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What you see in the media

The way we feel about our bodies can be impacted by many influences, and one of the biggest is the media.

From TV shows, movies and online platforms such as social media, through to pornography, we are surrounded by images of people who look a certain way. If we don’t see someone who looks like us represented, it’s easy to think that the way we look is not OK. Even if we don’t see these images directly, they can have a big impact on general understandings of what’s ‘normal’. But, a lot of the time, these images do not represent reality. For more information on how labia are presented in different forms of media, and the impacts these can have, check out the topics below.


Images that appear in mainstream or commercial pornography do not show a wide range of diversity and are usually altered by airbrushing, so porn is not a good place to try to get an idea of what’s normal. 

Porn performers, models and content creators have also often had genital cosmetic surgery and may use filters to change the appearance of their bodies, so what you’re seeing in images or videos may have been physically and/or digitally modified. 

For many people, pornography is the only place they have seen other labia and vulvas and is the only point of comparison they have when viewing their own. As a result, it can have a big impact on the way they understand and view their bodies. Men and boys consume these images too and may have unrealistic ideas about what vulvas ‘should’ look like based on what they have seen. 

If you’re looking to see what real vulvas look like, our photo gallery contains images that have not been digitally altered and demonstrate the diversity that exists within the wider population. 

Porn can also impact how women and trans and gender diverse people with vulvas feel about their bodies through the way that it depicts them. In porn, these groups are largely treated as though their bodies exist primarily for men’s pleasure and enjoyment, rather than their own. This portrayal of sexuality influences everyone and can make women and trans and gender diverse people with labia feel that the way they look is more important than anything else. This can significantly contribute to anxieties about vulval appearance. For more information about this issue, as well as strategies for overcoming anxiety about the appearance of your vulva, check out this article by SHIPS Psychology.

Medical diagrams

Often, if you search images of labia on the internet, you will find medical diagrams that show very small labia minora. These diagrams do not represent the ‘standard’ or ‘normal’ labia, but rather just one of the many types that exist. Unfortunately, a lot of medical diagrams have been produced based on the same drawing, which is why they mostly look the same.

Plastic and cosmetic surgery websites

Searching the internet for information about labia can produce links to websites of plastic and cosmetic surgeons. These sites will often promote female genital cosmetic surgery and may include wrong or misleading information to make you think that your labia are not normal, and you need surgery.

They also typically include photographs of labia before and after surgery, where the labia in the ‘before’ photos are larger. This can make it seem like larger labia are ‘abnormal’ or need ‘fixing’. But this is not the case – labia come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and there is nothing wrong with larger labia.

Social media advertising

Many plastic and cosmetic surgeons now use social media to promote their clinics and attract customers. Sometimes, when advertising genital cosmetic procedures such as labiaplasty, they use technical language to make it seem like there are medical issues with certain types of labia when there aren’t. For example, they may use terms like ‘labia hypertrophy’ to describe larger labia minora. ‘Labia hypertrophy’ does not have a clinical definition and is not a medical condition. Having larger labia minora, including labia minora that are longer than the labia majora, is completely normal. 

Content created by cosmetic surgeons may also make claims about the benefits of cosmetic surgery that are not based on evidence and downplay the risks of procedures, making what can be an intensive surgical option seem easy and risk free.

While there are regulations in some countries that prevent cosmetic surgeons advertising in this way, you may still see ads from accounts in countries where this is not the case.

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