The Vulva Gallery is a series of illustrations of all kinds of vulvas - celebrating the vulva in all its diversity all over the world.
In the past decade there has been an enormous increase in labiaplasty amongst young women. Labiaplasty is cosmetic surgery to partly or entirely alter the size of the labia minora, the inner folds of the vulva. In England for instance, the amount of labiaplasties in public hospitals has increased fivefold between 2001 and 2010. The performed labiaplasties are often merely done because of cosmetical purposes. Many women who undergo this procedure are unhappy with the way their labia look, especially their labia minora (inner labia). They think their labia minora are too large, and therefore they perceive them as ugly and disturbing. Their genital self-image is, on average, more negative than that of other women.
In my opinion, labiaplasty for of cosmetic reasons isn’t a positive development. No vulva-owning individual should undergo this procedure just because they want their vulva to look like the ones they see on the internet, in porn for example, or like what they think other people expect them to look. I find it very difficult to see how far many individuals go to reach the ‘perfect’ look. Of course, plastic surgery is something that we’ve seen growing in the past decades. But to have a surgeon cut away such a delicate part of your body - a part that is so sensitive, that gives you sexual pleasure, a natural part of yourself - just to look pretty is harmful to the self. Not that I don’t understand why it happens; like so many teenagers growing up, I’ve also been insecure about my own body. But it still makes me sad to see that the pressure so many individuals feel from the outside world is so big that they feel they need to undergo surgery.
The only way to change the way those individuals experience their bodies is to educate them, and others, about natural diversity. Showing them that there are so many different body types, in many shapes, sizes, and colours. I hope that The Vulva Gallery can contribute to the way people view the broad range of vulvas, and that they are perfect just the way they are. Because diversity is beautiful.
The reason for using the word 'vulva' instead of 'vagina', is that the vagina is only the internal part of the female genitals. The vulva consists of the external part of the female genital organs: the mons pubis, the labia majora and labia minora, the clitoris and the clitoral hood, the bulb of vestibule, the vulval vestibule, urinary meatus, greater and lesser vestibular glands, the vaginal opening, the pudendal cleft, sebaceous glands, the urogenital triangle (anterior part of the perineum), and pubic hair. I think we shouldn't reduce the vulva just to it's birth canal, when there's so much more to it than that!