One sunny morning last week, I came across this website: The Labia Library.
As you can imagine, this isn't a library of books about labias, but instead is a collection of pictures of women's genitals to reassure women who may be wondering if their vagina is 'normal' or not.
As I logged on, I let out an involuntary squeak.
I felt really uncomfortable looking at this, and wanted to immediately clamp my hands over my eyes. Then I wondered if the problem was me, not these velfies (or vaggies?) that these women had taken behind closed doors.
Perhaps I just had a major problem with close-crop labias, and maybe this was the harbinger of some much deeper body image issue.
After all, it has taken a long time to overcome my body shyness that I blame on being Asian and therefore genetically prudish and conservative. While this may seem blatantly stereotypical, I can count on one hand the number of Asian women I've seen stripping off in the gym changing room (make that one pinkie).
And don't get me started on bikinis - we tend to wear the fugly Speedo one-piece numbers rather than a twinset. It took me to the age of 25 to have the confidence to wear one, ironically missing out on my peak years back when I didn't have to work out to get a flat tummy.
But I digress.
In a bid to overcome my cultural shackles, I decided to be more open and to care less about what other people thought. Maybe I would've even 'checked out a book' at the Labia Library had the following not happened.
I went for my first ever colposcopy appointment a few years ago - for the uninitiated, it's a pre cancer-screening to monitor the HPV virus - sort of like an extended smear test but with a vag-cam that shows your cervix up close and personal.
The doctor asked: "Would you like to look at your cervix?"
I smiled and said firmly: "Thanks, but no thanks."
She asked me a few more times and then said: "It's really quite beautiful."
Now, dear reader, there are lots of things I consider to be beautiful.
Puppies, a double rainbow, blossoms in the middle of spring.
But my cervix ain't one of them. Frankly, I was aghast. There it was, pulsing away, tissue, goop and all, and I don't feel that because I got to look at it, we have a better relationship. I'm convinced that one day it is going to grow eyes and become sentient, issuing orders from below deck.
In fact, I was quite resentful that I clearly stated that I didn't want to look at it, but the doctor almost shamed me into it, as if I wasn't accepting of my own body.
A few months ago, I came across the Beautiful Cervix website that is meant to make women less insecure about their own cervixes. I admired the principle but still found the site gross to look at. A few months after that I had another colposcopy appointment where again the doctor suggested looking at my cervix and I had to say about five times in an increasingly high-pitched and screechy voice that I JUST DIDN'T WANT TO.
Since then, what I've worked out is this.
I think it's really important that a la Judy Blume and Sex and the City, young girls acquaint themselves with what's going on down there because a) there's a lot to learn b) it's tucked away like origami and c) some cancers eg vulval do present symptoms that are evident to the eye.
Also if you don't, you end up having a situation like Orange Is the New Black where half the inmates thought the 'pee-hole' was also the vagina.
However, what I don't like is this guilt-trip, from the doctors examining me or other people who find it weird that I wouldn't want to look at pages of vaginas. Or worse, that in some way this makes me weird.
If I don't feel the need to look at rows upon rows of sphincters to be comfortable with my digestive movements, then quite honestly, I think the same principle should apply to the front of house.
(Pinterest/Brittany De Los Santos) http://www.pinterest.com/pin/347058715005259484/
(Pinterest/Ashley Sloop) http://www.pinterest.com/pin/281193570455854663/
(Pinterest/Sarah Prieto) http://www.pinterest.com/pin/328410997797683084/
(Cake Wrecks) http://www.cakewrecks.com/home/2013/4/18/10-hilariously-inappropriate-baby-shower-cakes.html
(Pinterest/Cat Babione) http://www.pinterest.com/pin/42010208993920059/
(Twitter @riddlegrad) https://twitter.com/riddlegrad/status/376774087387131904
(Pinterest/Mara Bernstein) http://www.pinterest.com/pin/186758715767268276/
(Pinterest/Selkie Sarah) http://www.pinterest.com/pin/243405554832065287/
(Cake Wrecks) http://www.cakewrecks.com/home/2012/8/10/the-miracle-of-birth-with-a-side-of-raspberry-jam.html
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