A study, published in the International Journal of Sexual Health, found that women who feel more positively about women's genitals find it easier to orgasm and are more likely to engage in positive sexual health behaviors, such as having regular gynecological exams or performing vulvar self-examinations.
"These are important findings about body image," said researcher Debby Herbenick, from Indiana University. "Our culture often portrays women's genitals as dirty and in need of cleaning and grooming. Some women may have had greater exposure to such negative messages or may be more susceptible to their impact."
Herbenick's study created a scale for measuring men's and women's attitudes toward women's genitals. Such a scale, she wrote in the study, could be useful in sex therapy, in medical settings to help better understand decision-making that goes into gynecological care and treatment.
Interestingly, the study also found that men had more positive attitudes about women's genitals than women. "Women are often more critical about their own bodies - and other women's bodies - than men are," Herbenick said. "What we found in this study is that men generally feel positive about a variety of aspects of women's genitals including how they look, smell, taste and feel."
Herbenick added that parents might consider how they can help their daughters to feel more positively about their bodies, such as by teaching them accurate names for their body parts, including their genitals (e.g., "vulva" rather than "down there") and responding in supportive ways to their self-exploration. "Rather than saying, 'don't touch down there - it's dirty,' parents might let their children know that it's OK for them to touch their genitals, but in private spaces," she suggested.
"Our study demonstrates that the mind and body are highly connected in regard to sex," concluded Herbenick. "When women feel more positively about female genitals, they likely feel more relaxed in their own skin, more able to let go and thus more likely to experience pleasure and orgasm."
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Source: Indiana University