New Lady-Book: What's Up Down There

A new tome by a hilarious gynecologist (yes, they exist!) will have you tickled pink, so to speak.

What's Up Down There book
(Image credit: Courtesy of St. Martin's Press)

Let's face it — most gynecologists are very nice people, and they certainly serve their purposes (and we thank them for it!), but we can't exactly imagine laughing out loud with them over drinks. Well, Lissa Rankin, MD, is so not most gynecologists. The artist, author, and OB/GYN's new book, What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend does just what its title promises — Rankin answers women's most burning (for lack of a better word), surprising, sometimes hilarious questions about their anatomy in the comforting-yet-conspiratorial tone of your BFF. Here are a few of our favorite, informative tidbits from our new favorite doctor:

Doesn't it gross you out to look at skanky snatches all day long?

No. It's really not like that. When you're a doctor, you get used to dealing with things others consider gross... Truth is, most women primp for the gynecologist. They respect the fact that someone's gonna go face-to-coochie. They shower, trim their pubes, and sometimes even spritz on a little Chanel No. 5. For the most part, I've found that women practice good hygiene, even when I worked in public health clinics with women who were lucky to find fresh water to bathe. Sure, there are exceptions... But skanky snatches are no grosser than the vomit my patients hurl on me when they're in the throes of pain, the loogie a smoker hacks up, or the poop excreted by a woman during childbirth.

Is pubic hair supposed to be the same color as the hair on your head?

Not necessarily. While in some people, the carpet matches the drapes, so to speak, it's not the case for everyone. The presence of two distinct colors of hair in the same person is called heterochromia. My patient Molly is a fiery redhead, and she got teased her whole childhood by guys who nicknamed her "Fire Pie," referencing the bright red bush they envisioned. But Molly got the last laugh. Turns out her bush is a dark, chocolate brown without so much as a fleck of red. It's not uncommon for people with light-colored hair on their head to have darker pubic hair. Keeps 'em guessing, I suppose.

Why doesn't my vagina look like the ones in Playboy?

Can you say air-brushing? And Photoshop? And surgery? I can tell you first-hand that most women do not look like the women you see in porn. Seems that porn stars all have neat little labia tightly tucked up between their legs, adorned with clean little landing strips. The skin of their labia is all pink and fleshy, with none of the darker discoloration I often see in real life, and none of them have longer labia. If you pay attention, you might also notice that they also don't have cellulite, moles, belly fat, thick thighs, or surgical scars. Hmmm… sound suspicious? It should. These women do not in any way reflect how women in my office appear. In real life, we come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and we are as unique as snowflakes.

Is it safe to put perfume on your coochie to make it smell pretty?

While spraying yourself with Jean Nate or Giorgio may work for some women, others will wind up with skin irritation, vaginal infections, and breakouts. Because perfumes and colognes may contain harsh chemicals and drying alcohol, contact dermatitis symptoms are not uncommon. If you insist on trying to make your cooch smell like the cologne counter at a department store, try spraying scent on your inner thighs or buttocks, where the skin is less sensitive.

My nipples are the same color as my skin. Is that normal? Is there anything I can do to make them darker?

Usually the nipple and areola are darker than the rest of your skin, but this isn't always the case. Some women have nipples the same color as their skin, while others may have nipples slightly lighter than their skin. All are variations of normal and nothing to worry about. If this makes you self-conscious and you wish to change the color of your nipples, you can tattoo your nipples the color you choose. But do you really want to go through that?

Anna Maltby

Anna Maltby is an award-winning journalist and editor and was most recently the executive editor of Elemental, Medium’s in-house health and wellness publication. She was previously the deputy editor at Real Simple magazine and a deputy editor at Refinery29, and also held staff positions at Men’s Health, Marie Claire, SELF, Fit Pregnancy, Natural Health and Condé Nast Traveler. Her writing has appeared in such outlets as The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, O, Family Circle, Fitness, Redbook,,,,, FastCompany.com_ _and She received her BSJ and MSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Anna is also an American Council on Exercise–certified personal trainer and functional training specialist, a certified prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist, and a certified mat Pilates teacher. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two children, and two tuxedo cats.