NOTE: this post contains a video of someone’s labia being lopped off and over-sharing by me about my vulva. You’ve been warned.
Last week I happened to see this post at one of my favorite blogs, Sociological Images. They were discussing labioplasty, a surgical procedure that “trims” the labia so that they are smaller. This procedure has been increasing in frequency–which somewhat boggles my mind. Keeping extremely sharp knives away from my girl goolies is something that I strive for.
The question asked by this investigative report was: “Are rules about what genitalia it’s acceptable to show in soft porn driving a perception that small labia are “normal”? You can’t show protruding labia–which swell when you’re excited, BTW–and still have it be softcore.
“The only acceptable vagina as far as the Classification Board is concerned is one that is “neat and tidy” in their eyes. They basically consider the labia minora “too offensive” for soft core porn.”
The thing that struck me when watching this video (well, it struck me after I was finally able to unclench my legs and come out from under my desk) was how often the word “untidy” was used to describe a normal vulva. “Untidy”?? Really?
Apparently women are forgetting that all parts of our bodies must be dainty and restrained at all times. Even the sexual parts. When you clean your kitchen and vacuum up the carpet, don’t forget to put your crotch in order too!!
I know that now I’m single my GYN will probably be remarking on the dust bunnies up there. But I will be surprised if she criticizes the folding job I’ve done on my lady lips.
There’s a huge range of variation in body shape, and labia are no different than other parts. But now large or asymmetrical labia are viewed as pathological. If you aren’t the right shape–which is photo-shopped or surgically altered in the first place–cut things off.
Here’s my confession: I have untidy labia. They are slightly asymmetrical, and they are largeish. I’ve worried about the size since I was a kid. Are they supposed to be like that? The color isn’t even. Is that right?
Now that I’m entering menopause, the changes in estrogen levels in my body are making my vulva change as well. After childbirth and menopause, the labia majora shrink, and the labia minora protrude more. So now I’m even more self-conscious about my meat curtains.
I even started to worry about dating again…although Elyse wisely pointed out that anyone that actually had their face in my crotch would probably not choose that time to judge me on vulva aesthetics.
What do you think? Is this pathologizing something we shouldn’t worry about? Do you have genitalia insecurities?
Bonus: Cunts! The Movie! (actually some very interesting sculptures that show the diversity of women’s boxes)
UnBonus: PZ discusses the depressing scandal at Cornell of a doctor surgically altering girls’ clitori because they are “too big.” You can read a detailed description of what was happening here; TRIGGER WARNING it is graphic and disturbing.