Get to Know Your Body with “Vulva Mapping”

Naked woman with a flower over her genitals.

Whenever you hear the word “mapping,” the thoughts that rush to mind are a little less about sexual empowerment. Probably a little more middle school geography class. But what if we were to tell you that this age-old mapping activity could be the very key to unlocking a whole new world of pleasure? Vulva mapping, to be specific. 

Perhaps it sounds a bit strange at first, but rest assured, it won’t for long! All you need is a clear head, specific intent, a dash of patience, and sweet, sensual touch. You too can be on your way to uncovering a new sense of your sexiest self. 

If you know, you know. If you don’t…prepare to be amazed. 

What exactly is vulva mapping?

In a nutshell, it is the hands-on practice of learning the “topography” of female-bodied genitals. Through mindful massage and intentional touch, it’s a way for individuals to get to know their bodies better. As a result, grow more attuned to and comfortable with their own sexuality. 

Seems pretty great, right? Especially in this day and age! But, let’s pause to remember that female sexuality isn’t something that’s always been the most…celebrated topic. It begs the question of how all of this actually began.

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s emerged a feminist organization called the New York Radical Women. Dedicated to opposing the deep-rooted patriarchal system, the group sought ways to overturn the notion of a male-dominated society and give women the power to no longer be oppressed. One of which began with the idea of hosting what they called “feminist consciousness-raising” groups. 

The primary goal of these groups was to collectively shine a light on issues within the women’s experience. They sought to figure out how they can most effectively implement their mission out into the rest of the world. One such method was vaginal self-examination. Each member grabbed a mirror and flashlight to study their own lady bits in a group setting. 

This activity thrust women into looking at themselves in new ways. No more hiding in the typical throes of embarrassment or self-consciousness. In addition to now knowing what was actually down there, they could finally take charge of their female differences, have more confidence in their own skin, and bust through long-held taboos surrounding their sexualities—and their place in society. 

So from there, vulva mapping was born! And the good news is it’s something that’s only gotten better with age. 

Benefits of Vulva Mapping

Now that we’ve covered the historical roots, I’m sure you’re curious to know more about the lovely perks it can actually yield. 

Whether it’s a result of our upbringing, peers, social media, or trauma, there are so many feelings of embarrassment and/or shame prone to building up within our bodies over the years. In return, those feelings can cause heightened levels of stress, anxiety, self-consciousness, and other subconscious pressures that impact how we perceive our sexual selves. 

That said, learning to better understand and feel more confident in our own skin is one of the most effective ways to counteract those negative effects. Hence, vulva mapping enters the picture here as a great tool to help kick-start that journey. 

Seeing what the vulva actually looks like, getting to know how every part individually feels, learning all of the different sensations you’re capable of feeling, and realizing what your body likes best—each step of the process can lead to an overall boost in everything from confidence and sexual satisfaction, to one’s trust and sense of connection with others down the line.

Who is it for?

In the wise words of Diane von Furstenberg: “The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself.” This rings especially true for emphasizing who’s the main beneficiary of vulva mapping—you! 

But as with many things in the world of sex, the biggest perks of the practice can absolutely carry over to one’s bond with their partner as well. By knowing what you like and how you like it, being more comfortable with talking about sex and fostering even deeper feelings of mutual closeness and understanding, it’s a no-brainer that this personal growth from vulva mapping can bring major strengths to any relationship.

How To Explore It

For anyone interested in exploring vulva mapping for themselves, it’s time to finally find out exactly how.

First off, keep in mind that intention is everything. Because this is a “mindful” practice, it’s important to immerse yourself in the process, as opposed to treating it as just another task on the to-do list. Setting an intention (which can change along the way) of what you most want to get out of experience can help focus your energy and keep yourself truly present and in the moment.

Next up: the tools. Whether you’re being intimate with a partner or by yourself, the mood is everything. So set yourself up for success by ensuring your environment is comfortable and relaxing. No matter if it’s your bedroom, bathroom, or hey, even your fluffy couch. Once you have that down, grab a mirror, some lube, and perhaps a little companion like the LELO Dot that can help mix up the stimulation. The Dot happens to be a great option due to its tiny tip and pressure-sensitive intensity. 

Take deep breaths, relax your body, get in a comfortable position, and take a good look at what’s down there. If you have trouble staying wet, consider a lube, like pjur lubricants. Lube can also increase sensation, making the exploration all the more fun. If you want to have your partner explore with you, consider a massage leading up to get, as this helps ignite your senses and relax the muscles. Don’t skimp on the massage oil—Exsens makes our favorites. 

We all remember those health class diagrams, but seeing every part of your own vulva puts it into perspective. Distinguish between the mons pubis, the inner and outer labia, and different parts of the clitoris, up through the vaginal opening, fourchette, perineum, and finally the anus. There’s probably a lot more down there than you ever realized. Now is time to get a feel for it. Literally!

Breathe into touch.

Remember, stay relaxed, don’t hold your breath, and, after slathering your fingers with lube or oil, start gently massaging yourself all over. Begin with your breasts, stomach, and thighs, then ease your way down to the genital area. Slowly, softly stroke along the entire area, paying attention to all of the different parts. Meanwhile, keep your mirror at bay to watch how each section changes in appearance as you slowly get more aroused. 

Paying close attention to how your body reacts to individual stimulation of each area. By doing this, you can gauge when you’re ready for more. Whether it’s more intense rubbing with your fingers or using a toy like the LELO Dot to really pinpoint your pleasure zones, continue experimenting with varying degrees of intensity throughout distinct parts of the vulva. If you run across any discomfort or extreme sensitivity, slowly work your way through it. Try lightly massaging the area and making sure to keep breathing.

While you’re at it, consider exploring other parts of your genitals for a truly well-rounded sexual experience. Kegels, exercises for your PC muscles, can help strengthen and elongate your orgasms. Yarlap is a tool that actually does your kegels for you, and can be a great way for someone who needs a little reminder to exercise.

In the end, you want your body to feel at ease. Embrace the sensual vibes, feel totally empowered, and continuously comforted. It might end in orgasm, but that’s certainly not the main goal. By taking a tantalizing tour from top to bottom, the idea is to become hyperaware of what sensations your body can experience and unlock the pleasure potential that lies within.

And lastly, remember…

It’s about the journey, not the destination. And even though you’ve probably gotten your fix of cliché quotes by now, it’s an important one to keep in mind because vulva mapping is far from a one-and-done situation.

Think about the world of pleasure as a revolving door of possibility. With that, think of practices like vulva mapping as ways to continue growing and learning new things about yourself. Each time you do it, you’re even more equipped and evolved than the time before. Why not take the plunge to prioritize your pleasure and see where the voyage takes you?

This is the year of self-care, after all, so definitely consider adding vulva mapping to your rotation.

Alex Anderson is an LA-based lifestyle designer proactively raging against the cultural grain. By day she works in television production, and by night enjoys writing, sewing, and seeking guidance from the stars. She also finally has an all-black kitty named “Cher.” You can follow her alt-lifestyle blog MSFT Living and on Instagram!