Fiona Jordan, an evolutionary anthropologist who does some fascinating work on numerals and numeral classifiers, has blogged about some of her research on an only slightly less interesting topic: The Contextual Vulva.
Howarth, Sommer, and Jordan (2010) compared three genres of images (medical illustrations, feminist publications, and internet pornography) to investigate differences in the visual representation of female genitalia (PDF available here). They found significant differences between the three sets of measurements (e.g. in the size of labial protuberance), and further showed that of the three, the porn showed much less overall variability than the other two. While I think it is impossible to write about this topic without a chuckle (Fiona’s report of her request to her IT people to have access to porn sites at work is highly amusing!), this is serious stuff insofar as it suggests ways in which our perception of bodies, particularly female bodies, is influenced by skewed representations of actual morphological variability, and as a contributing factor to social constructions of what constitutes ‘normal’.
Howarth, H., Sommer, V. and Jordan, F.M. 2010. Visual depictions of female genitalia differ depending on source. Medical Humanities 36: 75-79.
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Cheers for the write-up, Steve, I’m pleased you found it interesting! And lovely summary, too – I’ll be in touch when I next need help with an abstract :)