Published in the Fall 2005 issue • Features
Making the Cut
Forget boob jobs and Botox. These days, the pressure to be perfect is hitting many women below the belt
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Is smaller really better? I pondered this one evening at the bar where I work, leafing through some plastic surgery material. Peaches, a muscular security guard covered in tattoos, looked over my shoulder at the photos.
“Is she getting her labia minora reduced?” he asked. “No way, man, she should be making them longer!” he added, and made some crude gestures to illustrate how much he liked oral sex with long lips. “It’s just sexy. See that?” he pointed to a woman with very long labia minora. “That is absolutely beautiful. The lips, for me, are a huge turn on.”
Many men feel the same way. After sex columnist Dan Savage advised a woman to go to Stubbs for her long lips, hundreds of male readers replied.
“I prefer long labia,” wrote one reader. “I find they lend themselves more readily to being tugged, stretched, nibbled, etc.” Another told Savage: “You were much too hasty to recommend clipping her butterfly wings!”
Many cultures have taken labia love to the next level and actively massaged and stretched a girl’s labia from childhood on to make them as long as possible (most notably the Buganda people of Uganda). Labiastretching.com celebrates long labia in much the same way body modification enthusiasts have adopted the ear plugs of some African cultures to stretch their earlobes. The site features a photo gallery, advice on lengthening and erotic stories. And girls, if your labia are 10 centimetres or longer, you can enter a contest to win the title of the world’s longest labia.
I’m not about to stretch my labia down to my knees. Some photos on the site made me wince just thinking about tight pants. But I was delighted to see that at least some people don’t think my curtains need to be hemmed.
When I was 13, I didn’t like my labia. I remember sitting on my bed, looking at illustrations of women’s labia in a late edition of the Kinsey Report. I thought the long, foldy labia looked kind of strange compared to the nice, neat, miniscule labia minora that some women had. Suspicious, I grabbed a mirror and looked down. I was saddened to find that mine were more like the foldy ones.
For years, I was insecure. I was scared of what sex would be like and didn’t think young men (or women) thought of the space between a girl’s legs as pretty. Functional and pleasurable, maybe, but not nice to look at. And with foldy labia, how would I compare to the girls with neat, “clean slits”?
Like other insecurities, this one disappeared eventually. None of the men I have been with cared what my labia looked like. What’s more, the lips are meant to give you pleasure. They’re full of nerve endings and swell with blood during sex to give you extra sensation. Had I trimmed myself when I was a teenager, I would have missed out on a lot of fun.
So when I started perusing websites for this article, I was angered to find myself feeling like a scared 13-year-old again. Surgeons will tell you otherwise, but this industry thrives on female insecurity and often tries to convince us to fork over $5,000 or more to feel better about ourselves. Many of the websites use language aimed at undermining female confidence, particularly when it comes to what men think about our genitals.