We Need to Talk about Camel Toes

By Bethany Roth

You order a new pair of sports leggings from ASOS, because going to the gym is a thing you do now. They arrive. You try them on. The fit on the bum – exceptional. The 7/8 length – ideal. The camel toe – very much there and thriving. You package them up and ship them back and feel ashamed of your (very natural) defined vulva.


Will my labia even fit in that?

Now bear with me, but I think the issue with camel toes begins with how we see clothes modelled (after the whole thing about the patriarchy, obviously).

Mannequins in shops do not have anatomically correct genitalia. Now, we’re not about to have that argument here, but what this does mean is that the clothes we see modelled on them, including leggings, bikinis and underwear, don’t reveal their camel-toe-causing abilities to us before we purchase.

If you think we can correct this by online shopping, you are mistaken. Photoshop and airbrushing are frequently used to modify the fit of clothing on models in magazines, advertisements and online shops. Any camel toe they might’ve had magically disappears with a little bit of retouching.

So, when the average woman goes to buy a swimsuit and is surrounded by images of models and mannequins with itty-bitty, non-existent vaginas, she is shocked that the fabric (that clings to her vulva!) does not magically conceal her vaginal detail in the same way.

And just like that, years of camel-toe hatred in women across the western world begins.


Porn and labiaplasty

We can’t just blame photoshop for years of hating our vulvas, though. The rise of the porn industry in recent years has created the much greater problem through increasing the misrepresentation and distortion of women’s bodies.

The appearance of the vulva is only a small portion of this, however the growth of labiaplasty procedures in the last decade is certainly proof of this ever-increasing insecurity. In 2016, it was named the fastest growing cosmetic procedure in the world, increasing by 45% between 2015 and 2016.

The pressure on young women to reduce the size of their labia and have a so-called “designer vagina” is only increased by the stigma surrounding camel toes – which are essentially just partially-visible vulvas.



Vaginas and the media

Here’s where we get to the slightly insane bit.

Articles from the Daily Star, Radar and Heatworld discussing the appearance of women’s vulvas capitalise on the patriarchal discourse around vaginas, calling their camel toes “outrageous”.

What makes this so ridiculous is that only a fraction of the women photographed actually have a camel toe. What they’re really showing you are images of women in swimsuits, leotards and leggings, all of which (unbelievably) do, in fact, cover your vulva. All you can see in these pictures are that the women have vulvas. Extraordinary.

The Daily Star even described an image of Georgia Kousoulou as having a “swimwear malfunction” because you could see the outline of her vulva in her swimsuit.

Now do we understand why the media is so truly awful to women?

Fix my vagina, please

The market for camel toe “correctors”, “concealers” and “cushions” has been on the rise since Khloe Kardashian endorsed this one on Amazon. Where there’s an insecurity, there’s an unhealthy quick fix.

The brand Camelflage have even created an entire range of camel toe-concealing underwear, profiting off of the back of our collective shame surrounding the appearance of our vulvas.

Sticking some silicone to your vagina to disguise the fact that you have a vagina? No thanks.

All of these products, whether they’re padded underwear or silicone implant, are designed to benefit off of women’s insecurities. The discomfort we feel wearing specially manufactured camel toe cushions is clearly nothing compared to the shame and disgust experienced when we see our own vulva through our bikini bottoms. This shouldn’t be the case.


Love that vulva, girl

Camel toes are a completely natural phenomenon that occur when someone with a vulva wears an item of clothing that clings tightly to their body. In the same way that we see nipples underneath a tight top, we will inevitably see a vulva underneath a tight pair of leggings. Why do we need to treat them so differently?

Listen. Vaginal openings are pretty damn important to how the whole thing works. Why are we so ashamed about seeing them under our clothes? I think we can blame the patriarchy for that one (again). A camel toe doesn’t say that you’re disgusting, or “outrageous”. It only says that you have a vulva, and hopefully you already knew that.

So, keep the leggings and love your vag.