Sexual freedom and expression are increasing as we begin to reduce shame around sex and sexuality. While this is promising, we’re still taking two steps back when it comes to our genitals. But how does that work? Aren’t genitals and sex connected?
Our sexual expression isn’t the problem. However, mainstream media and porn are creating unhealthy genital standards for people to obtain. So, while we feel more comfortable exploring our sexuality, we’re becoming more insecure about how our genitals look.
Most porn shows women’s vulvas completely waxed, free of ingrown hairs, discoloring, and with a small and symmetrical labia. Men are portrayed with larger than average penises, cast as the ultimate giver of pleasure. In America alone, it’s estimated around 40 million people watch porn regularly. This exposure to unrealistic genital and body standards negatively affects one’s body image and sexual body image.
Sadly, the proof is in the numbers. Labiaplasty is a cosmetic surgery to alter the appearance of women’s genitalia and has been on the rise over the past decade. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery calculated 12,756 labiaplasty surgeries performed in 2018. One revealing study found that almost all women who undergo this surgery to make their inner lips actually had normal-size ones to begin with. Men struggle too: companies assault men with a barrage of penis-enlargement products and surgery designed to lengthen the penis, make it girthier, or generally make it look larger.
But this obsession with perfection needs to stop. And in true BBXX style, we love your genitals the way they are. We’re focusing on promoting genital positivity to help people reconnect and fall in love with their bodies.
This toolkit will guide you through different genital types, including the vulva, penis, and trans genitals, with resources on genital positivity. This resource guide will help you understand the basics of your genitals and realize there’s no one-size-fits-all genitalia.
While reading the resources provided, take the time to self-reflect on the material. After reading this toolkit, we hope you begin or continue your journey of loving your genitals as they are.
Reading & Resources on the Vulva
Before going any further and diving into the female genitals, we need to clarify one thing. You’ll often hear people referring to the female genitals as the vagina—and usually, that’s not what they’re talking about. The vagina is only a small part of the genitals.
Vulva: The vulva is the outer part of the female genitals. The vulva includes the opening of the vagina (vestibule), the labia majora (outer lips), the labia minora (inner lips), the entrance to the urethra, and the clitoris. Essentially, the vulva is everything you can see on the outside of the female genitals.
Vagina: The vagina is the muscular canal that connects the uterus to the vulva. It’s the canal where babies go through during childbirth and where menstrual blood comes out. It’s also where people place their penis, fingers, sex toys, and tampons/menstrual cups.
If you have a vulva, you might have asked yourself, do I look normal down there? You may not even know what your genitals look like- a high percentage of women have never taken a look down there, according to Laurie Mint’z Becoming Cliterate. Checking your vulva out requires a little more work than check out your genitals if you have a penis- you have to get into a funky yoga pose, or grab your phone or a mirror.
At first, looking at porn and other media seems like a beneficial way to figure out if you look the “right” way. Porn is readily available and a little less embarrassing than asking your friend to flash you so you can compare. However, porn and these mediums place unrealistic standards on what our genitals should look like. In porn, all the actresses generally have the same-looking vulva—hairless, even-toned, with small and symmetrical lips. Yet, what we don’t realize is that no two vulvas are alike. Sadly, this projection of what a vulva should look like affects our self-esteem and self-perception.
It’s time to take a step back and reconnect with your vulva—it’s the only one you have, and it’s beautiful. By reconnecting and reclaiming control of our vulvas, we can change the narrative and standards of beauty and ultimately have a healthier, happier life. Having a positive view of your vulva can improve your gynecological health, lead to better sex, and even lead to lower rates of depression.
To start the “love your vagina” journey, below, we provide you with resources that will help you learn more about your vagina and help you work towards changing your perception of your vagina.
Our perception of sex is completely messed up. We think sex= penis + vagina; however, it’s much more complex than that. Many men struggle with pleasuring a woman and lack the understanding of what to do, creating unwanted self-esteem issues. Written by Laurie Mintz, Becoming Cliterate is a fantastic book for both men and women that offers simple solutions and pleasure for both people. She talks about genital body image issues that affect both men and women and offers an educational guide to the workings of the vagina/vulva and lots of tips on how to use this knowledge to increase women’s pleasure.
In this brief Q & A article with founder and lead creator at Gashtrays, Hani Dresner, we talk about genital acceptance, ways to love thy labia, and how art can be a path for practicing self-love.
While all vulvas are normal, the media and porn have made many women question whether their vulvas look “normal.” The beauty of the vulva is that there are many different versions of normal. In this article, Dr. Beth Messenger, national medical advisor for Family Planning, answers everything you’ve wanted to know about your vulva.
It’s time to celebrate and love your vulva! This educational Instagram page- the.vulva.gallery- celebrates the vulva through various anatomically correct illustrations. The more you scroll, the more you realize that no two vulvas are the same. This page is an excellent resource for anyone needing more genital diversity in their life.
In this BBXX podcast, we speak with Vitale Buford, who teaches us about the serious issues that perfectionism stems from. We learn about its relationship to self-worth, codependency, and self-criticism. More than that, Buford discusses the danger of striving towards perfectionism and the risk of losing yourself in the process. While genitals don’t ~specifically~ come up, you can apply these concepts to any body image issue you may be grappling with.
Many negative feelings around our genitals stem from a lack of understanding. So it’s time to learn about your vagina. Written by Dr. Sherry Ross, She-Ology answers the most embarrassing questions, like Where’s my G-Spot? If I enjoy S&M, am I perverted? Do I need to use soap to clean my vagina? She-Ology’s goal is to create healthy and happy relationships between women and their vaginas.
Waxing, shaving, laser hair removal—there’s an endless list of ways women can remove their pubic hair. Naturally, if having no pubic feels good for you, we’re not judging. However, we are saying that if you’re only doing it because you feel you have to, you don’t need to. This article goes in-depth on the pressures women face regarding their pubic hair grooming habits.
We love to use the word vagina to describe, well, our vagina. But what you’re probably referencing isn’t actually called the vagina. Whether you have a vagina or your partner does, knowing the anatomy is essential. Think of this as a mini-anatomy class, focusing on the parts of the vulva/vagina and their functions.
Are you feeling overwhelmed and confused about even the basics? That’s ok! Lets slow down and look at the anatomy of a vulva. This verywell health article discusses the basic parts of the vulva, its functions, and different conditions and STDs to watch out for. Knowing how your body works is a great place to start on the journey to acceptance.
This Ted Talk dives into the research by Peggy Orestein, and her interviews with women about sex and pleasure. It specifically focuses on women deserving female pleasure and how they view their bodies. This video is more focused towards college and high school age women, however, it still contains valuable observations about how people view their bodies that apply to all people. If you feel moved by her talk, check out Orenstien on Episode 1 of the BBXX Let’s Get Intimate podcast.
Reading & Resources on the Penis
When it comes to conforming to genital standards, men aren’t let off scotch-free. You’ve heard of ‘Big Dick Energy,’- who hasn’t? The term ‘big dick energy’ refers to “confidence without cockiness,”—energy that men who have big penises allegedly exhibit. The phrase started as a meme, and while this term may seem harmless and even encouraging in some ways, it’s incredibly damaging and can promote toxic masculinity.
Whether it’s terms like ‘big dick energy’ or only showing large-sized men in porn and mainstream media, these concepts show that having a small penis places you at a disadvantage physically, spiritually, sexually, and mentally. It symbolizes that having a small penis also prevents you from connecting with another person on a sexual level, achieving your goals, and being confident.
This idea that your worth is tied to the size of your penis continues the vicious cycle of body shaming those who don’t fit into unrealistic genital standards. Having these expectations make men feel insecure about penis size and their ability to please their partner. No one is telling men that penis size isn’t actually the determining factor to one’s pleasure- although they should. You heard us right: size doesn’t matter.
We’re about to break the cycle. The resources below will provide you with everything you need to know to learn more about male genitals and love your body as it is.
Whether you want to learn more about the penis or have some questions you’re afraid to ask, well, this book covers it all. Dr. Aaron Spitz, assistant clinical professor at UC Irvine’s Department of Urology, created this fearless guide to explain everything from erections to penis health to sexually transmitted infections. It’s the all-in-one guide that’s useful for both men and women.
Let’s be honest, when it comes to self-care and self-love, the spotlight is on women. But that doesn’t mean men aren’t going through issues with self-esteem and acceptance. Body shaming is a thing, whether it’s having a small penis or body hair. In this article, they talk about the steps men can take to reclaim their bodies and learn to love them again.
For men, understanding the sexual needs of a woman can be confusing. While trying to figure out what women want, men can take these struggles and shape them into insecurities. For example, if a man struggles to pleasure a woman, it could turn into being insecure about penis size. This book guides men, helping them improve their relationships with women and get to the root of the issue.
In this BBXX podcast, we speak with Owen Marcus, a men’s coach and co-founder of Evryman; a company focused on men’s emotional well-being. Marcus discusses destigmatizing men’s vulnerability and how to build a deeper connection with yourself and others. Marcus also gives helpful tips in changing the way you think. This will help men connect with themselves on a deeper level, giving you the tools to confront any body image issues you may be running up against.
Many men struggle with feelings of insecurity around penis size. Mainstream media pushes the narrative of penis size being an essential factor for pleasure. However, that’s not correct. This article talks about how having a small penis or a big penis doesn’t matter. It’s all about the motion of the ocean, not the size of the ship!
Reading & Resources on Trans Genitals
Let’s face it; in the mainstream media, including porn, there’s not much space for transgender genitals. It remains quite a mystery to most people. While the general public understands the very basics of the transgender and non-binary community, there lacks a conversation around normalizing trans genitals and the transition into your authentic self, genitals included.
Transgender individuals may be learning an entirely new way of life if they choose to have gender reassignment surgery—not many people get to experience transitioning from one set of genitalia to a completely new set. . However, once transitioned, you don’t automatically “know” about your genitals, how they feel and function both sexually and non-sexually. It’s a learning process.
Perhaps you haven’t had gender reassignment surgery (or don’t ever plan to), but you are taking hormones and experiencing your body change because of those- genitals included. Taking hormones can affect the way your genitals feel, respond, and even look.
Or, perhaps you’re just looking for ways to accept your genitals the way they are. We understand trans people face unique challenges that cis people don’t encounter. Instead of worrying about whether your genitals look like a pornstar’s, you may be struggling with having genitals that don’t match your gender expression, maybe even feeling like you’re at war with yourself. This journey to self-acceptance looks different for everyone, but luckily, we’re here to help you understand and accept your body.
We’ve included some commonly accepted terms for learning about the transgender community from an outsider’s perspective.
- Transgender: It’s an umbrella term to describe individuals whose gender is not the same as the one they were assigned at birth.
- Trans man: An individual who is assigned female at birth but identifies as a man.
- Trans woman: An individual who is assigned male at birth but identifies as a woman.
- Nonbinary person: An individual who’s gender identity is not part of the male/female binary.
- Transitioning: The steps a transgender person takes to live in the gender they identify with.
The resources below will provide you with everything you need to know to learn more about transgender genitals, how to love your genitals, and receive pleasure from them.
When you feel sexually empowered, you have a positive outlook on your genitals. But getting to that point can sometimes be a journey. This book, written by transgender activist Juno Roche, explores the concepts of intimacy, sex, and dating in the trans and non-binary community. It’s a must-have book for anyone interested in learning more about queer sex. She answers all the questions you might be too embarrassed to ask a potential partner and things you didn’t even know how to ask.
Denny, a writer for Allure Magazine, opens up in this article to discuss her experience of being transgender with dysphoria and body dysmorphia. She shares with us her journey with body image issues while explaining what gender dysphoria and dysmorphia are.
If you’re transgender or going through transition, you’re adapting to your authentic self. This process, though freeing, can be challenging and highly emotional. In this BBXX podcast, we talk with Alexandra Fine, Co-founder & CEO of Dame Products, about the importance of exploring the different versions of ourselves and talk about sex as part of society, cultural influences, and limitations of binary thinking.
We know you’re probably curious. Who isn’t? We’re all in this learning process together, and naturally, we all have questions about “packing” and what it means. In this article, they discuss everything you wanted to know about “packing” and provide helpful tips and tricks to pack the right way.
While there are sex toys out there for everyone, some sex toys are better than others for transgender women. So, rather than wasting your money trying to figure out what toys work for you, this article gives you the list of must-have toys for transgender women. They include toys for the following categories: toys for those with genital dysphoria, toys for those who’ve had vaginoplasty, toys for trans and GNC people with minimal or no genital dysphoria.
Tying It All Together
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to genitals. Everyone’s genitals come in different shapes, colors, and sizes, making each vulva and penis unique. While there’s pressure to achieve perfection, what’s important is you know the body you have is already perfect as it is.
We hope this toolkit gave you insight into understanding the varying genital types and the tools to help you reconnect and accept your genitals. The resources above will provide you with the necessary support during your self-discovery journey.
How do you feel about your genitals? Are those feelings positive or negative? Do they fluctuate?
When reflecting on your feelings, where do you believe they come from? Was it a specific experience? Or did your feelings gradually progress?
Do your feelings about your genitals affect your intimate relationships? If so, in what way?
After going through the resources, reflect on how you’re feeling? Have the resources helped you understand your feelings? Have they provided you more information about your genitals?
Whether you’re interested in understanding genital positivity or learning more about your genitals, we hope you were able to take something from this toolkit to support you in your journey. If you have any questions or thoughts that weren’t addressed here, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or on IG at @bbxx.world.