Don't believe these common vagina-related urban legends.
MYTH #1: Most women have a matching pair.
FACT: Most women have different sized labia — exact symmetry is rare in nature — in the same way that most people have one foot that’s bigger than the other. In other words, a matching pair is the exception, not the rule. Believe the scientific evidence and the awesomely inspiring online photo libraries of real labia, like this one (NSFW), not some random dude gossiping in the locker room about his sexual “conquests.”
MYTH #2: Labia are part of the vagina.
FACT: The labial “lips” are part of a woman’s vulva; the vulva is the outer part of a woman’s genital structure. Labia are the inner and outer lips of the vulva. The vagina is the inner canal, where penises, fingers, and sex toys go in, and babies come out.
MYTH #3: Large labia are freakish and unattractive to men.
FACT: Have you visited the (NSFW) Tumblr Large Labia Project lately? “Large labia” is kind of a misnomer, in fact, because what most women perceive as being “large” are actually perfectly average-sized lips.
For the record (stats thanks to the Large Labia Project, also), the average labia minora is 3.2cm, or 1 3/8 inches wide, and approximately 154,000,000 people have labia minora over 8.6cm (3 1/2 inches) wide — which is more than the entire populations of the United Kingdom, France, and Canada combined.
Finally, as far as attraction goes: immature junior high boys and asshole frat guys joke about roast beef curtains. Real men don’t give a f*&#.
MYTH #4: The inner labia shouldn’t protrude beyond the outer labia.
FACT: About fifty percent of women have protruding inner labia. And yes, in case you need clarification: fifty percent is the same as half. We can blame the Latin terminology for these body parts (labia majora and labia minora) for perpetuating this myth. Oh, and porn too.
One fascinating though NSFW investigation found that labiaplasty has been on the rise because of rules throughout the world on what is too obscene for print; apparently, protruding inner labia is too graphic and gets photoshopped out.
MYTH #5: Masturbation causes the labia to stretch and increase in size.
FACT: Sexual stimulation can temporarily cause the labia to swell along with the clitoris — the outer labia separate and the inner labia enlarge. Most women think that’s a good thing, especially when those enlarged and separated labia rub against the clitoris for increased stimulation!
MYTH #6: “Too much” sex makes labia stretch and increase in size.
FACT: See above. So, no, you can’t tell a woman’s sexual history by “reading” her labia.
According to this awesome blog post, this kind of ass-backward thinking “stems from the European colonial occupation of Africa in the early 1800s, and any examination of the topic needs to be viewed through the prism of the massive superiority complex surrounding European civilization that existed then.” In other words, the attitude is about as outdated as slavery.
MYTH #7: “Normal” labia are as delicate and pale pink as Molly Ringwald’s prom dress.
FACT: There’s no such thing as normal labia — there’s just too much diversity in the way women look down there. They’re as unique as snowflakes!
The inner labia can be pink…but they can also be dark red or purple or brown or black. Sometimes they’re the same color as a woman’s skin, and other times they’re lighter or darker, just like the lips on a woman’s face. And again, like lips on a face, sometimes they’re thin, sometimes they’re thick — it depends on the pair you were born with.
If you want to see real labia that haven’t been air-brushed, check out this (NSFW) gallery.
MYTH #8: Porn stars are naturally blessed with pale pink, neat and tidy labia.
FACT: Porn stars and other women who make a living from their vulvas often undergo a complicated and risky surgery called labiaplasty to look like a Barbie doll or a small girl. In nude photographs, women’s labia are often digitally shortened via Photoshop or airbrushed out completely. Yep, even the freakin’ labia aren’t safe from Photoshop these days!
MYTH #9: Labiaplasty is totally safe.
FACT: According to the New View Campaign (a grassroots campaign to “challenge the distorted and oversimplified messages about sexuality that the pharmaceutical industry relies on to sell its new drugs”), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a statement saying that most female genital cosmetic surgical procedures are not medically indicated, were ethically questionable, and are not standardized, routine or acceptable.
Risks of labiaplasty include scarring, numbness, pain, asymmetry (ironic, we know), discoloration of the labia (ditto), an abnormal appearance to the skin along the edge of the labia, and reduced sexual pleasure (see next myth).
Remember, plastic and cosmetic surgeons make a living off of women’s insecurities about their bodies. If you want to discuss your labia with a true professional, talk to your gynecologist instead. They see vulvas every day, and don’t have a vested interest in making you feel bad about your vulva.
MYTH #10: Labia just get in the way.
FACT: Labia do a great job protecting your vagina, and they’re also chock full of nerve endings that provide sensation and lubrication during sex. In fact, the larger the labia, the more likely they are to stimulate the clitoris during intercourse! So. There.
This article was originally published at Em & Lo. Reprinted with permission from the author.