Understanding My Weird Vulva
- This post has the potential to go in a million different directions, so consider this your warning that I may ramble off into tangents
- I recognize and believe that not everyone with a vulva is a woman, nor does every woman have a vulva. This post is meant to be about my personal life however, and I have – to my knowledge – only had cis-gender partners, so when I say “woman/women” throughout this post and discuss their vulvas/clits/labia/vaginas/etc, please know that I am using those words to describe these particular cis women and am not meaning to be exclusionary to anyone who my descriptions don’t fit.
- There’s drawings of vulvas below.
I’d been with a number of women in my 14 years of sexual activity, but this was going to be different than any experience I’d had before, in a lot of ways. Most of the time I’m the other girl’s “first.” Most of the time she’s nervous or “experimenting.” A few were drunk. Most were putting on a show for one of our boyfriends. Most never had sex with me again, some never even saw me again. I’ve often been someone’s “one wild night”, present to their partner, a bucket-list item, and sometimes a mistake. It’s usually dark, fast, fumbling, performative and largely unremarkable. When I was younger I didn’t mind the throw-away nature of these encounters, but as my early twenties merged into my mid twenties and are now on the downswing to late twenties, I’ve found myself feeling a little bitter, a little resentful, a little wishful for something a little more. I pondered that perhaps I’m tired of centering my sex with women around pleasing the man in the room more than pleasing myself, or her. Women have been out of my life for around 4 years now with no signs of re-entering any time soon, so these were just thoughts in the back of my head…until last August.
Let’s just call her A. A is a self-professed lesbian. A has been with lots of women too, but more often for her and her women partners, not for her or their boyfriends, or for her job. More often with the lights on. More tender. More observant. Less nervous, less “firsts”, less impairments, less rush. The biggest difference though, was that A really wanted to fuck me. Even when my experiences with other women included my boyfriend and technically the other woman was the “third wheel”, I often felt like that role fell onto me because I was more experienced and I was dating the guy, so rather than being the odd person out she was actually the center of attention. A lot of the time I felt…tolerated…but not actively desired by these women. They wanted to try out fucking a girl but there was nothing special they wanted in me personally. I didn’t feel like they wanted to touch me, kiss me, fuck me, be with me. I didn’t feel like the cared about my body or what they could do with it. They accepted my touch but didn’t really feel like reciprocating unless it was to impress the other person, at which point it was about what looked sexy and not what actually felt good. A was different, she wanted me.
A had flat out told me as much over the years we’ve known each other, though we both fail at flirting or making moves so it took a while for these desires to come to fruition, but they finally did in August. We were both at the same conference, we were rooming together, and she had devised a plan to work it out with her personal life so that this all could come to pass. Some unrelated-to-this-story-me-fucking-her-things happened first but when they were all over I found myself on my back in the middle of the bed, hitachi at hand and A between my knees ready to reciprocate the orgasms I’d just given to her. She slid down onto her stomach, propped up on one elbow her other hand trailed down my inner thigh as I let them fall to the side. She parted my labia with her first and middle finger, staring straight at me, and said “I’ve never seen a pussy like yours before…”
With any other person, and/or perhaps in any other context, this may have been a jolting thing to hear someone say, but in this moment with this person it only confirmed something I’d been suspecting of my vulva for a few years now. Of course I know that each person’s genitals will be unique, I’ve had enough near my face and seen enough in porn to know this without a doubt, but it still doesn’t stop me – and others – from questioning the “normalcy” of the genitals we’re personally gifted with. For my part, while I’ve seen a lot of vulvas, A is right – I don’t think I’ve seen one like mine before either.
I’m writing this not only as an insight into my personal sexual journey but also to help people who read my reviews understand how I use clitoral stimulators. It may be helpful to understand my exact anatomy if you’re trying to figure out if we’d like the same things, and if you should consider my reviews before buying something or if someone who is more like you would be more helpful.
As a teen going through the joke they call Sex Ed in American public schools, I learned more about fallopian tubes than about the things that make up the outer portion of my genitals that I can actually touch, but I got the very basics down – there’s a set of tissue folds called the outer labia, there’s another set of tissue folds called the inner labia, and no thanks to sex ed class I knew there was something sensitive near the top called the clitoris. How any of this actually translated to MY genitals never really crossed my mind. In my later teens I started reading some bad harlequin romance novels I found around the house – my particular favourite being Lady of the Lake. It was a super trashy vikings and druids era tale about a woman who is essentially kidnapped and made some important dude’s wife to bring balance to their land and people while she tries to maintain her forbidden ancient faith and struggles to not fall in love with her shitass captor. It’s absolutely riddled with a lack of consent as most of these books are, but the sex scenes were wonderfully descriptive for a something-teen-year-old. I can’t even recall the number of ways the author managed to describe an aroused clitoris, but trust me there were many. On my third or fourth round of the book I began to actually compare the descriptions of the main character’s vulva to my own, and started to really note the differences – especially in the clit. The author would talk about “swollen nubs” or “hot buttons” or “throbbing marbles” or something equally absurd, and I’d shove a hand into my pants to try to find anything even remotely resembling an enlarged or hardened ball of tissue, without any luck. I chalked it up to bad writing and moved on.
I chalked none of my teen boyfriends being able to find my clit up to …well…being teenage boys. One of them spending ten minutes rubbing the crease where my thigh meets my pubic mound like he was trying to get a stain out and expectantly asking me if I “was close yet” told me everything I needed to know about most people’s vulval navigational skills. I moved on.
I was managing to reliably get myself off with “clitoral” stimulation without ever needing to really see my clit or compare it to anyone else’s, so I moved on. To tie all this into my story with A – when I look back on almost every experience with a woman before her I realize that I never took the time to really look at anyone else’s vulva before just diving in. It’s possible that because I never seriously visually studied my own genitals, and just made assumptions about where parts were or where they were supposed to be, because I’d read plenty about where you’re supposed to touch someone to stimulate them the right way, I just put my hands on people without a second thought as to if I were touching the right places, or how their parts differed from my own and how the sensations I experience when I touch myself a certain way may differ from the ones they have when I touch them in the way I touch myself. I was regrettably a terrible partner so it’s sort of no wonder I didn’t feel like any of those women really liked me in the end.
Years and years of just not thinking about it go by and then a new toy landed on the market at the end of 2015. You may have heard of it – The Womanizer. This toy reignited my suspicions and questions about what was actually going on with my clit. The function of the Womanizer is to pulse air onto your clitoris and something about this somehow mimics the sensation of sucking – I don’t really get it but that’s what it does. In order to get the toy to perform best, you’re supposed to position this little rubber nozzle doodad so that the head of your clit is surrounded by it. In the photos the nozzle looks to be about a half an inch or so in diameter. Here’s where my questions blew up.
Where the fuck am I supposed to put this thing? I still can’t find that little bead of erectile tissue I – thanks to reading Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are – now understand to be the same tissue as the penis, just smaller. Thanks to her book I also know that the clitoral hood is analogous to a penis’ foreskin – something else I seem to be mysteriously missing.
Need a visual? Let me try to help you out there. Please excuse my terrible drawing skills.
On the left is a random vulva I chose to draw due to the similarities in outer labia. I realize there are many many more variations out there but I went with this one. On the right is my vulva being spread open because you literally cannot see anything besides my outer labia if I don’t manually manipulate them.
As I already said, my outer labia bears a strong resemblance to Random Vulva’s outer labia. I suppose I’d say they’re sort of thick and fleshy. Some people have called them “puffy.”
Things get a bit different when we talk about the inner labia though. While I guess I knew from medical texts and seeing other people in porn that the inner labia often is and certainly can be a whole separate second set of tissue folds within the outer labia, it didn’t quite occur to me that I didn’t have those, so I just referred to the inside edge of my outer labia as the “inner labia.” Maybe the super itty bitty folds of skin visible when I spread my outer labia could be called my inner labia, but they’re not even an 1/8th of an inch in thickness, they don’t even really register to the touch if I run my fingers over them.
The biggest difference is of course, as I already mentioned, in our clits. In Random Vulva you can clearly see where the clitoral hood is, and if you pulled it back and/or that person were sufficiently aroused, you’d actually be able to see the head of their clitoris. But on me? What is this space of skin? What am I supposed to do with it? You might think it’s where those two itty bitty folds of skin meet, but no, that’s just my urethra under there.
Around the same time I started having these questions I also stumbled on The Uncutting Project on tumblr – a blog run by someone who is working to undo their circumcision by stretching their foreskin, and also advocating for infants to not be circumcized without their consent. In addition to penile circumcision they also occasionally discuss “female circumcision”/ “female genital mutiliation.” On top of all of that, they’ll also just post about genital variances and taking comfort and acceptance in how your genitals look. One of their projects was to compile a chart of reader submissions showing the variance in clitoral hoods and at the time of my discovering this, they were working on an updated version and looking for more submissions. If my drawing is something along the lines of passably accurate you might be able to find me. While I thought the project was interesting and I learned even more about genital variance, I still didn’t find what I was really looking for – someone who looked like me.
I considered that perhaps my clitoral hood was fused to my other vulva tissue – it’s rare but sometimes this is the case with a penis’ foreskin, but even when most aroused I’m still unable to find this hard little ball of tissue that is supposed to be an engorged clit beneath the skin. I considered that my clitoral hood just didn’t look as fleshy as others and maybe if I splayed out on the floor, folded myself in half and looked really far under my my labia, if I could just pry it back far enough and aim my compact mirror just right, there my clit would be. Still no – I just aggravated my urethra and made the very top of my labia where they split pretty sore. I pressed as hard as I could without hurting myself into the squishy top of my vulva where my labia separate trying to find something buried deep in there, and maybe, just maybe there’s sort of something, but it doesn’t resemble the ball or button or nub or knob or marble or whatever the fuck circular object people like to write the clit in as , it feels like the stiff veins in the inside of my wrist that you can roll side-to-side, except it’s still not even that big or stiff and doesn’t change at all regardless of arousal. I definitely feel a twinge of some sort of sensation when I do that, but I’m forcibly rolling my finger over something sensitive, I feel twinges of sensations when I do that to the veins in my wrist too. Just simply rubbing around this area with my fingers feels good, don’t get me wrong, but while a lot of other people talk about stimulating their clitoris directly or indirectly, on the left or on the right, through the labia or not, through the hood or pulling it back, touching it directly being too intense…I’m just over here struggling to cum with a vibrator whose motor rivals my industrial kitchen blender. Causing me orgasm from manual stimulation verges on the utterly impossible (I can remember 2 times in the last decade, and both were hard work for disappointing orgasms), only slightly made better by toys that greatly satisfy a huge number of people, and even sometimes with my ultra heavy duty vibrators I still have trouble.
This is all a non-issue most of the time, I masturbate with big rounded vibrating objects that I can press anywhere between my outer labia and it will hit whatever place it is that my “clitoral” orgasms come from and luckily the times that I cannot cum are infrequent…but I feel stopped in my tracks when it comes to this new line of “sucking” sex toys you are supposed to place overtop your external clitoral tissue. I started self-consciously compiling a list of other toys I don’t think I could use because I don’t know how to fit them onto my parts – clit clamps and pumps for example. I thought of asking my gynaecologist but we don’t have an excellent history of them making me not feel like a fucking idiot every time I voice a question or concern, and I can’t imagine sitting on their table at 27 asking them where the fuck my disappearing clit is. She doesn’t know my sexual history or that I’ve been engrossed in sex education for years or that I write a damn sex blog, for all she knows I never even had a 9th grade level health class on the subject, but in my head all I feel is embarrassment that I don’t really know my own body. I’ve just been haphazardly mashing whirligigs into the general vicinity of where I think it will feel best…and that’s worked so far…but how long can I keep up this charade where I know things now that new gadgets have emerged that could prove me a fraud?
I’m not entirely sure what to end this post on. I don’t have any profound conclusion to these questions I’ve bothered myself with for the last few years. I don’t really know how to answer the problem of “how can I write educational posts around sex and bodies if I don’t really understand my own?”, or what to do about those imposter-ish feelings. I don’t really know what to tell you if you’re reading my reviews hoping that our bodies are similar so you can buy a toy you like because I like it. I have a different brand’s version of the sucking toy on the way to me and I’m very anxious to try it out, I’ve had my eye on it since the day it was announced and it’s gotten TONS of outstanding reviews, but I’ve been so scared to drop money on it for the concerns I voiced about actually using it “the right way,” so I guess we’ll see what happens? If you wind up here and realize you too somewhere in your adulthood still don’t always know what’s up with your body, I hope you don’t feel silly or alone or lost or any of the things these little realizations have made me feel, but if you do I’m here for you. If you find yourself having “my body is weird/wrong” feels I’m also here for you. <3