Over the past 20 years, the ever increasing freedom of the media to openly publish sexualized content, along with the general rise of reality stars, many of whom are known for exposing their bodies, rather than for any particular talent has led to a new 'social norm.' I.e. The more this content becomes easily accessible, the more it alters the public's perception of what is normal social behavior, sexual behavior and what they should physically look like - many women, for example, are opting for surgical enhancements in a never ending quest to look like their 'idols.'
Perhaps I'm generalizing as, of course, some women won't be influenced by this. However, in my many years of experience as a gynaecologist, I have seen a direct correlation between this and the rising number of perfectly normal women worrying about the 'normality' of their vaginas. This is called Genital Phobia.
What is Genital Phobia?
Genital Phobia is a compulsive fear that one's genitalia is abnormal, either aesthetically, functionally or not sexually pleasing to ones partner and society. It can occur at any age and in any ethnicity. However, I have noticed that it is particularly prominent in western cultures, such as the UK and America, where sexualized media is easily accessible in a wide variety of mainstream media.
How does it manifest itself?
- Women with Genital Phobia worry obsessively that their genitalia is abnormal. In some cases, they may fall into a deep, dark depressive state, avoiding any sexual activity, discussion of their genital area or any situations that may draw attention to it (e.g. swimming or exercise). They want to ignore its existence completely.
- Some women will do the complete opposite. For example, in a similar way to performing a survey, they may become increasingly promiscuous in an attempt to seek reassurance that they are sexually pleasing and that their vagina is normal. This behavior is very dangerous. Not only does it put the woman's self-esteem at risk but, importantly, her health and future fertility.
- Other women may feel the need to expose their bodies in 'sexy' clothing or to post many photographs of themselves 'selfies' provocatively on social media, eagerly awaiting validation that they are attractive and 'normal' through their followers' positive comments. This may provide a temporary 'relief' of their anxiety but the underlying problem will still be there.
What is the cause?
The main cause of Genital Phobia is society's increasing social openness of sex through visual content such as pornography or discussions and comparisons with friends about one's sex life and sexual anatomy. In the past, all of this information remained private, leaving little room for women to compare their genitalia to that of other females, or to become insecure. The more this information became easily available, the more the women started to compare themselves. In some cases, they were proactively searching for information; in others, the information was unavoidable. For example, in glossy magazines showing reality stars discussing 'vajazzles', 'designer vaginas' or falling out of cabs exposing themselves wearing no lingerie. For these women, they were subconsciously influenced by the regularity of seeing other women's vaginas and hearing about their sexual affairs. Therefore, whereas these women would usually be confident and unaffected by such worries, the media pushed them to the forefronts of their mind and a downward spiral of self-appraisal and worrying about their own genitalia began.
The major problem with this is that, as discussed in a previous article entitled 'Is My Vagina Normal?' all women's genitalia is different. There is no right or wrong. Therefore, as long as your vagina looks pleasing to your eye and that of your partners, is healthy and functioning well and you are enjoying your sex life, free from discomfort. Please do not worry.
Another cause of Genital Phobia is triggered by the media's incorrect discussions that pregnancy and birth will distort a woman's genitalia so much that they will be unpleasing to their partner, they will not enjoy sex anymore and that this cannot be rectified. This is COMPLETELY UNTRUE. However, in extreme cases of Genital Phobia, this can cause the women to worry so much that they avoid pregnancy completely - robbing them of one of the great joys in life.
In my opinion, these behaviors are dangerous and, to protect the health and mental state of society, the government, media and physicians must all take responsibility and intervene immediately before the situation gets any worse.
How can it be treated?
My advice is that, if you are worried, seek advice from an experienced gynaecologist. We will be able to reassure you or inform you of any abnormalities immediately. This will provide you with peace of mind and, if there is a problem, we are in a position to offer you the best advice.
Comparing yourself with other women or listening to your partner's critiques of your vagina will not help... Frankly speaking, they know nothing about it! For example, with porn stars, they are acting. These women might appear like they are enjoying adventurous sex lives but, in actual fact, because of their activities, over prolonged periods, their vaginas can become looser, desensitized to sexual pleasure and influenced by many other factors that, because of their acting ability, you may not even realize. Therefore, in reality, your vagina may be far more pleasing to your partner aesthetically, in feel and be able to provide you both with far more sensitivity and sexual pleasure than these women will ever be able to achieve.
That said, there are times when the vagina might benefit from medical intervention. For example, after pregnancy or menopause, it may become looser and, although we do recommend performing pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy to prevent this from happening, sometimes it does and surgical intervention, such as vaginal tightening, may be required to help restore the vagina to its original state.
Similarly, if one's labia is too long and is causing you to experience pain during intercourse from the tugging and tearing of the area, again, your gynaecologist may recommend a treatment such as labiaplasty.
If you are concerned, seek the advice of an experienced gynaecologist as they can tell you if there is anything to worry about.
For more information, visit www.queenswaygynaecologyclinic.com