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In real life how much does vagina attractiveness really matter? Is it about on a par with "size" for guys?

Q.

I'm a 16-year-old girl and i don't mean to sound conceited but i know i am quite sexually attractive. I've got an hourglass figure, long legs, large breasts and a pretty face. I have a boyfriend, and other admirers. But i have a secret that no-one knows about, not even my boyfriend. I have the world's absolute ugliest vagina. I am not even kidding, it is hideous. Both my labia minora are larger than the labia major, but the one on the left-hand side dangles down about 3 centimetres. It's brown and wrinkled on the end and can smell really bad.

The funny thing is, until recently i didn't even know that it was ugly. I guess i thought i was normal, or maybe i just didn't ever look. I'd even experimented sexually with a guy and he hadn't said a thing. But then i was here on somazone and read a story from a girl with the labia issue. I started wondering if i had it too, so i got a mirror and had a look.

Now i am in a very difficult place. I'm a flirt, i'm a tease, i pride myself on being attractive. And yet, in the most important place, i'm as unattractive as can be. I'm terrified about my boyfriend ever seeing or touching it, so essentially even though i am a quite sexual person, i have to shut myself down and act frigid. I know that plenty of women have a labia minora that sticks out and that it's perfectly normal. However, i am really insecure about my vagina.

To begin with i am sure that mine is even longer than most long labias. Furthermore, there is certainly a very negative perception of this issue in pop culture. Just like i don't want to have cellulite or a saggy stomach (even though those things are perfectly normal and blah blah blah) i really don't want to have an ugly vagina. I am aware that there is a procedure called labiaplasty you can have to correct this issue.

So my questions are: how can i get my parents to take me to a gynaecologist? Is labiaplasty usually pricey, and is it covered by any health funds i.e. Medicare? Is this procedure generally regarded as safe? And finally, can teenagers have this procedure?

Oh also, i suppose i had better ask: in real life (yes it would help if you were a man answering this, or a gay woman) how much does vagina attractiveness really matter? Is it about on a par with "size" for guys (i.e. the accepted truth is that "size doesn't count" but there are some people who believe it does)?

A.

Hi and thanks for your question.

Many young women have the same fears that you do about the attractiveness of their vagina/vulva. Most women your age haven't seen another woman's vagina before, and if they have, it's generally the pictures of vaginas that are shown in porn (which are often edited to look like the porn industry's "ideal" vagina). These images don't represent the great range of normal vaginas that are out there! Have a look at the first few links below for more on this.

(By the way, the proper name for a woman's outer genitals is the vulva. The vagina is only one part of the genitals, not the whole of them. Have a look at our Vagina info fact sheet for more info and a diagram. I'll keep using the word vagina in my answer though, so it's not confusing.)

The issue of penis size for guys has a huge impact on their self-esteem, and yes it can be similar for girls when they think about their vagina and how it looks. However, it's often an issue that girls that create for themselves. Most heterosexual guys don't care what their partner's vagina looks like—they are usually very aroused by their partner's genitals. There is no single type of vagina that guys will find attractive.

More important than what a guy thinks of your vagina is what you think of your vagina, your body, and yourself as a whole person. Sexual confidence comes from being 100% comfortable with all parts of who you are, not just your vagina.

I think at the moment it's a good idea for you to talk to someone about how you're feeling, such as a counsellor. I'm concerned about how upsetting this is for you at the moment and how it's affecting your overall sense of self-esteem. A counsellor will be able to help you work through these difficult feelings, learn how to be more comfortable in your own body and talk to you about your options and decision making about this issue. This may help you develop more confidence in your body without the need to look more into surgical options. You could try seeing a counsellor at Family Planning Victoria or at one of the services in our directory (see link below).

If you want a medical opinion, you could first go to your GP and ask them to take a look at your vagina to see what they think. (You can ask to see a male GP if you like.) If they see anything to worry about, they can refer you to a specialist (most likely a gynaecologist and/or a plastic surgeon) who knows about labiaplasty (plastic surgery to alter the appearance of the outer lips of the vagina). Your GP can also help you involve your parents in the process.

For some women, labiaplasty is a valid surgical option that allows them to improve their body confidence, and also reduces the discomfort that may come from having these sensitive body parts irritated by tight clothing, etc. To answer your questions about this procedure, it's best that you talk with someone who knows a lot about this and has done many of these procedures before.

Because labiaplasty is considered elective plastic surgery, Medicare won't cover the costs of the procedure (which is likely to be several thousand dollars). I'm not sure if teenagers are allowed to have this procedure in Australia, but you should be able to find this out if you ask your GP or specialist. Check out the links below for more information.

Surgery may seem like the easy solution, but it's a big (and permanent) decision so it's best to take your time finding out as much information as you can about it before you decide whether it's best for you or not. Good luck.

Last modified: 20th March 2012
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