I want you think about any education that you received when you were younger on sexuality.
I distinctly remember being taught about the male and female reproductive organs in High School Biology, however I never received any education on the external genitalia for women – and from speaking to different people I have come to realize that this not that uncommon. It was, and is, often not 'acceptable' to talk about your genitalia. Also, for the longest time I used to hear the vagina being referred to as ‘down there’.
At a professional talk I did in September 2019, I found that not all women were actually comfortable saying 'vagina', and would still refer to it as ‘'thingy’' – even though they all had one! This got me thinking that it would be great to start encouraging us all to refer to our genitalia by their actual names.
If you compare the male external genitalia to the female external genitalia, female genitalia is just not as prominent. Historically, lots of women (and men) have very little understanding of the female sexual anatomy. I believe it is never too late to learn about your sexuality so let’s learn more about the labia.
A little background
By the way, in my view, it is impossible to talk about the labia, without exploring the vulva. The vulva is also known as the ‘female external genitalia, and includes the following parts namely, Mons, Labia (inner and outer), Vaginal Opening and the Clitoris (Levay, Baldwin & Baldwin, 2015).
So, what are the labia?
In Latin this is translated to ‘’lips’’ and are two pairs of skin folds, that extend down from the mons (which is a mound of fatty tissue covering the pubic bone; it is erotically sensitive) and found on either side of the vulva. There is an outer labia and an inner labium.
The outer labia
They are two skin folds that are full of fatty tissue, have darker skin and are also erotically sensitive, especially on the inner hairless sides. When a woman is sexually aroused, her inner labia swells up and darkens as they fill up with blood. The appearance of the outer labia will vary when a woman is aroused and when she is not aroused.
The inner labia
They are the two thin folds of hairless skin that lie between the two outer labia. In some women, the inner labia are only visible after parting the outer labia and in other women these protrude to variable degrees; the appearance of these differ from woman to woman.
Are labia created equally?
The answer to this is no. Both the inner and outer labia vary in shape, color, size, protrusion, for all women. The appearance of the inner labia also varies and like DNA or a fingerprint, they are distinctive to each individual woman!
We are all unique!
As all human beings are created uniquely, their genitalia will also be unique. Some women opt to have surgery to change the appearance of their labia; this is an individual and personal decision. I often encourage my clients to get to know what their vulva looks like, as this is important for their own information and sex education.
So, if you are reading this today and haven’t yet had a look at what your vulva, labia, mons and clitoris look like; please go ahead and look 'under the hood'. Just as we look at our faces every morning while washing them or brushing our teeth, it would be good for us to know what our genitalia looks like, too. There is no shame in getting acquainted with your own body, so be safe and enjoy!