We all compare ourselves to others. When it comes to our genitals, however, it can be difficult to determine what’s “normal,” since our basis of comparison is often limited to what we see in porn or other seemingly perfect representations of bodies. For instance, some folks worry about their outie vagina and fear that it’s abnormal. However, we’re here to tell you that an outie vagina is completely, totally normal.
What is an outie vagina?
This occurs when the labia minora (the inner vaginal lips) extends past the labia majora (the outer vaginal lips). This vaginal appearance isn’t commonly depicted in art or even pornography, but an outie vagina is entirely normal.
Note that we’re using the term vagina as it’s commonly used to refer to the outer genitals. However, the vagina is actually the internal parts of the organ. The parts you can see from the outside are collectively known as the “vulva.” But throughout this article, we’re going to use vulva and vagina interchangeably.
Here’s everything you should know about an “outie vagina” and vulva appearance:
How common is an outie vagina?
Just like any other body part, there is a huge range of appearance of vulvas. It’s common for the labia minora to be longer than the labia majora, which results in the “outie vagina” look.
“No two snowflakes are exactly alike, right? Well, the expression could just as easily refer to the vulva,” Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of She-ology tells O.school. “There is no one right way for the vulva to look, meaning, there's no such thing as a perfect one.”
Despite that, Ross says about half of her patients are concerned about the appearance of their vulvas. This is especially the case for people who have labia minora that extend beyond the labia majora. However, Ross emphasized that — as long as this doesn’t cause pain or discomfort — this is an entirely common and healthy vulva appearance.
Why are we talking about the outie vagina now?
In the past, people with vulvas might have only seen a handful of vulvas other than their own. Today, however, it’s easy to see many vulvas online, but that representation doesn’t cover all appearances.
“Many young [people] are getting information from the internet, where they are viewing sexually explicit websites that may promote unrealistic expectations of the range of normal anatomies, such as prepubertal anatomy,” Dr. Deborah Birenbaum, an OB/GYN at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, New Hampshire, tells O.school.
Just like body shapes portrayed in other forms of media, the genital shapes and types portrayed in porn and other online sources are generally not inclusive. Birenbaum recommends that people who want to see a true array of normal vulva appearances check out these resources:
- Great Wall of Vagina: Plaster casts of more than 400 vulvas
- The Labia Library: Anatomy information and a photo gallery, curated by Women’s Health Victoria, Australia
- The New View Campaign: Non-medicalized information on an array of normal sexual expressions
It’s important to understand your vulva.
Being confident in your genitalia is important to understanding, caring for and enjoying your body. “If a [person] has concerns about [their] genital appearance, it may affect [their] sexual health and self-esteem,” Birenbaum says. If you’re concerned about your anatomy, you might find it helpful to talk to a trusted doctor about your concerns.
“In my job as a gynecologist, I help to educate [people] on variations of normal anatomy and appropriate terminology so that they can be empowered to feel comfortable in their own skin,” Birenbaum says.
Understanding that the appearance of your vulva is entirely normal can also help you have open and honest conversations about it with your partner if you choose. It also helps you take control of your health, Ross adds.
“You need to get to know and love all parts of this fascinating area of your body. Know what your ‘normal’ is so you will know when something is not normal or when a potential problem arises,” she said.
Can an outie vagina be harmful?
Although it is rare, occasionally longer labia can cause pain or discomfort, according to Ross. This is a condition called labial hypertrophy.
“For most, there’s no denying that something isn’t quite right,” Ross says. “The most common symptom is the need to fold up their labia and push them into their vaginas in order to reduce the appearance of excess tissue or a bulge in their underwear or bathing suits.”
In this case, a person should talk to their health provider. If it is medically necessary, the provider might recommend a labiaplasty, which reduces the size of the labia.
In recent years, this procedure has become more common for cosmetic reasons. However, Birenbaum emphasizes that both the American College of OB/GYN and the International Society for Study of Vulvovaginal Disease oppose labiaplasty for cosmetic reasons. That’s because it’s a major medical procedure, without much benefit.
“It will not enhance a [person’s] sexual response, may not result in an improvement in their body image,” said Birkenbaum.
Rather than resorting to surgery, people who are struggling with body image related to their vulvas should talk to their doctor to understand that having labia minora that are longer than the labia majora is an entirely normal experience.
Variations of normal
Most people wonder at some point of another how their genitals compare to other people’s. It’s important to remember that genitals, just like all other body parts, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If your vulva appearance is interfering with your life, it’s time to talk to your doctor. But if not, remember that having an outie vagina is no problem at all -- it just makes you, you!