It seems recently that every radio talk show host calling has the same question. Ditto each magazine reporter. Everyone wants to talk about labioplasty: surgically trimming the labia to look like a porn star’s.
I’ve been around long enough to remember attending women’s health conferences in the early 70s where we considered ourselves brave and liberated for looking at our own cervixes with mirrors and flashlights. I once lay head to head with another woman as a parade of onlookers circled us, each bending to peer into our specula-stretched vaginas. One matron straightened, alarmed, and alerted me, “My dear, you have blood up there!” I responded that I had my period. Her face worked for a moment as she processed this information. Then she smiled. “Oh, yes,” she nodded, “of course that’s where it comes from,” and she moved down the line. We knew so little of ourselves then that we prized each new piece of knowledge and power.
Fast forward three decades. Now periods are optional and the thrill of ownership of our genitals is eclipsed by the anxiety of comparing them to the perfect digitally retouched porno pussy. Sigh.
Labia are like faces. All have the same basic parts yet each is distinct. Labia are filled with sensitive nerve endings that deliver the most exquisite sensations when swollen and treated nicely. Beneath the skin of the labia lie the crura or legs of the clitoris (the hard round button tucked under the clitoral hood is but a fraction of the organ). Since the labia are rarely symmetrical, each responds a bit differently to touch, providing more and varied sensations as we climb towards orgasm. Many women use knowledge of these anatomical differences during masturbation. As we get closer to orgasm, we may pull on that slightly larger left labia to increase traction on the clitoral hood, for instance. The wise lover will pay attention to these details and explore his/her lover’s geography to learn the many available exciting pleasure paths.
Labioplasty has nothing to do with pleasure. Zero, zip, nada, zilch. Trimming your pussy lips to be tiny, tight, and symmetrical is entirely about meeting some theoretical perception of what the ‘perfect’ woman’s labia is ‘supposed’ to look like. This month. Considering we can’t see our own vulva without a mirror and a flashlight, genital plastic surgery certainly isn’t about our own visual satisfaction. Is it solely in response to what we believe are the wishes of our male partners? But if you ask most men to describe the ugliest pussy they ever saw, they’ll quickly respond, “It was beautiful!”
So why are women submitting to this surgery? We’ve already bought that our breasts are too small, our bottoms not appropriately peachy, our thighs too cottage cheesy, and our stomachs too slack. Our icon models are anorexic waifs while our real life population gets fatter and fatter. Perfection seems ever more unattainable.
Each of us owns our own body and has every right to do with it whatever we want. No question. It troubles me greatly, though, that so much emphasis is placed on appearance with barely a reference to function or pleasure.
Before we consider removing the tissues that cause us to call out God’s name, let’s think hard about what we are doing and why. If you feel that your relationship would be improved by having slimmer labia, examine your relationship! Invest in a copy of Joani Blank’s book, Femalia, and celebrate the beauty and diversity of the women’s vulvas photographed in those pages. If you want to change the appearance of your netherlips, get a piercing or shave your pubic hair, like really, look at the styles achieved on sites like https://www.manscaped.com and get inspired! But please, think twice before surgically altering your tender bits. Remember: fashion changes, but pleasure is forever.