A Fairly Depressing Study – Women’s Genital Self-Esteem

October 2, 2009

A recent study conducted by the Kinsey Institute seems to show that women are overly concerned about their vaginas in terms of how they look, taste and smell and that this can lead to difficulty having orgasms as well as heath issues as a result of avoiding gynecological visits.

An article at The Globe and Mail quotes study author Dr. Debby Herbenick as saying, “Individuals may adopt negative attitudes toward women’s genitals as a result of cultural-level scripts that suggest that women’s genitals are unclean or dirty.”

The article goes on to suggest that even those of us who know better than to buy into these concepts are still so bombarded with these negative messages, in the form of commercials and through seeing products such as “sex wipes” that we are likely affected, at least on some level.

Dr. Herbendick does go on to give us a little bit of good news, stating that men are generally more positive about women’s genitals.  “Women are assuming the worst, and they’re anxious, and men are just happy to be invited to the party.”

I’m pondering, right now, how affected I am or have been by these messages.  I can certainly recall being more self-conscious when I was younger, but I know I’ve gotten more confident over the years, partly due to the positive attitudes of the men I’ve dated, including my current boyfriend.  (Thank you, honey!)

I also wonder how these images and messages affect younger women.  I like to think that I’m strong and capable of recognizing and discarding these sorts of BS messages when I see them.  But what about girls who don’t have a mom like mine to tell them that douches are bad and that we should be aware of our vaginas and vaginal health, but that they’re not inherently dirty or gross?  I can’t ever recall my parents telling me that it was dirty or bad to touch myself “down there”, but apparently that’s just what some parents do tell their daughters.

I hope parents out their pay attention to studies like this.  Teaching our young women that our genitals are icky can apparently have some pretty serious consequences.  Girls should be taught appropriate & positive language for their “shame caves“,  (That is truly one of my favorite Daily Show segments of all time.) and encouraged to feel comfortable with their own bodies.

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One Response to “A Fairly Depressing Study – Women’s Genital Self-Esteem”


  1. Great Post! In the mid-eighties when I was 40yrs old, I had the good fortune to be in a womans class that addressed this very issue, and the counselor leader was a warrior in this area of womens Self-Esteem. Men’s Penis’s are made out to the the GEMS and they are to them…but we women have had to deal with Mothers who did not have good images of their own values so either we were shamed about ours overtly or subliminally. Thank you for your work.


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