Please note: this article contains photos of discharge in all its glorious forms.
Sure it can have a unique smell, it’s sometimes a different colour, or texture, but discharge is completely normal.
Vulva artist Jo Corrall wants women and people with vulvas to start believing this and she especially wants young girls not to feel embarrassed by what they find in their underwear.
“A lot of people think there’s something medically wrong with them, which is really distressing when you think about it,” Corrall tells HuffPost UK.
“If you’re too embarrassed to go to the doctor to speak about discharge because you don’t even know what it is, that to me just screams our sex education is appalling.”
Corrall’s fascination with what’s in our pants started when she heard that children as young as nine were requesting NHS surgery on their vulvas, and women were too embarrassed to go for smear tests. She was “heartbroken” and set out on a mission to break down the stigmas that surround vulvas and vaginas.
Don’t worry if you’re asking yourself about the difference between a vulva and a vagina – 73% of people are unsure, so you’re certainly not alone.
“People can name the penis or testicles quite readily and it’s not the same for the vulva,” says Corrall.
The term vagina is often used inaccurately to describe the vulva. The vulva includes all the external parts of the female genital area like the clitoris, labia, and vaginal opening. The vagina is the tube that connects the vulva to the cervix.
Corrall posted a call out on social media asking for people over the age of 18 to send her photos of their discharge, to help end stigma surrounding it.
She says she was overwhelmed by messages from other people about how happy they were to know they weren’t alone in having discharge.
“I get contacted by people saying things like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never seen anybody’s discharge. This has made me realise that I’m totally normal. It’s been something I’ve worried about since I was teenager,’” she says.
Corrall wanted to create this gallery after a post she uploaded on Instagram a few months ago of her discharge-stained underwear got taken down by the platform.
“What really annoyed me was that whenever I tried to show discharge on Instagram, the posts always got taken down, they always got reported and removed,” she says. “I was threatened with having my account taken down. I think it’s because Instagram thinks discharge is something sexual, I think they think it’s like cum.”
Instagram has previously told HuffPost UK photos of discharge are not banned on the platform, but are sometimes mistakingly removed if they’re reported by other users. It said its Community Operations team works quickly to rectify mistakes if they have been made.
Corrall hopes the online gallery will show people with vulvas how normal it is to have discharge, especially because there’s “too much perfection hoisted onto us” from social media to what we’re watching on TV.
“You never see a shot of pants on the floor with a white discharge stain in them,” she says. “It feels like you’re the only one that has it and therefore you don’t want to talk about it.”
She has received messages from people admitting they’re too embarrassed for their partner to do their laundry in case they see discharge and think it’s “dirty”.
“I have women often messaging me saying what if you don’t clean out your vagina, how do you get all the gunk out? The gunk that comes out of your vagina is discharge and that’s what’s cleaning your vagina,” says Corrall.
“People seem to think that we need to have everything bleached and cleaned and scraped. That makes me cross my legs in an uncomfortable way.”
Corrall wants her Instagram page and her discharge project to help people feel happier about their own bodies.
She mentions memories of being worried about whether people would see her discharge at sleepovers and doesn’t want younger generations to worry about something that’s natural and normal.
In a perfect world she would want everyone to be “proud” of their vulvas.
“If you can love them, that’s great,” she says. “But if I can just stop you from wanting to go under the knife, if I can stop you from not having oral sex with your partner because you’re too embarrassed, if I can help you get changed with the light on, I’ll be happy.”
See more of the Discharge Gallery online here.