Unfortunately, shame and embarrassment about female genitals has an effect on what a woman thinks about herself. Women with low self-esteem, the survey found, were twice as likely as women with high self-esteem to think of their vagina as ugly and to feel “dirty” during their period. And women who are savvy and unashamed about vaginal issues are much likelier to have a positive body image and to be satisfied with their self-confidence and ability to express themselves. (Women also seem to change their negative attitudes into positive ones as they get older. The mean age of women who are knowledgeable about their vagina is 25, while the mean age of those who think they have a lot to learn is 22.)
Yet even among women who said they have a positive body image, 29 percent think of their vaginal area as ugly, and 33 percent worry about what their partner might think of how it looks. Among women who have a negative body image, 58 percent think their vagina area is ugly, and 56 percent are worried about what a partner might think of its appearance.
As for what can be done to change women’s knowledge of the issues, the respondents called for more education about menstruation and vaginal-health issues among girls and teenagers. And they said they’d like more realistic depictions of products. Said one 27-year-old woman: “Even tampon and pad advertisements don’t mention ‘vagina.’ And since when is menstrual blood blue?”
For more information about the survey, go here.
Jane Farrell is an editor at BettyConfidential.