Have you ever wondered "is my vulva normal?" or googled anything from "why does my labia stick out" to "why is my labia wrinkly?" Lots of women have, that's why we contacted the wonderful team behind The Labia Library to chat about, you guessed it, the labia. First, some facts. The inner fold (inner lip of the vulva) is known as labia minora, and the outer fold (outer lip of the vulva) is known as labia majora. The labia serve the very important purpose of protecting the urinary openings by covering the vaginal openings and the clitoris from external trauma. Don't you suddenly love yours a little more already? There's a lot we're encouraged to embrace as women, our curves, our lines, our grey hair - but what about the labia? What about the labia? Now there's a bumper sticker. In all seriousness though - the alarming demand for genital surgery was what led Women's Health Victoria to create The Labia Library, it's a very important resource and a very important anatomy lesson.
We hope this Q&A leads you to take a little minute to say hey to your labia, and if you have indeed wondered about the world of labias and how to better love yours, then read on.
Over to Django & Aine from The Labia Library.
Tell us about the Labia Library, how the idea came to be and the work involved in setting it up?
The Labia Library was created by Women’s Health Victoria in 2013. Women’s Health Victoria had identified a concerning increase in demand for female genital cosmetic surgery amongst young women. Our research showed that many girls and women don’t have the chance to see accurate representations of female genitals, as the images we see in magazines and pornography are often altered and lacking in diversity.
The Labia Library was designed to give women the opportunity to view unaltered images of labia to show that labia are diverse just like any other part of the body. The site was originally designed for young women in Victoria but has reached global audiences, with around 3000-5000 people from all over the world visiting the site each day!
What would you say is the number one labia fear? Is it more about appearance, or feelings and sensations?
There are a number of reasons women seek female genital cosmetic surgery, including medical or functional reasons, but the most common reason is aesthetic concern over genital appearance and a desire to achieve a ‘normal’ look.
The feedback that Women’s Health Victoria receives from users of the Labia Library is overwhelmingly positive, with many women expressing gratitude and relief that their labia are healthy and that diversity in labia appearance is normal.
It's been a while since we checked up on sex education, or at least if young girls are taught about their anatomy in school? What's your view on education around 'labia love' in particular?
It is important that young people understand body diversity and can recognise unrealistic body images. What’s appropriate to discuss with young people will of course differ depending on age, and ultimately images should reflect the age of the young person; cartoons and drawings can be more appropriate for younger girls. Helping girls to understand that the representations of labia they see in media may not be realistic can also encourage healthy body image, self-acceptance, and a greater understanding of body diversity. It’s important for boys and young men to also be aware of labial diversity, as their expectations around what girls’ and women’s bodies should look like are often based on the unrealistic images they see in media such as pornography.
In terms of sexuality education in schools, a whole of school approach is most effective. This means involving the whole school community, so that teachers are equipped to deliver evidence-based sexuality education to students, students can access additional support if they need it, and parents are supported to continue the conversation at home.
What is the main take-away you want people to have after a visit to the Labia Library?
Women should feel reassured that just like any other body part labia come in all sizes, shapes, and colours! It’s impossible to showcase an exact match for everyone’s body in the Labia Library image gallery, but we hope that the range of images reflects the message that genital diversity is natural and that there is no ‘normal’ or standard appearance that women should strive to achieve. We want women to feel confident and informed about their bodies, to have control over their own bodies, and to know when to seek professional advice should they want to. We also hope that the site helps parents, teachers, and health professionals to discuss genital diversity and anatomy with women and girls.
There are some incredible resources listed on your website to help navigate labia issues and whether to see a specialist - do you have a favourite or a go-to for positivity around the labia - and celebrating the different shapes and sizes they come in?
There are so many amazing resources online to promote confidence and a healthy body image – here are some of our favourites:
Rosie is a great website for younger women created by the Victorian Women’s Trust. It provides detailed and easy to understand information on a range of topics, including body image, changes to the body during puberty, and gender and sexuality.
Women’s Health Victoria’s 1800 My Options service operates a website and phone line to provide independent, pro-choice and judgement-free information on sexual and reproductive health.
And of course, The Labia Library!
The informative one-stop-shop for everything to do with labia love!
Sending a huge thanks to Django and Aine and all of those involved in creating the Labia Library and speaking with us. Some very important resources there we encourage you to look at, share and save.
Cover Image represents a part of an artwork titled "Coin Cunts' by Suzanna Scott.