Do I Look Normal?
Why are women suddenly insecure about the way their labia look? I have to wonder if this has come about as pubic hair removal has become more widespread and more dramatic. Twenty years ago a bikini wax was just enough to remove the hair that might peak past your bathing suit bottom. Now most women choose to remove all or nearly all of their pubic hair. In the absence of hair, all the little nuances of the vulva are laid bare…..exposed if you will. When the hair is present, we might not notice the size or skin texture or pigmentation of the labia. Now the hair is (usually) removed and all of the normal variation is made obvious.
But, really, are our lovers (male or female) actually making such detailed inspections?
The most common query, after the initial shy introduction of the subject, is “can I make them look less wrinkly, younger?” Women in our society are always under pressure to stay looking young: you only need look at any fashion magazine to know that . But really, our genitals too??!! Labia change with age, like the rest of our bodies. The quest for younger looking genitals begins by removing the hair (only little girls have no hair) but can culminate in surgical interventions to remove wrinkles, pigment, and asymmetries. It can end with serious damage and pain depending on what is done and how the healing process goes.
So why does this make me so sad? I think of the vulva as a sort of private doorway into a woman. I have worked for years in the world of sexual assault where that doorway gets broken. I now work with victims of female genital mutilation where, again, that doorway is destroyed. That our society has extended its demands for youth and beauty on women right through our underwear is depressing. Do I think vulvas are beautiful, I don’t know. I’m not even sure it’s relevant. What I do think is that we all come in different shapes and sizes and that is part of the beauty of our bodies.
If you want to see if you are “normal” have a look at Vagina Verite by Alexandra Jacoby at http://www.blurb.com/books/2870858-vagina-verite. She did a series of vagina portraits that may be startling at first, but then very reassuring. I have a copy in the waiting room at the office too…..
At the end of the day, I’m not suggesting that we are all satisfied by the way our bodies look or by the way we age. We all strive to be fit, look beautiful, feel good, and to some degree, to conform to social norms and demands. I’m only hoping that we, as women, might be able to hold our vulvas, that private doorway, apart from the social pressure and be at peace with how our most private of parts looks in all her colors and shapes.