Mini, fanny, foof, lady garden, vajajay – we use countless euphemisms to talk about women’s genitalia, and it seems a lot of us are confused about what’s actually going on down there.
A whopping 73% of women don’t technically know what a vulva is, according to research by Bodyform, with most unaware it’s the term for women’s external genitals.
Many use “vagina” as the catch-all phrase, but this can muddle the correct terminology.
The British Association of Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology (BritsPAG) previously teamed up with sexual health charity Brook to create a “vulva guide” for teens and young women.
But for adults of all ages who could do with a biology refresher, the diagram they created below should help – the vulva is all the external organs you can see outside the body, including the mons pubis, labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), clitoris, and the external openings of the urethra and vagina.
Once the definition of a vulva was clarified to them, 61% of women surveyed said they believe society puts a pressure on women to ensure their vulva looks a certain way. More than four in 10 (42%) have felt embarrassed about their vulva, increasing to a shocking 63% of 18-24 year olds.
One in 10 women have had a partner comment negatively about their own vulva and almost half (47%) have have felt embarrassed showing their vulva to someone – like a doctor or gynaecologist.
The research was conducted as part of Bodyform’s ongoing campaign ‘Viva La Vulva’ campaign, which is deigned to encourage women to learn about their bodies and recognise that every woman is different.
Kelly Trombley, founder of the Know Your Vulva project, thinks calling vulvas the correct name is the first step to ending the shame and oppression around women’s bodies.
“Our culture sees the vulva as a site without much agency. It’s a place to hold penis or birth a child. It’s a place to be waxed, cleaned, and smell nice for someone else,” she blogged on HuffPost UK.
“Vulva is only a ‘stuffy’ or ‘anatomical’ word because that is where it has been kept, shuttered away and muffled by a thick slathering of shame and oppression around female sexuality.”