Every day for the last year and a half, Hilde Atalanta has painted a picture of one vulva. At first, inspiration came from her imagination; then, from the internet; and, most recently, from women who send her photos of their goods. For the Amsterdam-based illustrator who also paints full bodies and faces, vulvas are compelling portrait subjects. A vulva, by the way, is the name for the visible part of what most people just dub "vagina. Together, Atalanta's colorful sketches make up The Vulva Gallery , an Instagram phenomenon showcasing more than vulva illustrations. Her gallery, she hopes, will help people celebrate their down-there diversity, whether or not they identify as women.
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It can help with body image anxiety. Now, her latest work puts vulvas and vaginas in the spotlight thanks to her new book Womanhood: The Bare Reality and forthcoming Channel 4 documentary: Vaginas. And when women share intimate photos and deeply personal experiences relating to their vaginas, the result is a tender yet taboo-exploding message of women reclaiming their womanhood. I think a part of me was shying away from that intimacy because I would have to address my own related experiences. The correct language and understanding of female genitalia is so important to me: the vulva is the whole external package, the vagina is a muscular tube which leads from the cervix the neck of the womb down to the vulva. Later, a BBC report about girls as young as nine seeking labiaplasty — surgery that involves the lips of the vagina being shortened or reshaped — because they were distressed by its appearance, had Laura reaching for her camera again. The key is not concentrating on the size or shape but whether it affects your physical or emotional wellbeing.
It made me feel really self-conscious about my own, even though I never have been before. Oh my god! I was shocked. The Vagina Institute in particular compares the two.
I have been insecure about the way my vagina looks for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I would fantasize about the day I would grow pubic hair long enough to cover its unsightliness. That day never came, and I was left with an enormous insecurity about it. My labia minora is oversize quite a bit. I know that this is not uncommon, but its unattractiveness holds me back from receiving oral sex.