Don't change a Thing

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andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I found this on Craigslist. Please, please stop this poor girl before it's too late! She should hear from a professional that she'd be sacrificing nerve endings to a bunch of dickweeds who are suckers for media standards. And they won't even like her more. God help us.

advice please re labia — w4m

so im hearing mixed reviews from guys about a female's labia. do guys prefer the labia minora to be big or small? because tons of my friends are seeking to have them made smaller (like by a lot) so they look like playboy types etc. is that what guys want? what turns men on? and why? any advice on what to do here for me??

'Nuff said. Thank you.

Love,

A Concerned Citizen

(Seriously.)

Dear Concerned:

Oh, okay. Maybe she'll see this and maybe she won't, but obviously this is a thing, or a Thing, that affects a lot of young women, just as she says. "Tons" of her friends, though? I realize she's posting from L.A., where you have to expect this sort of thing, but the image of busloads of girls she went to high school with or worked with at Hot Topic after school lining up for surgical "correction" is unsettling even me.

So, what is going on here? I've long assumed (this has been going on a while now) that women used to go a lifetime without seeing their own (it takes a mirror and the will to look) or anyone else's labia in great detail unless they had chosen to be midwives or something, in which case they were busy.

Men used to see a few sets, all too different from each other to even form much of a preconceived notion of what they "ought" to look like. Hardly anybody used to view an endless parade of stunt labia, chosen or surgically altered to conform to a (sub)cultural standard. But since the 1990s or so, that is exactly what we are doing. The porn industry standard is tiny, close-to-the-body, and unusually symmetrical, and if that is what young men are seeing before they even get a peek at the real thing, I suppose it's to be expected that some may be shocked or dismayed by reality's asymmetry and wild diversity of form, and in some cases indignant that they did not get exactly what they were in the mood for. It works with YouTube and iPods!

At least with pubic hair (a similar issue with young men being shocked on first encounter), one can go with the fashion flow and change with it as it (inevitably) changes. The same cannot be said for surgical rearrangements.

Now, how do I feel about young women permanently altering themselves to suit male fancy? I think it might be a trick question, actually, since I'm not entirely sure that that many guys care that much. What if they do, though — ought a young woman scramble to put herself through a painful, expensive, dangerous (all surgery is dangerous) procedure to please guys who probably still won't be that into her if they're not already? Of course not. Nothing is ever that simple, though.

Most of the Web sites put up by surgeons who do these procedures talk a great deal about painful horseback-riding or bicycling or inability to wear pants, all very real if somewhat rare complications of very long or loose labia. Then they give a little nod to being displeased with the size, period, and that's the population we're worrying about here. A reputable surgeon is going to accept or reject patients based not only on physical factors but emotional ones as well, especially patient expectations ("this surgery will make my labia smaller" versus "this surgery will make me stop hating myself"). And I hate to say this, Concerned Dude, but there are plenty of women (and men too, of course) whose self-esteem problems really can be cleared right up with the proper application of surgical instruments.

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