In Defense of Vaginas
I like my vagina. I always have. Fortunately, I haven’t spent much time worrying about whether it’s attractive enough, although I understand a lot of women have been fretting over theirs lately. I’m not talking about older women who might have functionality issues, but healthy young women in their teens and twenties who feel aesthetically inadequate and compelled to keep up with the latest trends in vaginal fashion. They bring in photos to show their prospective surgeons what they’re after, and apparently what they’re after is what they had when they were 9 years old, a prepubescent labia and vagina, a look popular on the internet these days and achieved through a surgery called labiaplasty.
Labiaplasty, for those who are unfamiliar with it (and squeamish people may want to skip the rest of this sentence), entails cutting off or trimming parts of the labia minora (the inner vaginal lips) and the outer labia (the folds of skin surrounding the vulva). Sounds cringe-worthy at best, but according to The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), it’s one of the fastest growing cosmetic surgeries in the United States, having increased 44 percent from 2013 to 2014. The number of surgeons performing these types of procedures is also on the rise, along with clinics whose websites feature catchy names for their offerings, such as The Designer Vagina, Vaginal Rejuvenation, The V-Lift and The Barbie. Clitoral Hood Reduction is featured as well, with some sites sporting slogans such as “Neatness Counts.”
I’m all for letting adults choose to do what they want with their bodies, but the list of body parts we’re supposed to improve is getting awfully long, not to mention frightening. Not surprisingly, one gender is putting up most of the cash. According to the ASAPS, a whopping 90.6 percent of all cosmetic surgeries in the United States are performed on women. That percentage doesn’t even account for all of the non-surgical cosmetic procedures women get. Maintaining self-esteem is difficult enough these days, so before labiaplasty becomes as commonplace as Botox, it’s important to take a few minutes to consider what’s worth appreciating about the vaginas we have now.
1) Your vagina looks good.
Remember, variation is normal. Think about the penises you may have liked in your life (if you like penises). They probably didn’t look exactly alike. Surely, it’s nice to live in a world full of vaginas that don’t all look the same either. Last time I checked, my vagina looked just fine. Maybe my labia have changed over time. I have no idea and no one watching me undress would know either. Pubic hair is a great thing to have and I highly recommend keeping at least some of it around, or at least not permanently removing it. I’m pretty sure if we were all told to shave our heads, we’d be scrutinizing the appearance of our scalps a lot more, too.
2) Your vagina helps you give birth easier.
Our vaginas are amazing. Mine gave me a wonderful son. Thanks in part to those great inner folds I was able to push my sweet baby out naturally. Would that have been the case if I’d decided to have my labia altered? I can’t imagine it would have worked as well. We know that women who get breast implants often jeopardize their chances of successfully breastfeeding. Best not to mess with a well-functioning vagina.
3) Your vagina can make you happy.
I know mine has given me a lot of pleasure. More importantly, it’s right below my clitoris, another magnificent body part. I sure as hell don’t want a surgeon’s scalpel or laser coming anywhere near all of those fabulous nerve endings. Super scary. It’s your clitoris. Think about Somalia and what happens to clitorises there. Keep yours safe along with your vagina. Examples of botched surgeries fill the Internet.
4) Your vagina can save you money.
By liking your vagina, you can save thousands of dollars. The average price range for a labiaplasty is $3,500 to $7,000. Add to that time away from work to recover, lost income, and possible repeat surgeries and treatments. Instead of helping a surgeon pay off a vacation home in Hawaii, you can go to Hawaii. I’m going there next fall, and I know my whole body will be rejuvenated, vagina and all.
5) Your vagina can make others happy.
According to a 2013 study by Dr. Lauren Streicher, Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University Medical School, when heterosexual men were asked if they wished their partner’s labia were shorter, 98 percent of the respondents said no, whereas 30% of the woman surveyed thought their labia were too long. I’m certainly glad my husband doesn’t want my genitals to look like a little girl’s. When we’re in Hawaii together, we’ll both be enjoying my vagina just the way it is.
6) Your vagina is a classic.
It could be some day. Trends change all the time. Maybe womanly vaginas will be all the rage again a few years from now. If you’ve lasered out every last hair and surgically altered your labia, your vagina will be out of style in the future. Better stick to updating your wardrobe from time to time instead. Your vagina is already thanking you.
7) Your vagina is an inspiration.
I want women and girls to know that Internet porn does not need to be their guide to beauty. We’re already bombarded with images of how our skin, eyelashes, noses, breasts, legs, etc. are supposed to look. These days girls, as young as 12, are concerned about their labias. Do we really want re-made vaginas to become the norm? I sure hope not. Fortunately, women are speaking up in greater numbers throughout the world. They’re staging protests, writing books and posting images they want to see on the Internet. It might be an uphill battle, but maybe like our vaginas, we are more powerful than we realize.