The bottom line first: You need to tell your bride, repeatedly, that you love what you see between her legs. You find it beautiful, not ugly or deformed. You like her vulva just the way it is, and you don’t want her to get it changed.
My bride and I recently watched a one-hour British documentary on women having cosmetic surgery on their genitals – aka labiaplasty. The most common procedure is the “reduction” of the labia minora or inner lips. I put reduction in quotes because the common result is far closer to removal.
This may seem like a non-issue to you, or at least in your marriage. If your bride is over forty that may well be the case. However, younger women are far more concerned with this, and many are upset about how their vulva looks. This is primarily a reaction to women seeing porn and judging their body based on what they have seen. The younger a woman is, the greater the chance she has seen porn, the earlier in life she started to see it, and the more she has seen. Very few women under the age of thirty have managed to avoid porn images of women’s genitals. Yes, I know you don’t care that much what her vulva looks like, but odds are she thinks you do, and she feels ugly because she is so different from all the women she has seen in porn.
How can I say with such certainty that she is different from the women of porn? Because there is research to back me on this. One study measured and compared vulvas from four sources – a random sample of women who had not had surgery, pornography, medical texts, and so-called “feminist publications” which are designed to help women understand and feel good about their bodies. The study found that porn showed a very narrow, very skewed version of female genitals. In fact, what is most commonly shown in porn does not occur naturally, or at best occurs in less than 1% of women. The feminist publications had the best range of images, but still fell short of a truly representative sample of what real woman look like (it looks to me like they intended was to show all variety evenly, resulting in showing less common examples more than they occur, and more common examples less often than they occur.) The medical texts were between the other two, better than the porn, but not as good as the feminist publications.
One thing that all of the media showed was smaller “labia protuberance” than is found in the general population. Labia protuberance is how far the inner lips (labia minora) stick out past the outer lips (labia majora). This is a mark of sexual maturity – in girls the inner labia do not extend past the outer labia, while in adult women they almost always do. In a random sample of woman who had not been altered, labia protuberance varied from 7 mm to 50 mm (¼” to 2″). In other words, in every single woman the inner lips extended past the outer lips. In porn, 37% of the women showed protuberance of 0-9 mm, 32% showed 10-20 mm, and NONE showed protuberance greater than 40 mm. This means almost a third of the porn models has smaller labia minor than any of the real women, and none of the porn women had lips in the upper end of the normal range. In a study of Playboy centrefold models, only 7% had labia minor that extended beyond their outer lips. This suggests that the vast majority of the women had undergone surgery to make their vulva look like something no real woman looks like!
If you have viewed much porn produced in the last twenty year, you have a wrong understanding of what a woman’s vulva is supposed to look like. While the range of what women look like is very, very wide (even wider than the range of what faces look like) the vast majority of unaltered women look like this:
- They have pubic hair – possibly a great deal of it.
- The inner labia stick out half an inch or more beyond the outer labia.
- One of the inner lips is noticeable larger/longer.
- The labia are wrinkled, not smooth.
- The labia are darker than surrounding skin (often but not always true for women who have not been pregnant).
- The vulva changes with age, pregnancy, and vaginal childbirth.
If you have ever made any comment about your wife’s vulva that was not clearly positive, you have probably caused her to feel bad and to be concerned that she is abnormal. If you have ever in any way suggested she looks “different”, you can be sure she is worried. Even if you have not done these things, it is likely she is concerned about “how she looks down there”, and the younger she is the more likely it is she is concerned. Don’t assume it’s okay because she has never said anything; if she thinks her vulva is ugly, why would she call your attention to it?
My bride is doing a post about this issue today, so if your wife reads The Generous Wife she will be reading about this today and you can use that as a jumping off place. Regardless of how you do it, please talk to your bride and try to set her mind at ease.
As an FYI, plastic surgery of the genitals involves significant post-operative pain, and up to a week of limitations for recovery. Full recovery can take up to three months, and sex may be prohibited for a month or more. Because this type of procedure is relatively new, the long-term side effects are not known. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a committee opinion saying that “Women should be informed about the lack of data supporting the efficacy of these procedures and their potential complications, including infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia, adhesions, and scarring.” A similar statement has come from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
A final word – a very small percentage of women have one or both labia so long that it causes problems. If she suffers pain because of clothing rubbing on her labia, or if intercourse causes injury to her labia, then the benefits of a reduction probably outweigh the risks.
Reference: Visual depictions of female genitalia differ depending on source (no images)