To stop the 'designer vagina' boom, let's make young women aware that genitals aren't all the same

After the rise in labial-reduction procedures, perhaps girls should be shown pictures of a range of vaginas in the classroom to help broaden their understanding of 'normal'

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A few months ago I was presenting at a conference for teachers and mentioned what I believed to be a fantastic resource - a website called 'Make Love Not Porn'.

The site works on the basis that in the age of - 'curious about this topic? Google it!' - young people are inevitably going to access porn online to sate their sexual curiosity. If they then go on to be visually assaulted by a deluge of anatomically plastic people with designer genitals furiously engaging in sex acts far beyond the usual scope of human endurance, they are likely to grow up thinking that's what constitutes 'normal' on the sexual barometer. Make Love Not Porn's solution was to produce a site where you can watch a range of more realistic and normal body types and sexual acts and encourage teenagers to have a gander.

It's brilliant only if you acknowledge that the modern influence and absolute omnipresence of the internet dictates that young people are being exposed to graphic material at a younger and younger age, and that child filters can only prevent that to an extent. Which I do...ergo I think it's brilliant.

On this occasion many of the teachers did not agree. Some were downright horrified by the prospect of actually recommending their students watch any sort of pornography. Which I can understand, even if I think that attitude is somewhat short-sighted. Tackling any kind of sex-based issue in the confines of a classroom is tough but necessary. Ideally of course schools would bring in an outside expert- someone who doesn't have to stick around and teach maths the next day knowing that only 24 hours beforehand they were all putting condoms on a banana. But not all schools have the budget for that, largely thanks to the endeavours of our budget-slashing friend Mr Gove.

This means the fate of young people's sex education lies in the hands of teachers who will potentially view the whole thing as an unnecessary cringe-fest which should fall outside the remit of their chosen profession.

It's for that reason that I'm certain that a call for girls to be shown pictures of a range of vaginas in the classroom, to help broaden their understanding of what's 'normal', will be met with a mixed reaction.

It shouldn't take a gigantic leap of imagination to understand why I am pro this idea. Hell, I'd show older teen girls a range of penises as well just so they aren't caught by surprise by the many varieties of the male organ when they become sexually active (and if the Pinot Grigio-fuelled conversations I've had with my girlfriends over the years has shown anything it's that there ARE many varieties. I seem to recall the term 'field mushroom' being used at one stage).

There's currently a mass media call out for women to volunteer to have their vagina photographed. An exhibition named 'Project Bush' will showcase the various ways to style your muff. They believe that the simple act of photographing and displaying a range of lady parts is enough to make us realised our genitals aren't uniform. They also argue that in presenting images but not passing comment their project encourages a modicum of choice in the much-chewed-over-by-feminists pubic hair debate. I agree.  When it comes to vaginas, a picture speaks a thousand words.

I have come under fire recently because apparently my ethos indicates that women are influenced by marketing and that is an insult to their intelligence. I don't have time to point out all the reasons why this is a) arrogant and b) naïve, but suspending that for a moment, my view of these things is mainly informed by having worked with 30,000 teenagers. However much we older women may pontificate about how fantastically well informed we are and therefore immune to the billion pound advertising and media industry, the fact is something has to be done to protect people younger and more vulnerable than us, growing up in a world where they are bombarded with it.

Fact: most young people look at porn and are exposed to a ridiculous amount of advertising.

Fact: whilst the former is full of a uniform type of 'designer' vagina, the latter is full of plastic surgeons who will profit from the insecurity and misinformation this emulates.

I don't want to live in a world where women think they have to butcher their most intimate parts to be considered 'normal'. I don't want to exist in a society where it was necessary for my fellow Indy journalist Charlie Cooper to write an article outlining why we shouldn't let under 18s undergo vaginal reconstructive surgery. I want to live in a world where that's obvious.

My solution is to let young women know there's more than one way to have a vagina and it's their choice what they do with it - and I'd use visual imagery to back up this tactic. What's yours?

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