Dear Embarrassing Bodies,
In response on your Channel Four show on “enlarged labia“.
I am writing as I am really surprised that you agreed for the participant in this show to have labiaplasty when a) no medical reason and b) the participant was not experiencing any physical discomfort. The programme gives mixed messages as the doctor says the participants labia are of ‘normal variant’ but then suggests she goes to see a surgeon. Her labia look totally natural and I am stunned that cosmetic surgery is the outcome especially via an educational programme that is meant to empower people. If there was a significant reason for the surgery, that is different, but to suggest labiaplasty without fully exploring alternatives through education and support is both irresponsible and unethical. The Daily Star in 2013 cites this episode as one of the reasons there have been a significant number of enquiries to cosmetic surgery companies!
I am a Sex Coach and one of my clients brought this programme to my attention. She had no concerns with the size of her genitals at all until she saw your programme and then, after watching your show, she thought she had ‘enlarged labia’. She approached her G.P. in order to seek labiaplasty which compounded her concerns. My client explained she told her GP she was worried she had too much skin on her labia and when her GP looked her response was “Oh yes I see what you mean; there is way too much skin there”. She then referred my client to the unfortunately named ‘labia disorders clinic’ last year. This appointment was cancelled and she was then given an appointment with a consultant Uro-Gynaecologist to find out if labiaplasty was appropriate. The consultant told her that she was not suitable for surgery and that she gets referrals from G.Ps all the time and the majority of women are also not suitable for surgery.
The combination of watching your programme and visiting her GP caused my client great and unnecessary distress. Fortunately my client got support and through the work we have done she is now comfortable with her labia and is very happy that she never had labiaplasty. How many women have watched Embarrassing Bodies and are now left feeling there is something wrong with their labia? Reading the comments on your website it is clear this has happened, even though the show was a few years ago and people are still posting with concerns and questions.
One of the reasons I am so passionate about this was I nearly had labiaplasty myself. I was in my late 20s and thought my genitals were abnormal as I had one inner labia larger than the other. This deeply affected how I felt about myself and my relationships. It was only through going on a workshop that I realised that there was nothing wrong with me and knowing I was fine had a huge and positive impact on my life. It is partly through this that I became a sex coach as I realised the lack of good sex education affects so many people and creates so many sexual problems.
For any of you reading this who are concerned about your labia size – large labia and different size labia are totally normal and healthy. The medical term for inner lips is ‘labia minora’ and the outer lips is ‘labia majora’. These terms are misleading as it infers that the inner lips are always smaller than the outer lips. The opposite is true for many women whose inner lips are larger than their outer lips.
The doctor on Embarrassing Bodies shares on the short video addressing the responses to the programme that women can have labiaplasty through a cosmetic surgeon, if in “pain, discomfort or distress.” In my experience (and I have worked with lots of people of all genders on this issue – into the 100s) 99% of the distress can be resolved through talking through concerns and sex education about the vast diversity of genital shapes and sizes and how their anatomy and arousal works.
I have had a number of clients who have come to me after labiaplasty and regretted it. They didn’t have the support or information to make a different choice and some of them are left with a loss of sensation and pleasure on their labia. I have only known one person who said it was the right decision and she was experiencing significant and daily discomfort and had exhausted all other options.
For those of you concerned about the size of your labia, please do some research, educate yourself and get some support. Don’t have labiaplasty unless there is a significant medical or other reason and even then only as a final option. Just as our faces are all different so are our genitals. Stop comparing them, accept them, celebrate them, love them! It will transform your life if you do – I know from personal experience and from the many many people I have worked with.
The Labia Library shows a range of different labia (though even these could show more larger lips!).
Here is an article about my experiences and how our genitals are all unique that I hope you find helpful.
Thanks for reading,
Sarah Rose Bright