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It can help with body image anxiety. Now, her latest work puts vulvas and vaginas in the spotlight thanks to her new book Womanhood: The Bare Reality and forthcoming Channel 4 documentary: Vaginas. And when women share intimate photos and deeply personal experiences relating to their vaginas, the result is a tender yet taboo-exploding message of women reclaiming their womanhood. I think a part of me was shying away from that intimacy because I would have to address my own related experiences. The correct language and understanding of female genitalia is so important to me: the vulva is the whole external package, the vagina is a muscular tube which leads from the cervix the neck of the womb down to the vulva. Later, a BBC report about girls as young as nine seeking labiaplasty — surgery that involves the lips of the vagina being shortened or reshaped — because they were distressed by its appearance, had Laura reaching for her camera again. The key is not concentrating on the size or shape but whether it affects your physical or emotional wellbeing. She believes a cultural change amongst adolescents and young women, who now choose to remove or style the pubic hair, coupled with a lack of understanding about vulval anatomy, is fuelling the rise. But it can be hard to find accurate information about this.
Every day for the last year and a half, Hilde Atalanta has painted a picture of one vulva. At first, inspiration came from her imagination; then, from the internet; and, most recently, from women who send her photos of their goods. For the Amsterdam-based illustrator who also paints full bodies and faces, vulvas are compelling portrait subjects. A vulva, by the way, is the name for the visible part of what most people just dub "vagina. Together, Atalanta's colorful sketches make up The Vulva Gallery , an Instagram phenomenon showcasing more than vulva illustrations. Her gallery, she hopes, will help people celebrate their down-there diversity, whether or not they identify as women. So true.
When it comes to ageing, few body parts go through quite so much over the course of an average lifetime as the humble vagina. Changes to collagen production and hormone levels bring about natural changes from puberty through to the menopause, which can, of course, be exacerbated by sex, pregnancy, childbirth, and even certain cancer treatments. So what kind of changes can you expect, and what can you do to keep your vagina healthy throughout your life?