The vagina, vulva, clitoris – or the female anatomy has been a topic of wonderment and re-discovery over the past few years. Through socio-political entities, pseudoscience, cultural and gender shaming, the female body, and its intimate areas have been crafted and moulded into a shape of shame and dissatisfaction instead of noting it for the beautiful and unique creation it is.
Seen without much agency, the vulva has been positioned merely as a place for reproduction but is in fact a complex passage of female anatomy. Made up of the vagina (the muscular tube that links to the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus), it also allows the passage of blood and cells in menstruation and is essential for childbirth. The vulva (as the external part of the female genitals, it forms the labia majora – the outer fold, the labia minora – the inner fold, the urethra, and the clitoris) and is uniquely shaped and sized in appearance. According to studies, only 9% of women can correctly label the anatomical structure correctly with many unaware of the vulva’s full function. This miseducation is reportedly down to the disconnect from our own bodies – often carrying sexual and bodily shame, the female genital anatomy becomes a foreign function within our own bodies.
The history of the vagina is tied into the psychological thinking around women and hysteria. With little knowledge on female anatomy, the womb alone was considered as “an animal within an animal” and would drive women into hysteria if misplaced. This method of thinking was then adopted into marketing and advertising campaigns. An example being in 1928, the brand Lysol sold vaginal disinfectant with advertisement copy that stated husband and wives could enjoy “the things they did as newlyweds” if women practice the correct form of hygiene. This archaic way of thinking has suffocated the beauty of the vulva, instead, associating feelings of dirt, cleanliness, and shame around the vagina.
The discomfort and disconnect around the vulva doesn’t just stop at feminine hygiene products – which arguably can disrupt a healthy vaginal microbiome by forcing additives to upset the natural pH 4.5 – but causes women to be unaware of their own health and know when their body is functioning normally and when it isn’t. Another layer to the problem also notes that tied to the shame of the vulva, there is a direct correlation to labiaplasty surgeries and medication, according to American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there has been an 217.3% increase around altering the size and shape of the vulva as so many women consider their vulva’s as ugly-looking or not normal.
Gynaecologist and Obstetrician Dr Nadége Roquet highlights, “the lack of confidence is around the appearance, I tell all the women who come to see me that there is no aesthetic ideal and the work that I do is to instil confidence and remove the shame and discomfort women may feel about their vulva.” Dr Roquet’s work specialises in restoring the intimacy between women and their vulvas. Not just based on physical reconstruction but psychological and emotional intimacy that women have been so detached from for so long.
“There is so much comparison amongst women, amongst their friends, their siblings and it causes so many questions such as why doesn’t my vulva look like that? Creating a space of insecurity. Not only that, but when women go to see their doctors the process always seems to be rushed, whether seeking guidance for a discomfort or they’re going to get the pill – women haven’t really been allowed to express their pain or concerns in a safe space” she explains.
It is what makes Dr Roquet’s Clinique Esthétique Aquitaine so needed in the industry, not just for surgical and non-surgical vulva treatments, but as a place women will feel listened too and heard. “So many women come to me concerned with the appearance of their vulva or the fact that they don’t consider themselves as normal because they’ve never had an orgasm. I always express that pleasure is equally for the men and for the women. It’s impossible to seek the pleasure of the man without knowing how to pleasure yourself first” Dr Roquet shares.
With so many concerns such as dryness, urine leaks, appearance of the vulva, hyperpigmentation, failure to orgasm or vulvar pain, there are treatments that can be administered through surgery, laser or injection that can help to improve the intimate issues. “Many individuals are critical of the work and see changing the vulva as appeasing the patriarchy, but I strongly disagree. Changing or altering the vulva is a personal and intimate decision made by the woman, for the woman and if it re-introduces the intimacy and connection between the woman and her body, it is worth it” she adds.
It is not to say that surgery and treatments are needed to see the beauty of the vulva, all vulvas are beautiful, normal – the focus should be on women seeing the beauty of their own body’s, glorifying in their own intimacies, without any judgement or shame. Shedding societal pressures, the vulva is bold, a masterpiece, a work of art and every woman should celebrate their own.