The Labia Library: Have You Ever Wondered If Your Vagina Is 'Normal'?
When’s the last time you saw someone else’s naked vulva?
If your sexual partners are women or trans guys with vaginas, it might have been pretty recently. But if your partners are people with penises, chances are the last time you saw someone else’s vulva was in porn. And, unfortunately, most porn isn’t really known for celebrating differences in vulva shape.
Luckily there’s a place you can go to see a wide range of vulvas in different colors, shapes, and levels of hairiness: The Labia Library.
We'll get into that.
Let’s first take a quick minute to define what, exactly, a vulva is.
Vulva Vs. Vagina
I was always taught when I was little to call my genitals my “vagina,” but it turns out that’s not entirely accurate.
The vagina is the canal inside the body, but everything that you can see on the outside is the vulva. And the labia are the vaginal “lips,” both the (usually) thinner inner ones and (usually) fleshier outer ones.
The Labia Library
The Labia Library was created by the Australian non-profit Women’s Health Victoria in response to media reports about the increase in labiaplasties worldwide. Labiaplasty is a cosmetic surgery procedure that some women are undergoing to make their labia look more "normal." It’s a tough surgery with a three month recovery time and can result in loss of sensation, scarring, infection, bleeding, and a bunch of other scary results.
The problem with this, as Rebecca Besnos outlines in her piece A Dangerous Rise in Labiaplasties: How to Love your God-Given Labia, is that there is no “normal” when it comes to labia shape and size. Each vulva is totally different from the next, from color to labia length to how much — or how little — hair covers it.
However, most mainstream porn tends to present vulvas as hairless, with small labia, and the exact same shade of pink.
Even soft core porn trims away long lips and reduces labia to “a single crease,” making them look more like Barbie’s smooth nether regions than any female genitalia I’ve ever seen IRL.
The Labia Library, on the other hand, has images of labia that will surprise you in their difference. Seriously — go take a (NSFW, obvs) look and you’ll probably find that your ideas about labia are completely off base. There’s not one Barbie-smooth vulva in the bunch. Some have long labia; some have almost completely labia; some are brown; some are pink; some are hairy; some are totally shaved. Not one looks like anything I’ve seen in mainstream porn and not one looks like my own.
In addition to images of real labia, the site offers information about labia and other labia-related resources. It also advises that you see a doctor or gynecologist before making a major decision like having a labiaplasty.
Or even if you’re just, you know, wondering if your labia is “normal.”
The biggest takeaway from the Labia Library, I think, is that there really and truly is no such thing as “normal” when it comes to vulvas.
Seriously. Take a look. Go ahead. It might totally change how you see things.