The paper, Honi Soit, produced the cover to challenge the stigma that the student journalists deemed to be attached to vaginas.
The images were taken by a fellow student following a call for volunteers.
The newspaper’s editors agreed to cover parts of the images with black bars following a request from the paper’s publisher, Sydney’s Student Representative Council - the Australian equivalent of a students’ union - whose legal advisers feared the uncensored cover could contravene obscenity laws.
However, a printing error meant that the bars were translucent, meaning the full images could still be seen. The council then ordered all copies of the paper to be removed from the newsstands until the covers could be removed.
Writing in The Guardian, four of the paper’s female editors write: “We are tired of society giving us a myriad of things to feel about our own bodies.
“We are tired of having to attach anxiety to our vaginas. We are tired of vaginas being either artificially sexualised (porn) or stigmatised (censorship and airbrushing).
“We are tired of being pressured to be sexual, and then being shamed for being sexual.
“By distributing this cover about the university, we have given our audience no choice. Either accept vaginas as normal, non-threatening, and not disgusting, or explain why you can’t.”
They add: “That in 2013, vulvas can still be considered something that should be shunned and hidden, or offensive, is absurd.”
Quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence said: “Personally my view is the cover is demeaning to women but I do realise I’m not the target audience for Honi Soit.”