Afternoon InquisitionScience

Sunday AI: Female Genital Self-Image

While I was reading up on the scientific literature covering (or uncovering) crotch shaving, I discovered some really interesting papers. One of my favorites was:

The Female Genital Self-Image Scale (FGSIS): Results from a Nationally Representative Probability Sample of Women in the United States. The Journal of Sexual Medicine.  Volume 8, Issue 1, pages 158–166, January 2011. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02071.x

I was really happy to read their conclusions, since, frankly, it’s not what I would have predicted:

“Most of the participants felt generally positively about their genitals”

I have covered the practice of labioplasty and vaginal rejuvenation here before;  as well as the amazing ignorance of students about just how those parts work (or what they are called).  So, I was really happy to find out that I might be overly pessimistic about the State of the Nation’s collective Hoo Ha.

The paper I mentioned above asked participants to answer 4 questions, using a 4-point response scale (Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree).

1. I am satisfied with the appearance of my genitals
2. I would feel comfortable letting a sexual partner look at my genitals
3. I think my genitals smell fine
4. I am not embarrassed about my genitals

Not surprisingly, women who answered all questions positively were more likely to have a happy sex life.  Because I have the humor sensibilities of a pre-teen, though, I can’t read those questions without snickering.  (I also happen to think this dress is hilarious, and this is probably the only place I can work that link in with some context.)

How about you? Are YOU satisfied with the appearance of your genitals?  How would you score yourself?  What would you change, if you could change something?





Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. I guess I’ll lead off by wrecking the curve. As a transwoman awaiting surgery, no, I am not satisfied. Afterward, I suppose I’ll be all right with how things look. I don’t really get a lot of say in the matter, but as long as I don’t have heinous scarring and everything works right, what’s to complain about?

    1. I definitely get where you’re coming from– I’m a pre-op trans guy, and the best I can say about my genitals right now is that I’d appreciate them much more if they were located on someone else’s body.

      Either way though, I can’t say I’d be sad to see a massive decline in the number of cis women thinking there’s something inherently nasty about their bits– if only to see an end to condescending ads for “intimate” deodorants and other products meant to make your genitalia look and smell like… well, not like like a vagina, anyway.

    2. Yep. Also a pre-op trans woman. Though I suppose I’m not personally as creeped out by my bits as most trans girls are, I definitely wouldn’t say I’m comfortable with them. Totally feel the same way about my hopes for SRS… I’m not too worried. There’s a tremendous amount of variation in the appearance of cis women’s vulvas, so I’m not overly concerned that my own look a particular way. I’m just hoping for no complications,no overt scarring, and that I can preserve as much sensation and functionality as possible. I’m keeping my little trans fingers crossed…. though for me, SRS is still quite a ways down the road.

    3. Transgender is quite a complex area and If we had much more respect for genitals as a culture and the fluidity of gender perhaps more people who are transgendered could self identify as cisgendered in an expanded notion of gender or dispense with those labels and a gender polarity entirely . Would be nice to think Buck angel was happy with his Vulva and for some who righr now long to be the opposite sex may actually be happier if the notion and the people who have a unique sexual identity where respected and we could experiment with gender as we grow up to create our own mix of masculine and feminine. Sorry a bit off topic now :) but just a thought.

  2. I’m sure you’ve come across it already, but my favourite genital-related blog (wait, what?) is The Last Triangle. The author is a graduate student writing her thesis on the social issues surrounding pubic hair (and its removal).

    As for myself, I wasn’t comfortable with my genitals (or any other part of my body, really) until fairly recently. One day, I just realized that life’s way too short to spend it worrying about what other people will think of something I can’t control.

    I’ve given birth recently. There was almost no tearing, but it still substantially changed the topography “down there.” It’s been weird, like having a stranger in my pants. I guess it’s something like puberty, or what Erin W (above) is about to experience.

    It’s made sex weird. Not only does it look different, but everything feels different too. Positions that used to be comfortable aren’t any more, and positions that I always hated suddenly feel nice.

    As for appearance, there’s some amount of thrill in having some new “battle scars” ;)

  3. Honestly? I’m more a fan of the function than the form. It’s cute and all, but I wouldn’t sew it onto the front of a dress.

  4. “While I was reading up on the scientific literature covering (or uncovering) crotch shaving”

    I’m actually really curious about that, and what you discovered.

    1. What I discovered was pretty much what I covered in the previous post on pubic lice–there is a huge variety of practices, and there isn’t any one dominant pattern. Younger women are more likely to have more intensive grooming of their nether forests, but even then it’s not a majority for that age group.

  5. Speaking as an older person, I think most women were perfectly happy with their genitalia until someone came (media) along and told them something was wrong.

    Now waxing is a supposed necessity? I see anal bleaching picking up speed in the media. Vajazzling? What will the think of next?

    I think I’ll stay as nature intended.

    1. For some women (including myself) hair removal isn’t just about looks or trends but also comfort. I admit the first time I shaved it was because a partner asked me to but I really liked not having any hair down there and I’ve kept it that way ever since.

  6. I’m a straight guy and I’ve had some partners over my life who didn’t think their genitals were “attractive” and some who weren’t overly concerned about it.

    I always thought the appearance of their genitals was insignificant compared to the whole package. Also, I don’t thing their self evaluation had any relationship to how attractive I found them to be.

    I suppose there is almost a direct correlation with men and their genitals as well, except men are obsessed with size.

    Honestly though, you’ve got what you were born with and I think surgery is a drastic measure to take for relatively insignificant changes (at least with regards to labioplasty).

  7. I love the vulvas on the great wall there, I think they look beautiful. I like the look of my cock when it’s erect or partially erect but not flaccid. It’s an average 5′ when erect which is the same as the average erect vagina and I’d rather it was hard than big and making unreasonable demands on my blood supply :).

    1. I expect you meant 5″. If not, you shouls get in touch with the Guiness Book of World Records. :)

  8. Ha ha !!!!!!!!! shit! thanks for that yeah it’s a typo. The average erect vagina isn’t 5 foot either :)

  9. I used to work as a nurse at Planned Parenthood where I saw a lot of young women who were getting their PAPs for the first time. I would always offer the option of giving them a guided tour of all their parts. I’d adjust the head of the table so they were partially sitting and get them to hold a mirror as I pointed out clitoris, inner and outter labia, urethra, vagina, cervix. A few were sort of skiddish about it, but most were totally fascinated to see that part of themselves. They were often relieved to be told that everything looks healthy and normal. I found that when women are embarassed about their genitals, it’s usually related to hair. Some weren’t bothered about hair, but a lot of women do some serious grooming before a PAP test, which I always found quite funny.

  10. I’m basically happy. I’ve got more hair than I used to and sometimes I’ll prune it back but the rest is rather nice if I do say so myself.

    I find the way we look at our stuff kind of funny. We love to look at them, there’s an entire video industry based on that but we also aren’t entirely happy with them (that’s why we call it bumping uglies). I wonder how much of that is taught and how much of it because they just kind of look funny.

    Either way I’m happy with what I’ve got (as have a few other people) and I’ve never been anything than thrilled about what others have decided to share with me.

  11. I can honestly say that I don’t give a rat’s arse about what my nether regions look like. I keep hearing about people getting paranoid about uneven labia, anal bleaching, etc, etc, but I personally am pretty happy with what I’ve got. A while back I did the hair removal thing for my bikini line, so all I really have to do is trim it down once in a while.

  12. I’m mostly happy with mine, though some of the patterns of roughened skin I’ve acquired on my foreskin due to my masturbation habits look a bit strange to me.

    I’ve had a relatively small selection of partners and in only one case did I get a really good look at her genitals with any frequency; my ex’s labia minora protruded significantly, and I was utterly mystified to later find out this was supposed to be “unattractive.” I was amused to note, during non-intercourse play, that if I spread her labia open and pulled her labia minor flat and back a bit, her vulva looked passingly like some sort of stealth aircraft, with her vaginal opening as (ironically) the *cough* cockpit (canopy, whatever) and her clitoris pressed against the tail fins. :3

  13. I think if you asked the question on the cosmopolitan magazine website my hunch is you’d get many more women who are disatisfied.

  14. I think, for some women with big inner labia, men can screw up their self-esteem majorly. Watching all crap porn with all non-flappy women certainly does not give an well-rounded education on bits. There are definitely douchey men who have said “ew, what’s wrong with you?” to women who don’t have the “right” look. Bleh.

    I’ve never been shamed for mine, though (and they’re the “right” kind), so no problems here.

  15. I never got the whole labia minora hang up thing. I had the opposite problem because I don’t seem to have a labia minora. Because I was lacking, I felt deformed. Took me a while to understand that there is a wide diversity of vulvas out there, and that there is nothing wrong with me. Much happier being more educated about that.

  16. I don’t spend a whole lot of time looking at my genitals (it does require either a mirror or lots of bending) and I can’t say I’ve ever really compared mine to other women in a critical way. I notice that many don’t look too similar to mine but that’s not exactly the same thing.

    Everything functions properly and my boyfriend seems to enjoy my lady bits (and if he didn’t he wouldn’t be my boyfriend).

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