self-image

“I have a nice gross vagina”… wait! Does that even make sense?

Miranda Fudge, B.A. (Hons.), Ph.D. Candidate

LADIES… how do you feel about your down-there? Are you absolutely in love with your coochie? Or do you try to forget that special-place is even a part of your body? MEN… You might enjoy the lady-yum-yum (or not), but have you ever wondered how the wonderful women in your life feel about their vulva/vagina (genitals)1?

According to our recent study2, women’s thoughts and feelings about their genitals tend to be somewhat mixed.

The 20 women we interviewed tended to have positive, negative, and neutral feelings about different aspects of their genitals, all at once. For example, one woman loved how her vulva looked but was very disappointed in how her vagina functioned, if you know what I mean ;)

So what makes this important? Well, aside from the fact that it’s just plain upsetting that many women feel badly about such an amazing (and super fun!) part of their body, negative feelings have consequences!

Some of the women in our study described:

·      hiding their genitals in both public (e.g., change rooms) and private (e.g., sexual) situations

·      limiting sexual activities

·      engaging in unnecessary (possibly harmful) hygiene practices.

Many just don’t know a lot about their genitals. There is huge diversity in how women’s genitals look, smell, taste, and function. You heard it here: each vulva is very unique and equally as beautiful as the next!

If you would like to learn more about women’s genitals (and we highly recommend that you do!), especially the topic of genital diversity, please explore the resources below: 

Books about women’s genitals and genital health:

     The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health (by Elizabeth G. Stewart and Paula Spencer)

       Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva (by Debby Herbenick and Vanessa Schick)

Websites featuring galleries, books, or works of art displaying genital diversity3: 

       http://www.showoffbooks.com

       https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/debbyherbenick/what-do-you-like-about-your-vulva-and-vagina

       http://www.greatwallofvagina.co.uk/home

 

1 In case you were wondering… your vulva is the part of your genitals you can see from the outside (including parts like the clitoris, pubic mound, and vaginal lips). Your vagina is the inside part (also sometimes called the birth canal and/or the part where a tampon/penis/other-fun-object can be inserted).

2 Fudge, M. C., & Byers, E. S. (2016). “I have a nice gross vagina”: Understanding young women’s genital self-perceptions. Journal of Sex Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1155200.

3 Most of these websites provide you with the opportunity to view a variety of women’s vulvas, should you be interested in doing so. Many women find this experience to be enlightening and reassuring because it shows that every woman’s genitals are unique and that there is no “normal” genital appearance. It is our hope that visiting these sites will be empowering for you as well.

 

“Does this make me look fat?” How the things partners tell each other about their bodies affects their self confidence

Kaitlyn Goldsmith, B.A. (Hons.), Ph.D. Candidate

Have you complimented your partner’s looks recently? Maybe you had an unfortunate blunder when your partner asked, “Does this make me look fat?” Maybe you haven’t said anything directly, but your tone of voice or gestures were loud and clear?!  (Translation:  “Uhhhh, yeah, sure does.”)

Do these little everyday things that partners say about one another’s bodies actually have an impact? What really happens when your significant other says something negative (or positive) about your body? Could these messages have an impact on your sex life? These were the questions that lead us to ask 35 men and 57 women about the messages they have received from their romantic partners about their bodies and how they feel those messages have affected them.  These men and women wrote about the most memorable messages about their bodies they had received from their partner.

Here’s what we found:

·      The good news is that every single person reported receiving at least one positive message about their body… run-of-the-mill compliments, sexy compliments, comments that challenged negative beliefs about themselves

·      Men and women typically received messages non-verbally, through body language and tone of voice (who knew!?)

·      Most felt these messages had a positive impact on their body image AND their sex life. They felt more sexually confident, empowered, and fulfilled

·      Although fewer men and women reported receiving negative messages (both verbally and non-verbally), these messages were linked to reduced body confidence AND less sexual satisfaction

·      Most striking?  Both men and women reported fairly ordinary, sometimes seemingly neutral, messages having a big impact on their confidence and sex lives

So be careful! 

If you have a partner, why not make an effort to help them feel sexy? Dish out those compliments! Ask if you’ve hurt their feelings with a comment or action! You never know, it may even improve your sex life

 

For full article:

Goldsmith, K. M., & Byers, E. S. (2016). Perceived impact of body feedback from romantic partners on young adults’ body image and sexual well-being. Body Image, 17, 161-170.