The Influence of Women’s Genital Self-Image on Sexual Function

February 2024

Woman frustrated in bed with partnerIndividuals harbor varied perceptions and attitudes towards their genitals, encapsulated by the concept of “genital self-image” (GSI). This notion suggests that one’s feelings about their genitalia may significantly influence their sexual functionality and contentment, considering the pivotal role genitals play in sexual activities.

A recent investigation delved into the connection between women’s GSI and their sexual function and satisfaction. The study emerged in response to an uptick in female genital dissatisfaction, positing that media representations could be setting unattainable standards for genital appearance.

Historical data has indicated that a negative GSI is often associated with lesser sexual engagement, whereas a positive view of one’s genitals tends to heighten sexual pleasure. Moreover, an individual’s overall perception of their body profoundly affects their sexual encounters. This highlights the urgency for a detailed examination to understand the relationship between GSI and sexual function, as prior evidence has not thoroughly explored this link.

To address this gap, researchers conducted a systematic review of scientific literature on GSI and sexual functionality in women, covering publications from January 2000 to December 2022. Initially identifying 146 studies, the process of removing duplicates and unrelated content whittled this down to 16 relevant studies, involving 13,505 participants in total.

These studies, spanning from 2003 to 2022, employed various instruments to assess GSI (like the Genital Self-Image Scale and the Female Sexual Function Index) and involved subjects from diverse nations, including the USA, Turkey, Thailand, and several others.

Predominantly cross-sectional, these studies aimed to establish baseline connections between GSI and sexual functionality. The meta-analysis revealed a positive correlation (0.375) between GSI and sexual function, suggesting that a healthier GSI is likely linked to better sexual performance, while a poorer GSI might detract from sexual wellness.

Marking the first systematic review to probe the linkage between women’s GSI and sexual functionality, the findings underscore a notable correlation. A negative GSI not only correlates with sexual dissatisfaction but also indicates body-related sexual anxieties, independent of factors like age or relationship contentment.

The findings also point to the significant impact of societal norms and personal experiences on the interplay between GSI and sexual functionality. Media, especially platforms focusing on social and sexual content, greatly influence genital self-perception and sexual expectations.

Given the adverse outcomes associated with negative GSI on sexual well-being, there’s a compelling case for advocating the normalization of diverse genital appearances. This could pave the way for more positive genital self-images universally, enhancing sexual satisfaction and reducing distress or discomfort during sexual activities.


  • Alavi-Arjas, F., Goodman, M. P., Simbar, M., Alavi Majd, H., & Nahidi, F. (2023). The strength of correlation between female genital self-image and sexual function: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 20(12), 1376–1383.
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