Sex Talk

Vagina's Appearance

Q from a Female, freshman at the University of Buffalo: wants to know…My friend says she feel shy about the way her vagina looks. What should she do?

Dr. Caron's Answer: Join the club. There are many women who are a bit uncomfortable about the way their vulva/vagina looks. Unfortunately, many little girls gather negative messages about their bodies. Starting in early childhood they are taught that touching their genitals is “not nice” or ‘dirty,” a message that is reinforced during toilet training when the little girl is told to “wipe carefully” and “clean yourself up.” Little girls absorb the social message that their female genitals are ugly and unclean. Menstruation reinforces this message with “sanitary napkins” and embarrassed secrecy. Later, young women are urged to buy unnecessary vaginal sprays and douches to hide odors. Such sprays can be potentially irritating, and frequent douching can be harmful because it upsets the vagina’s natural chemical balance, thus increasing susceptibility to infections. Finally, given the taboo about touching and looking, many women have not taken a look at their own genitals and cannot accurately describe their own anatomy. A place for this woman to start is with a mirror and a basic drawing of her anatomy (see any anatomy/human sexuality text). By becoming familiar with herself, hopefully she can learn to see the beauty in this part of her body..

© 2007, Sandra L. Caron

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It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover. - Marge Piercy

American teens have the worst of all worlds...Our children are bombarded and confronted with sexual messages, sexual exploitation, and all manner of sexual criticism. But our society is by and large sexually illiterate. Faye Westheimer

Dr. Sandra L. Caron is a professor of human sexuality at the University of Maine. To submit a question to Dr. Caron or chat with your peers visit Got a question for Dr. Caron? Visit and ask away! Get a guaranteed personal and confidential response to your question: or E-Mail

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