I can’t claim that I didn’t get a little silly. I laughed, I giggled, and I showed it off. Having just come home with a surprise treasure from the grocery store had transformed that rather mundane chore into something altogether exciting and scandalous. I have no idea how I hadn’t noticed when I picked it. No idea how nobody else did either. And the checkout person - would they have been mortified or delighted at what they'd just sold me?

I offered it up to my partner and she nodded that “Yes, sure dear” nod. When I continued with my insistence that it sure did look like, well, you know, she eventually acquiesced - with the relationship equivalent of a pat on the head. I was not deterred. I propped my prized produce up against the microwave and took a photo for my blog.

A photo of my vulva sweet potato.

Looking back, I am still pretty pleased I noticed the unique shape of this particular tuber before it was chopped and made into tasty fries. It would have been a shame had this lovely manifestation of nature’s confluence been disregarded. I see labia - majora and minora! I see a vaginal opening! I see a distinct clitoral hood! And maybe, just maybe, a bit of clit as well?

This was the first time I’d ever really seen something like this. Sure, I used to lay in the grass and cloud gaze for shapes. Nothing. I don’t compose things in my mind in a visual way (hello, writer!). I've never been someone who even doodles. I react to visual stimulation, but I just don’t formulate images. I did grow up with The National Enquirer, and I do regularly click Buzzfeed galleries of images you just have to see to believe, so I’ve seen all these people everywhere else finding amazing natural occurrences of sexual visual images. Interestingly, other than sex, the only other theme that seems to come close in popularity is religious iconography ... worship how you will!

Why Can I See the Vulva?

After finally realizing my dream of my own natural find, I wondered more about why I even saw the vulva in the sweet potato in the first place. Given what I do, sex is on my mind a lot. At the same time, I have no coinciding interests between food and sex. My partner wasn’t overwhelmingly convinced, so it obviously wasn’t a true replica.

Stephen Biggs, a registered psychotherapist and one of the leaders of Toronto’s chapter of Sex Geekdom, offers a layered interpretation of why I saw a vulva in a sweet potato.

“There's this great quote, by Anais Nin, ‘We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are,’“ Biggs told me.

This made me wonder about my personal, deeper connection to both vulvas and sweet potatoes. Fortunately, he clarified.

“In psychology,” Biggs continued, “we are often working with perception, which is influenced by so many things, our background, culture, gender, our thoughts and emotions, and sexual urges and religious belief... these all influence how we see what we see.”

Delving deeper (while remembering those sweet potato fries) reveals an overarching name for this psychological phenomenon: pareidolia. This is the illusory or misperceived belief that something is something it is not. It could be auditory. It could be olfactory. It could be visual. In psychological testing, visual test such as the Rorschach Inkblot Test or Thematic Apperception Test have been used to further understand our inner, subconscious responses.

“When we're having sexy thoughts, we're more likely to experience and/or perceive other sexual phenomena. And to extend it further, some would argue that the sexy thoughts don't necessarily have to be conscious thoughts," Biggs said. "We might have subconscious sexual thoughts that lead us to see sexual imagery here, there, and everywhere. And the underlying thought doesn't necessarily have to be positive. Psychotherapists working with a psychodynamic framework might argue that a person who is repressing their sexual urges may be as likely to see sexual imagery in their environment as someone who is very sexually free or expressive.”

I don’t think I was having sexy thoughts when I got back from the grocery store, but, honestly, I probably was after I discovered the sweet potato vulva. I don’t think I went so far as to ask permission for a real-life comparison, but it probably crossed my mind. Now, Biggs’ words will have me thinking the next time I come across one of those stories or sites with user-submitted sexual images. What were they thinking about when they saw the two tree limbs getting it on? Was sex on their mind when those hills became unmistakably breast-like?

It looks like we could read a whole lot into the phenomenon of seeing sexual images in natural landscapes ... or possibly nothing at all. This is the wondrous part of the human mind.

That night, after the ruckus died down, I started it up again. I couldn’t resist. I mean, I don’t know anyone who eats sweet potato skins ...so ... we went from sweet potato au naturel to sweet potato shaved! I didn’t tell Biggs about this part ... I don’t know what he’d say this means about me.

Do you think this tuber is sporting a reasonable facsimile of the female genitalia? Let us know what you see in the comments.