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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Research increasingly shows genital attitudes have an impact on sexual well-being and health seeking behaviours. Data are from open-ended items, part of a cross-sectional Internet-based survey anonymously completed by women and men. Some of the most common likes for women related to aesthetics and for men related to tactile and sexual aspects. Men listed more likes than dislikes. research shows a relationship between body self-consciousness and decreased sexual pleasure, arousability, sexual functioning, sexual assertiveness, sexual self-esteem, and condom-use self-efficacy, and higher levels of sexual avoidance, ambivalence in sexual decision making, and sexual risk taking Berman et al.
In general, for women, sexual satisfaction is predicted by high body esteem and low frequency of appearance-base distracting thoughts in sexual activity Pujols, Meston, and Seal , Woertman and van den Brink Although research cites women's feelings and beliefs about their genitals as an important factor in their sexual experiences, the relationship remains under examined.
Women often state aesthetic concerns, for example, disliking visibility of labia minora, shape, colour, and asymmetry, as reasons for surgery, and these issues are mirrored in advertisements and public discourse on the procedures Braun A recent review of FGCS advertisements found aesthetic concerns mentioned on all websites sampled Liao, Taghinejadi, and Creighton The majority of this research has been quantitative close-ended responses and oftentimes focused on negative perceptions. Understanding what women dislike about their bodies has value, particularly given potential sexual and health consequences Berman et al.
However, it is also important to understand women's positive perceptions of their bodies, which may not be merely the inverse of negative perceptions. Such information could be used to create health education messaging that further promotes positive body image and genital self-image. It is important to understand what preferences are formed through these contexts and how positive interactions can be promoted. A better understanding of genital likes and dislikes would facilitate further understanding of women's sexual and health behaviours.
For example, several studies have reported that women who removed all of their pubic hair tended to score high on the Female Genital Self-Image Scale FGSIS and have higher sexual function scores Herbenick et al. Women may experience complex feelings about various aspects of their bodies.
For example, a woman may remove her pubic hair because she simultaneously dislikes her pubic hair and likes her genitals. Alternatively, she may like her pubic hair groomed in a certain manner and like or dislike aspects of her genitals e. Women may also be responding to cultural or partner pressures and expectations related to public hair. While women rarely list social norms as reasons related to hair removal, a greater proportion of women who are partnered but not married tend to engage in hair removal and women who are sexually active with a non-monogamous partner are most likely to remove their hair Herbenick et al.
The open-ended nature of these data provides salient content that might be foreclosed by close-ended questions. Women and men 18 years and older were invited to complete an anonymous internet-based survey about their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about vulvas and vaginas female genitals. A total of women and men completed the survey, including the open-ended items. Approval for this study was obtained by the Institutional Review Board of the first author at Indiana University. Data were collected from January through March using an online snowball sampling framework.
Specifically, s containing information about the study and a link to the study website were posted on Listservs related to sexuality topics, posted on websites related to sexual health, and on social media outlets, such as Facebook. The study website included a brief description of the study, eligibility requirements, a statement of informed consent, and a link to proceed to the survey. Participants were provided unlimited time to complete the survey, could discontinue their participation at any time, and were not compensated for their participation.
The average time of survey completion was anticipated to be about 5—10 minutes. The anonymous questionnaire asked about participant background e. Participants were asked a total of 20 questions about their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and perceptions about women's genitals with instructions to write as much or as little as preferred in response to each question. This study reports on the responses to the following questions about vulvas: 1. In conjunction with question 1 and 2, men were also asked if there were certain qualities they prefer over others or liked less.
Demographic data were analysed using standard statistical frequencies. Due to the mixed-method survey de, post-data collection qualitative analysis procedures were combine with a modified grounded theory approach to analyze the open-ended question responses Charmaz Analysis was limited to cisgender men and cisgender women respondents only. Given the exploratory nature of this study, participants were not limited by age or sexual orientation.
Similar response were created based on an iterative process of exploratory content-analysis. Since the survey utilised open-ended questions that were not fully qualitative in nature, counting was used in the analysis. A single list of all responses per question was compiled into Excel.
The first author read all responses to generate a basic understanding of patterns emerging from the responses. All statements were read through twice to identify prominent themes before the codebook was created. Codebooks for men and women were created independently, and a count frequency was calculated on commonly used words related to certain themes. Then, codebooks were created based on the most salient content that arose from the responses; coding procedures were deed to identify ten to twenty codes of common responses for each open-ended question.
were not mutually exclusive. In the final data analysis process, the first author combined similar codes into themes and identified subthemes within the most frequently mentioned themes. Two research assistants were trained to conduct independent content analyses of the open-ended data responses based on the codebook. The two coders also provided insight on code based on their readings and finalised consensus on the codes to be used before coding began. Finally, the two coders and the creator of the codebooks met to discuss of an initial frequency analysis.
To illustrate and exemplify identified meaning, the final codes have been tied back to participant statements and specific wordings. Extracts appear as entered online by participants, without editing, to avoid inadvertently skewing meaning.
Of the total of women and men participating in this study, the women ranged in age from 18 to 84 years with an average age of Most women identified as heterosexual and had only engaged in sexual activities with men, although some had engaged in sex with men and women see Table 1 : Participant Demographics. Men ranged in age from 18 to 76 years with an average age of Most men identified as heterosexual and had only engaged in sexual activities with women. No substantial difference in types of themes was found based on age or sexual orientation.
Are there certain qualities that you like less than others? This was, in fact, the second most common response for dislikes for women and the fourth most common response for men. No matter what the individual topology of each female is, there is always beauty and uniqueness. By far, the most common dislikes reported by women and the second most common dislike for men focused on the theme of pubic hair.
I feel ashamed of my genitals if I haven't shaved or waxed. I don't like the way my vagina looks and feels with hair. If I don't shave or wax, I find myself having less sex because I don't want my partner to see it. I mean really, when you look at them, there isn't much about the labia that screams sexy.
This is made even worse with this shaving fad that is going on today. At least with pubic hair there is some air of mystery or something, but a shaved vagina in a young woman looks like kiddie porn and in an old woman it is Additionally, most women who spoke about pubic hair commented on not liking to shave and disliking razor burn.
I also really don't like to look at my genitals. Itching was often cited with trimming or shaving, but also listed without qualifiers. When a woman has poor personal hygiene her vagina can have a bad odour. Bad hygiene is very off putting. Particularly if she smells like three day old sweat and urine. Really, just the lack of self-awareness. Several men who commented on disliking the smell also negatively commented on taste. A lot of women used this space to express the concern about pain issues. Frequently, pain was linked to menstrual pain. Aesthetics was the fourth most common theme in the dislikes data.
Several women referred to negative views on the appearance of their genitals. One woman summed up most of the concerns about appearance:. I really don't like the way they look. My inner labia are large. One guy referred to them as butterfly labia. They are uneven. One side has sort of a ridge, maybe from childbirth. I'm not so fond of the colour either. Sometimes my labia are pink but usually a sort of purple or brownish colour. I'm afraid they look old…. Sub-themes related to aesthetics included complaints by women with regards to length and colour of their genitals.
Asymmetry was another reoccurring subtheme related to aesthetic dislikes. Almost always, men stated preferences with regards to size. No men mentioned a dislike related to sex. Complaints related to sexual intercourse were common; most women who spoke about sex commented on frustrations related to sexual pleasure and to difficulty reaching orgasm. In addition to dislikes related to discharge, women also reported about infections, including sexually transmitted infections.
The quote below exemplifies topics other women reinforced:. How much easier it is to get infections because everything is inside, problems with PMS, endometriosis, having to get Pap smears, having to worry about so many things after sex such as UTI, yeast infection, pregnancy - and that's if you're not worried about an STI…. The women who responded to the question about genital likes provided a broader spectrum of responses than did men see Table 2. Women frequently provided responses in the form of a list of likes. The woman quoted below summarises the combined sentiments of most participants:.
I love my clitoris the most, and my labia. I like the whole thing really; its appearance, feel especially when wet and smell. I am thankful for good health, to date. Most of all I love their ability to make me feel pleasure, empowerment and fulfillment. I love how intimate the act of sharing my vulva with my current partner is, like a secret only shared with chosen people. Men listed many more likes than they did dislikes. For example, women commonly referred to the way their genitals looked, specifically the shape, colour, and size of their genitals. Commonly, men described liking diverse genitals.
This man said:. I like long, smooth, symmetrical lips — something voluptuous, that captures the gaze and imagination. I like large clits, but I don't get as excited over them as I do over lips and hoods. I like a vulva to be big, lips unfurled, and deep in its cleft. Some men commented on liking the colour and only a few men documented preferences for symmetry. Women affirmatively commented on pubic hair although a limited of women used this space to comment on preferring being shaved. While most who commented on hair simply reported they liked or loved their hair, a few women elaborated more:.
I LOVE all my hair. Whenever I had a sexual partner I would always shave automatically, and when I wasn't with anyone, I wouldn't. Recently, my partner asked me to stop shaving we've been together over two years. This is the first time in two years I haven't shaved, and the hair is so sexy and feels so good…. Men also described likes related to hair preference. The most commonly mentioned like for men was both smell and taste.Large labia love
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