For centuries, women have been taught to keep quiet about their reproductive organs, to avoid any discussion about menstruation, childbirth, and sexual pleasure. As a result, we have developed a collective sense of shame and embarrassment about our bodies, especially our vulvas. But it's time to shop vulva shame and start embracing the beauty and power of our feminine anatomy.
It may seem obvious to some, but "vulva" and "vagina" are not dirty words. A recent survey found that 65% of women aged 16-25 have a problem saying these words out loud. This is concerning because if we can't even say the word "vulva," how can we possibly have honest, open conversations about vulvovaginal health, sexual wellness, or any other number of important dialogues?
This same study showed that1 in 4 women have negative feelings toward their vulva. This can manifest itself as low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, reduced sexual pleasure and gratification, and other negative psychological effects. These feelings of shame and embarrassment are often perpetuated by unrealistic beauty standards and unrealistic portrayals of vulvas in mainstream media and pornography. Many women are choosing to undergo surgery to alter the appearance of their vulvas to look more like those they’ve seen on screen. It must be said that no two vulvas look exactly alike - and that is precisely what makes each one beautiful in its own unique way!
Lastly, and perhaps most alarmingly,1 in 3 women say they have avoided going to the doctor with gynecological issues due to embarrassment. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and increased health risks. When it comes to your health, no amount of shame should stand in the way of getting the care you need and deserve. Remember, your doctor is on your side! And there is likely very little that could shock them - they’ve seen it all.
Women deserve better than to feel ashamed and stigmatized for something as natural as their own bodies. So, how can we shop shame and start embracing our vulvas? Here are some suggestions:
- Educate ourselves about our bodies: Knowledge is power. The more we know about our anatomy and reproductive health, the more confident and empowered we will feel. Not sure where to start? This vulva puppet makes it fun and easy to learn more about your sweet spots.
- Normalize conversations about vulvas and vaginas: It's past time to start talking openly about our bodies. We need to normalize conversations about menopause, sexual pleasure, and gynecological health. That means being comfortable saying the words "vulva" and "vagina" out loud. Try it now! Say “vulva” or “vagina” out loud or challenge yourself to use it in conversation this week. For example, “Did you know April 21st is National Vulva Awareness Day?”
- Challenge unrealistic beauty standards: Celebrate the diversity of vulvas! Just like every other part of our bodies, vulvas come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We need to challenge the unrealistic beauty standards that perpetuate shame and embarrassment around our bodies. Our friend and TikTok’s most popular “outie” owner, Gaby Scaringe, is leading the way forward on the vulva positivity movement - check her out here.
- Advocate for your own health: You deserve access to high-quality, non-judgmental reproductive healthcare. There is nothing to be embarrassed about if something’s not quite right below the belt! Speak up for yourself and contact your medical provider if and when you need help.
It’s long past time to challenge the shame and embarrassment that has been ingrained in us for far too long. Join SweetSpot Labs April 21 in honor of National Vulva Awareness Day and celebrate all things vulva!