Athena Lund grew up in Norway along the coast of the nude beaches.

She reveled in the sexual liberation of an upbringing in Europe, where nudity and sexuality were — and still are — far less taboo than in America. There, the naked bodies she encountered along the shores ingrained in her an appreciation for human form and anatomy; one that, when she moved to the United States, she wanted to impart onto others as well. She felt it was vital to teach others of the beauty inherent in loving your own body, and in properly loving your partner's too.

And voilà, a Scandinavian sex shaman was born.

Now, Athena works out of Boulder, CO as a healer and life coach, with a focus in sacred sexuality. She conducts workshops that teach tantra, a method of sexual enlightenment. She spent some time schooling me on the fundamentals of tantra, and I’d like to share her lessons on the 9 different types of vaginas. Her lessons reveal that the world has much more vaginal variety to offer than we've been led to believe, and for women insecure about their own anatomy, this expresses that each pussy is just as perfect as the next.

Tantra teachings classify their ladies’ genitalia based upon its animalistic traits. The classification of your genital type directly correlates to each animal’s natural type of behavior. Lady curtains can be categorized as sheep, cat, buffalo, bear, wolf, antelope, deer, fox, or dancing woman.

A number of traits make up the type of coochie creature you possess, and it’s entirely possible to have a hybrid of two different animals. A woman’s classification depends on the depth of her vagina, the taste, the scent, the distance between her opening and her clitoris, her lubrication, the location of G-Spot, the temperature of her fluids, the types of positions she favors, how long it takes her to orgasm, and the sort of orgasm she could have.

Here are some common characteristics of each classification:

Deer – Hot in temperature, dry in moisture, very deep, sweet/sour flavor, 2-5 minutes to reach orgasm. Deer women "make the ideal porn star."

Cat – Woman is clean, detached, comforting. Vagina is petite and neat, with no folds. Medium depth.

Buffalo – Very cool in temperature, fresh scent, very moist, shallow depth, salty flavor, large lips, 15-20 minutes to orgasm.

Antelope – Fiery hot in temperature, burns up all her moisture.

Fox – Cool in temperature, very deep, neutral flavor.

Sheep – Very hot in temperature, extremely wet, very deep, sweet flavor, 15-20 minutes to reach orgasm.

Wolf – Hot in temperature, moist, 20-30 minutes to reach orgasm. Moans loudly during orgasm.

Dancing woman – Most women are this type. Average depth, neutral flavor, generally quite moist, take the longest to reach orgasm, perhaps up to 40 minutes.

According to Lund, the cat vagina is the most pervasive in pop culture, and actually the only type of pussy Playboy Magazine has ever featured. Cat vaginas are small, symmetrical, and shaven snatches with neat little lips. While this type may be most pleasing to the eye, the vast majority of pink canoes don’t look like this. The beauty of the tantric perspective lies in its acknowledgement of the splendid variety that women and their lady parts have to offer.

Honoring this diversity is especially important in an age where the media is massacring women’s self-image. According to Dove’s Real Truth about Beauty study, only 4 percent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, and a large part of that stems from women measuring themselves by the unattainable standards of the media. The issue isn’t confined to just movies and television; it’s pervasive in pornography, as well.

The terrible consequence is that women have come to believe their vaginas aren’t attractive enough, and many resort to cosmetic surgery to make their lady-parts look more conventional. Labiaplasty, the surgery that cuts off “excess” parts of the labia, or inner vaginal lips, becomes more prevalent in the United States every year. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 5,000 labiaplasties were performed in the United States. Although that may not seem like a large number, it’s an astounding 44 percent increase over the previous year. Unsurprisingly, when women remove tissue from their vaginal region, they very frequently diminish their own pleasure. And that’s a god damn tragedy!

In contrast to the Western belief that we should be slicing and dicing our vaginas in order to conform to some unattainable standard of beauty, tantric teachings emphasize the vital lesson that vaginas come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and every single one of them is glorious in its own way. The benefit of these tantric perspectives is that they can help us address the problems we feel we have with our pussies; for example, women who think something is wrong with them because they don’t get soaking wet can be classified in tantra as having antelope anatomy, meaning they burn so hot that they dry up their moisture. For them, addressing the source of that dryness can do miles to improve self image and sexual attitude. Or, take women with sheep or deer vaginas; these woman boast a sweet taste, but also can orgasm the quickest, which might influence how they engage in sex and foreplay. It's possible they might need some guidance in orgasmic timing, or some futher instruction in how to translate that ability to come quickly into multiple orgasms.

That's why tantra is so cool — insecurities and negative outlooks are transformed into positive perspectives. This matters for women who feel insecure about the vagina they were dealt — if they can be helped to see the inherent beauty in the form they have, better self-image and better sex can follow. As Athena puts it, “One of tantra’s most important lessons is that the best love-making begins with loving yourself.”

[originally published November 4, 2016]