I feel uncomfortable with my genital area. Is it normal to have darker color or larger vulvar “lips” (labia}?
Great question! The anatomy and characteristics of the genitals is an important discussion and the lack of information creates many questions and insecurities in young people. The need for acceptance in your age may create pressure on you to be “normal”, while you are discovering your body and functions, your sexual orientation and your sexuality in general.
The truth is that “normal” takes many different forms. Thus, the appearance of the genitals has different characteristics from one person to another. The color of the vulva depends on a molecule called melanin that causes pigmentation and also your skin type. Apart from severe genital discoloration, the skin of the vulva may have many different shades. If the color is not homogeneous or if you notice a sudden change, it is important to visit an adolescent health physician, or a gynecologist. If not, then no matter how “dark” or “light” , your genitals are completely normal!
The same goes for vulva folds of skin : the “lips” (labia). The vulva has two pairs of lips, the large lips (large labia) on the outside and the inner small lips (small labia). There is a large variety in color, size and shape of the lips. The labia may be small, narrow, thin, wide, long, tighter or looser and even my be “hanging” between your legs. If you do not feel discomfort or pain, all sizes and shapes are normal.
If you have larger labia, you need to be cautious in taking care of the area and keeping it clean, in order to avoid any skin infection or vaginitis. If there is pain when you wear tight clothes or when riding a bike, you may consult your physician or gynecologist. Sometimes, the vulva lips are so huge that they can “pop out” underwear or swimsuit, causing embarrassment! Girls get often insecure about their genitals and may feel that they are not “normal”, especially when they are naked in front of their partners. It is not really about the size, shape, or color of genitals: everything is normal! It is though important that you feel happy about them and yourself. If their appearance does not satisfy you, you can discuss options with your gynecologist. For example, you can have plastic surgery of the vulva and have the shape and size that you choose – together with a professional surgeon.
Feeling satisfied and confident about your body and genitals helps your sexual, mental, and reproductive health, as well as your relationship with your partner. Getting information and having choices can help towards this important goal!
After all, is it bad to masturbate? Why is this a taboo in girls, while in boys it is discussed more openly?
There is nothing wrong with masturbation. Masturbation for both boys and girls is a completely normal process and an important stage for your sexual development and empowerment. Of course, we NOW have this important knowledge. However, scientists have supported that it results to various health problems such as blindness, epilepsy, or psychiatric disorders. Although we now know that this is not the case, taboos, stereotypes, and prejudice against sexual self satisfaction still remains. In fact, this is even stronger concerning female gender.
Based on social roles, female sexuality is historically considered more “passive”, while male sexuality as more “active”. So, the man “acts” and the woman “accepts”. It was inconceivable for science and consequently for society to think that women can “act”, as well as “accept”. Self-satisfaction as an active process does not fit with the “passive” sexuality of women. Of course, all this now belong in the past and everyday they become weaker. However such ideas still exist and if we also take under consideration the absence of sex education and lack of information, we come to realize that it is hard to discuss masturbation, especially for women, who are also generally slower to seek knowledge about their anatomy and genital, sexual health.
So, masturbation is important for exploring your body, to get in touch with sexual or erotic thoughts that appear in adolescent years (though not for everyone), to learn the sort of touching and stimuli that you like best. Due to the hormones and substances secreted in your body during self-satisfaction, it can offer you various benefits such as reducing stress, improving mood, or helping with physical relaxation and sleep. If you have a vagina and vulva, you should know that a large percentage of sexual satisfaction for your body comes from your clitoris, and not through vaginal irritation or penetration.
It is important to mention that since there is no educational material on how to masturbate, many young people use pornographic material, to get an idea on “how it is done”. Remember that porn is directed material and not reality, so you will find many exaggerations that do not correspond to reality. This often creates stress and anxiety, regarding expectations for your body that are unrealistic. Be skeptical and critical if you decide to watch such material and keep in mind that all bodies are normal and different. You are perfectly normal, even if your body does have the same sexual preferences and function with others – everyone is unique!
Masturbation is a healthy sexual behavior and requires no shame, guilt, or fear. Try to find scientific and appropriate information relating to your body health. If you feel comfortable, ask your parents, guardians or another significant adults that you trust in your environment, with whom you feel comfortable, or even friends who may have more experience than you. Otherwise, talk to your adolescent health physician that can guide you on your journey of sexual self-awareness!
Also check out our video if you want to support us:
And of course a huge thanks to our expert group:
- Charis Asvestis, Andrologist-Urologist
- Panagiotis Christopoulos, As. Professor of Gynecology, University of Athens
- Chrysoula Iliopoulou, MSW/MEdPsyhcotherapist, Clinical Sexologist
- Athanassios Thirios, Adolescent Health MSc
- Efthalia Tzila, Child Psychiatrist MSc
- Artemis Tsitsika, Asoc. Professor of Pediatrics-Adolescent Health, University of Athens