Throughout my medical training, I have had the good fortune of seeing many vaginas. Having a better understanding of the vagina’s many (wondrous) functions has definitely reduced my anxiety about my own genitals. Having witnessed the vagina in a range of circumstances from sexually transmitted infections to childbirth, there are a few common fears that I wish to allay.
Sexual health is a topic that is considered taboo in many cultures and very few people feel confident enough to discuss their fears even amongst their closest friends. Often I have found women have similar concerns mostly formed by in fear societal norms and pressures.
There is a perfect looking vagina
Some labia are long, some short and it really doesn't matter. The ideal vagina shows great variation and here at Black Ballad we like to celebrate diversity. If you wish to see just how varied vaginas can be then check out ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’ created by the UK sculptor Jamie McCartney.
Vaginas should be free of hair
The idea of the full Hollywood wax is a relatively new concept and many associate its popularity with the growth of the porn industry. No women should feel obliged to have a pristine looking vagina and you need to decide what works for you. Many black women have a tendency to develop in growing hairs particularly after shaving. If you suffer from ingrowing hairs, take care that they do not become infected and possibly consider other methods of hair removal e.g waxing.
The vagina needs to be washed with soap or shower gel
The environment of the vagina is highly sensitive. It is mainly dominated by friendly Lactobacillus bacteria, but researchers continue to discover hundreds of friendly bacteria keeping it in check. These bacteria prefer a pH of up to 4.5. Vaginal douching is known to disrupt this environment, so be vagina friendly and just wash externally with water.
Vaginas have a horrible odour
Vaginas are not supposed to smell of roses. Your vagina is not a piece at the Chelsea Flower show. Trying to use perfumes and scented products to make it smell fresh all day is likely to disrupt the fragile environment of your vagina. Yes, a very bad odour and new discharge may signal an infection but please don't search for an issue where there isn't one.