Is It My Vagina? Is It My Vulva? What’s It Supposed to Look Like?

By: Nour Jumma

The lack of Sex-Ed in the Arab World makes every young girl think that she’s not allowed to look at her own vulva but if she does, there’s the continued shame and anxiety that comes with realizing that their vulvas look nothing like the smooth and pink vulvas on like, every porno ever. So consequently, this ‘taboo’ topic becomes difficult (read: impossible) to talk about with older female figures in your life. But I’m here to tell you that hey, your vulva is just fine. 

Disclaimer – I am in no way a licensed expert or a medical professional. This is all from everything I’ve learned after intensive research and some tips from following @thisismotherbeing (a Doula) on Instagram. 

As a general rule, no matter what the situation is down there, if you aren’t experiencing any discomfort, your vagina is fine. Trust your body. When something is wrong, it will let you know.  

In order for you to understand your vagina, you need to become familiar with its anatomy. You can’t really know/judge something until you’ve taken a long proper look at it and understood its functions, right? So get up, close your bedroom door, grab a mirror and bear with me while I try to explain this as much (and as easily) as possible. 

Let’s start with the basics. Everything from the top until the ‘end’ of it (before your anus) is called the vulva. The outer ‘lips’ surrounding it, that’s your labia majora. This will differ in size and volume from one woman to another. But we’ll get to that later. After that, you’ll have another set of ‘lips’. The labia minora. This is the flap of skin just before your vaginal opening. The vaginal opening is where your period blood is shed through. Just above the vaginal opening, your urethra is located. That’s where pee exits your body. Now from the top, where your vulva starts, that would be your clitoral hood, and just under that, your clitoris. Your clitoris is extremely sensitive (like, 4,000 nerve endings sensitive), and is where most women get their sexual stimulation. Not so hard to find now is it? You just need to know what you’re looking at/for. The stretch of skin between the end of your vulva and your anus is called the perineum. 

Your vaginal opening leads to the vagina, which is sort of like a tube that leads to your cervix. On average, it is 8cm (3 inches) deep, however this differs between each woman, and also differs depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. The vagina is also very elastic, which means it can stretch, during sex, for childbirth, etc. 

Was that confusing? Take a look at a diagram. Google “Vagina anatomy diagram labelled” and a number of scientific diagrams will show up. Take your time and understand what everything is. This is your body. 

Now let’s talk about shapes, sizes, and colours. 

Variation. Is. Normal. It is scientifically proven that ear shapes are unique to each person. It is also scientifically proven that fingerprints are unique to each person. So is the make-up of your DNA. And so is your vulva. 

Some have bigger labia majoras, and it tends to sit lower than the rest of the organ. Or be puffier. Or thinner. Or looser. It’s normal. The labia majora can also be darker, or lighter, or redder than the rest of your anatomy. Normal. The skin around your labia majora can be darker. Normal. Don’t try to lighten it. They can be asymmetrical, one longer or bigger or puffier than the other. Normal. In some women, you could also have some whiteheads around your labia majoras and in between your thighs. Normal. It is usually due to shaving/other hair removal techniques. 

Some labia minoras are longer. Even longer than labia majoras, and extend past it, making it more prominent. Bigger? Normal. Thicker? Normal. This part tends to be pinker than the rest of the vulva, as it holds a lot of blood vessels. The colour also depends heavily on the pigmentation levels of your body. Normal. One labia minora flap can be longer than the other. Normal.

Some vaginal openings are oval shaped, some circular, some smaller than others, some with ‘flappier’ or more rugged (less smooth and less ‘perfect circle’) appearance than others. Some darker, and some pink. Normal. 

Your clitorus can be more prominent than someone else. Your clitoral hood longer or covers a larger surface area. Your clitorus could be more purple-hued than pink or red. Normal.

Your pubic hair can be rough, darker than the rest of your hair, curlier, or softer, fluffier, more coarse, or even grow unevenly around your pubic area. Whether you chose to keep it, trim it, shave it, wax it, laser it off is completely and utterly up to you. Remember that it does serve a purpose and that it’s there for a reason. To protect your vagina from harmful infections. 

Regular vaginal discharge? Normal. Wear a panty liner if it bothers you.

It is important to understand that not all bumps, spots, or sores are necessarily reasons to worry. Your body is extremely self-sufficient, and will usually fix itself by itself.

Normal normal normal, tayeb ya Nour, kol dah normal, tab when is it NOT normal? Ha2olek. Once you start feeling any discomfort, unusual itching (not 1-2 days after a shave in shaved areas), your discharge having a stronger odour or changes in colour. Not normal. See a gynecologist as soon as possible incase of anything more unusual than orderly. Avoid googling your symptoms, more than likely you’ll mis-diagnose yourself and freak yourself out over nothing. You can also visit your local pharmacy and explain to the pharmacist (in private, if you’re uncomfortable) what it is you’re experiencing. La 7aya2a fil 3ilm. No shame in your anatomy. 

You should definitely avoid washing your private area with harsh or scented soap. Don’t spray it with deodorant, perfume, or absolutely anything. It will throw off the pH of your organ, and do more damage than good. It is not supposed to smell like a spring meadow. During your period, your vagina self-cleans and manages its pH on its own. The only way you should clean your vagina is with warm water (so basically anytime you’re in the shower or using the toilet bidet after using the bathroom), and mild unscented soap if necessary. Dry with a soft towel or tissues. Avoid using rough towels. 

Vaginal care and knowledge is nothing to be ashamed of. A body part, like your eye or ear or or nose. Own your body. 

Take care, 

NKJ

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