to those I see online and in the media". GAH. I find this so, so upsetting. But between Vagina Beauty contests and weird little pads to cover your camel toe, are we really that surprised?
And it's not just about looks. Eighteen percent said "I always feel as if my smell isn’t normal"/"I don’t know what it’s meant to smell like". Now, I'm ambivalent about concerns about smell, discharge, and bumps (other concerns listed on the survey). While smells, discharge, and growth that are genuinely out of the ordinary should obviously and importantly be checked by a doctor, some of it is bound to be tied up in concerns about smells presented in the media and products— like ones to change our smell, which is absolute crap. Vaginas smell amazing, the fact that healthy women worry about their smell is infuriating and sad.
Even worse is that out of those that worried about their genitals, more than 3/4 said these concerns had distracted them so much during sex they were unable to achieve orgasm.
It's not OK. Being body-positive means your whole damned body. Besides remembering you're amazing, here are five other things to do when you're feeling self-conscious about your genitals.
1. Visit The Labia Library
I've talked before about my obsession with The Labia Library before, but it's amazing. It shows just how different women's genitalia actually is in real life. I mean, even if you know that in theory, seeing them all out there together really drives the point home (just don't look at work). I don't know if there's something similar for men, but I certainly hope there is. Even though there are way fewer men with these concerns, according to the study, over 1/4 of men feeling crappy about their genitals is still far too many.
2. Remember Air Brushing
I may sound super naive, but when it was pointed out to me that genitals online, in magazines, and porn etc. can be manipulated as much as anything else can and is I was pretty surprised. It had just never occurred to me. But it's a thing— so remember not to believe every think you see.
3. Think Of All The Pleasure It's Given People
Chances are other people, perhaps many people, have seen your genitals before. And loved them. And orgasmed with them. Remember that your body has done good before, and that no one else has really given an eff what they looked like.
4. Think Of All The People You've Been Into
Yeah, maybe you don't look like a porn star downstairs (although I have to say I've seen a whole range of vulva on porn stars). Maybe you have ingrown hairs or moles you aren't crazy about, but you know what— I bet the people you've been obsessed with who had exactly the same. Think of all of the dimples, hairs, shaving marks— whatever— that your partners have had and how much you just did not care. It'll chill you out about what you're genitals should look like and remind you there's no right way to look and all the different things that can be sexy.
5. Pleasure Yourself
I know that I may come up with any excuse to suggest masturbating (and I do, I definitely do), but it really works. Turning yourself on, showing how damn sex you can be, is a nice reminder of how great your genitals are and how amazing what they do feels. Focus on that. Not what they look like.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our video on sex positions for small penises: