“Most initial conversations I had about my vulva started with ‘Does anyone else ever….’ This could be followed by ‘get itchy down there’ or ‘twiddle with that big pubic curl near the clitoris’. In almost all cases the answers have been a resounding YES ME TOO. It’s like we’re all waiting to talk about the same thing but we just need someone to start us off!”
Jo Corrall is the founder of This is a vulva, a site dedicated to anyone who struggles with their relationship with their vulva, and for those who want to celebrate her in all of her wonder. The Insta platform, educational yet playful workshops (think period parties, hens or corporate bonding….lol) are designed around celebrating the diversity of shapes, sizes, colours and textures of the vulva and we think that is pretty damn cool.
We know that identity and self worth are intimately related to the appearance of our vulva. But, according to who’s standards are we bench-marking our beauty? Since the introduction of waxing, shaving and lazering of our pubes, our labias have been given more presence in the sunshine, and with it, a bucket load more judgment. Porn rarely depicts diversity in how a vulva looks and so many of us are left feeling like there is something wrong with the way we look. But, if July’s flood of vulva content has given you, dear reader, just one thing, we hope that you’ve discovered the broad range of lips, clits and just generally, beautiful things downstairs. If not, please keep reading.
Everyone finds their vulva and finger banging at different ages, for Jo, she was 6 when she taught herself how to masturbate, but for the next 15 or so years, she knew almost nothing else about her vulva until she reached her twenties, “I never really looked at it, I couldn’t have named any of the parts. I’d seen plenty of other vulvas in porn however and was therefore quite upset when I realised mine looked nothing like this. My inner labia are longer than my outer labia and I have a fairly long clitoral hood”. After experiencing a sexual assault at the age of 18, that left her uninterested in her sexual self, Jo decided to dive into self education and so This is a Vulva we born.
We asked Jo to share some insights about wellness products, self care and cleaning, building our relationship with her, and creating safe spaces with our friends to talk about ourselves.
There are many wellness brands marketing to young womxn about vulva care, in your view, what products does a womxn actually ‘need’ when it comes to vulva care?
Literally NOTHING. Our bodies are very clever and for the most part, they look after themselves. Unless you have been prescribed something by a doctor, you do not need to use any other products on your vulva. No washes, no soaps, no moisturisers, no vulva masks (I mean WTF), no perfumes or lotions or anything scented. Many of these will only increase issues or create new ones. They can dry out your skin, give you rashes and thrush and they can mask any real problems. If your vulva smells particularly strong or different to usual, you may need help from the doctor. Not from a vulval wash that smells like flowers.
The only product I ever use on my vulva is lube. And it’s fragrance free and has no glycerin in. The bad bacteria naturally found in your vagina feed on glycerine and can give you things like thrush or BV.
How should a vulva be cleaned, cared for?
Gently and with water only.
The skin on your vestibule (the area inside your inner labia) is very delicate and similar to the skin inside your vagina. You need to treat it nicely. No scrubbing please. You do not need special soaps or washes, even if they say they are safe for your vulva. They can upset the microbiome balance of your vulva and vagina and cause all sorts of problems.
Wash the vulva (everything on the outside) with water. You do not need to wash your vagina – the inside where fingers, tampons, menstrual cups, penises and toys go. Your vagina is self cleaning. Your body produces discharge which collects up all the bacteria and washes it out of your vagina.
Douching (squirting water and/or soap into your vagina) is incredibly bad for you. It will wash away all the good bacteria and leave room for the bad bacteria to grow. Please never ever douche. It will not make you cleaner nor will it wash out sperm and reduce your chance of pregnancy.
What positive affirmations or positive self talk would you recommend young womxn explore if they’re struggling with vulva confidence?
Remember that all vulvas look different.
Every single one of them. And that all variations are 100% normal. Your labia are sisters, not twins. They might look different on each side. They might be different colours, textures, shapes and lengths. Just like your boobs aren’t the same, neither is either side of your vulva.
Do not compare what you see in porn with what you see in real life. Porn is fiction. It’s not bad but it’s not truthful. Many porn actors have had labiaplasty or are picked because they have a certain type of vulva. This means we don’t see the huge variety of vulvas that are out there and it makes us think that everything else is abnormal or wrong. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Between 50-75% of vulvas have inner labia that are longer than the outer labia. Yet 75% of people think this is abnormal. Anywhere between 0cm – 10cm is perfectly normal for inner labia. If your labia are longer, don’t worry. You are STILL NORMAL not abnormal. You just have a slightly rarer vulva.
What are some conversation starters to make our friends feel more comfortable talking about vulvas and to make one another feel safe sharing?
Firstly keep in mind that not everyone will feel comfortable sharing, for a huge number of reasons. This could be embarrassment or it could be trauma for example following sexual violence.
The best way to make your friends feel comfortable is to talk and share about yourself first and foremost and don’t ask questions you wouldn’t feel comfortable answering yourself. You can bring up your own worries and concerns as this will help pave the way for them to feel able to share too.
Remember to not judge or react badly to anything. But also don’t forget to talk about the positive things too – discussing masturbating for example can help people to feel more positive about their genitals. Most initial conversations I had about my vulva started with ‘Does anyone else ever….’ This could be followed by ‘get itchy down there’ or ‘twiddle with that big pubic curl near the clitoris’. In almost all cases the answers have been a resounding YES ME TOO. It’s like we’re all waiting to talk about the same thing but we just need someone to start us off! If no one else has the same experiences you do though, don’t worry. If it’s something medical please always always speak to a doctor rather than get advice from pals or from Google. And if it’s something sexual, remember we all like different things and there is no one way to make ourselves feel good.
What are your fave words to describe the vulva?
I always use the word vulva although I sometimes slip up and say vagina (which is the inside bit only). I regularly ask people what they refer to their genitals as and I’ve had some brilliantly funny and utterly bizarre answers. My favourites are the Rude Triangle and the Gruffalo. I’m super interested in the words we use to talk about our vulvas and vaginas as I think they tell us quite a lot about society’s views.
They usually fall into one of four categories:
Scientific – vulva, vagina
Cutesie and makes no sense – foo foo, foof, minge, front bottom
Natural and ‘femine’ – flower, lady garden, petal
Hyper sexual and violent – pussy, cunt, gash
It seems like we’re either ashamed of it, afraid of the power of it or want to hide it away and not ever ever refer to it lest we should faint. The same cannot be said of the penis.