Is my vagina normal?
In short yes. But we are angry. Angry at the rise of social media trends, that deem woman have to look a certain way, particularly with regards to their vulva.
Labiaplasty, is the most common form of female genital cosmetic surgery, involves the lips of the vagina being shortened or reshaped. It is socially known as, “vulva reshaping,” – “vaginal rejuvenation,” the “designer vagina.” and wait for it, “the Barbie doll.”
The NHS says it should not be carried out on girls before they turn 18. However accordingly reports between 2015-16, more than 200 girls under 18 had labiaplasty on the NHS.
More than 150 of the girls were under 15. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40410459)
Why is this?
Well some experts fear that social media, unrealistic expectations of female anatomy through the use of pornography are the cause. The standard vulvas shown in porn are regularly clean shaved, with tiny labia, perpetuating the idea that this is the “norm.”
We also know that women have requested labiaplasty to alleviate problems relating to the labia minora which in turn cause personal problems for the individual concerning hygiene, discomfort during sexual intercourse or pain when wearing tight clothes.
I am not against women requesting to have labiaplasty, but I want to make sure women are making informed decisions and not being influenced by social media or porn. Our core ethos at Cysters is that without education you cannot be informed and able to make empowering decision for your body.
Body parts should be normalised not sexualised, and we should be able to understand that everyone’s vulva is as unique as a fingerprint. If there are individuals that are struggling with anxiety due to their thoughts on their own labia/vulva, perhaps we should encourage them to have counselling before undertaking drastic procedures before labiaplasty. I’m not saying this approach isn’t being taken, but there is an over reliance on cosmetic surgery to “look normal.”
How do we change this?
Its started! There has been various projects across the UK to highlight the importance and uniqueness of the vulva.
Laura Dodsworth’s latest work put vulvas on the pedestal they deserve, thanks to her book, Womanhood: The Bare Reality and Channel 4 documentary. I was lucky enough to be one of these women, taking a stand and challenging fragile masculinity. Laura created a space for us to readdress our relationship with our body parts.
The UK are also on track to having their own Vagina Museum, which will go along way to tackling the shame ands stigma around the vulva.
I have often said we are are in the cusp of a #ReproductiveRevolution – perhaps this is in the wake of the #metoo movement, we have fierce women who want to reclaim their story and their narrative, without social media / societal pressure constantly shoving the “barbie doll” down their throat.
Without debunking myths around the vulva, we will continue to see a rising trend of procedures. So lets stop, lets educate, lets talk and more importantly lets let go of the social media expectation placed upon us.
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