Feb 262013
 

do-not-love-my-labiaTracy Clark-Flory’s Salon piece, “The ‘Labia Pride’ Movement,” seems to have garnered some attention. Ok, I don’t really know how much attention it’s received relative to any other Salon article, but it caught my attention.

I can’t help it. I have pussy on the brain.

And so, I might as well throw my labia into the ring.

(I suggest you duck and cover if you know what’s good for you… the size of my labia is matched only by the shame that accompanies them.)

Here’s the truth: I do not love my labia, I do not have pussy pride, I am not content with my cunt, I do not value my vulva, and I don’t venerate my vagina.

Here’s another truth: We shouldn’t need pussy pride.

None of us should feel any particular pride nor feel any particular shame in our material conditions (at least, the material conditions of our genitals). I didn’t make my pussy. I didn’t work for it or fight for it. I don’t exercise it or practice with it. It requires little or no maintenance to perform is biological and physiological function. It’s not something I can change — I can’t shape it or study it into some other more useful, more preferred, or more pleasurable physical form.

Instead of thinking about what I can’t change and what I shouldn’t feel pride or shame about, I should focus on things I worked for, practiced, mastered, and things I can control. I worked for my education and for my skills and talents. I learned how to paint. I practice playing guitar. I work at my relationships and I practice kindness towards others. I work to maintain my mind, body, and spirit. Those are things for which I should be proud. Not my pussy.

My pussy is flesh. It is what it is. It does what it’s supposed to do. In that sense, I shouldn’t love my labia, nor should I hate it. I shouldn’t think about my labia.

But I do.

I think about my labia, and I fucking hate them.

I’m ashamed of my labia, and I’m ashamed at being ashamed… because I know better. Loving labia and hating labia are silly. The fact that my labia bothers me is stupid. As suggested by one commenter on the Salon piece, it’s ridiculous that anyone thinks about labia at all:

comment from Salon piece

Hey, don’t you think I know better? I know there are more important things in the world. Besides that, I’m educated. I can dance feminism, aesthetics, subject formation, and epistemology well enough. I talk a good game. I know all the “right” answers. I know I should care about important stuff… but sometimes, I don’t. I know I shouldn’t care about my labia… but I do.

And so far, all the education, sex positivity, feminist theory, supportive partners, and efforts at self-acceptance haven’t helped much. If you have a magic pill to help me turn off my shame issues and magically love myself and my big fat labia, send it my way.

Better yet, if you have a magic don’t-give-a-fuck potion, I’d appreciate the recipe.

But if you don’t have magic pills or potions, then STFU.

You go and worry about third world problems. I’m not asking you to worry about my labia or my shame. I worry about that stuff enough for all of us put together. You go worry about rape and incest and and hunger and crime. You do that. I’ll be over here, pondering my labia and worrying about my sisters and friends, my nieces and my future daughters. I’ll worry about their labia and their self-image and whether or not their shame impedes their exploration of sexuality, their sexual fulfillment, their self-esteem, their relationships, and their overall self-worth. I’ll worry about that. You worry about “real problems.”


I’ve had a draft of an email to Molly sitting in my drafts folder for over a year. It’s about my piece, “labia shame,” and it’s possible appropriateness for her Pussy Pride Project. I never sent the email because “labia shame” probably isn’t appropriate for “Pussy Pride.” While I’m not proud of my pussy, I am proud of what I wrote and my approach to the subject.

comically-oversized-labia-2I’m proud of my honesty and my humor. I’m proud I can admit my shame because speaking to shame might help me get rid of it.

I’m proud that writing about pussy shame might help other women who find themselves shameful, women who know better, but can’t help it; women like me who see the photos of labia of all shapes and sizes and know they should be happy with what they have; women who know they’re supposed to feel pride; women who are educated and enlightened and powerful… but can’t see past their own labia to accept any of it.

Maybe, like me, they will find some comfort in my words. If not comfort, maybe just a laugh.

Laughing at ourselves would be better than feeling ashamed at something we shouldn’t give a fuck about anyway.

We shouldn’t give a fuck because we shouldn’t need pussy pride.

And we shouldn’t need pussy pride because there should be no pussy shame.

But it exists. There is shame.

Until that changes, until there is no shame, we need pussy pride. We need Betty Dodson’s drawings, the Large Labia Project, Courageous Cunts, The Great Wall of Vagina, and Molly’s Pussy Pride Project.

In the meantime, I admit I don’t have pussy acceptance or indifference. I don’t have pussy pride. Worse than any of that, I’m embarrassed that I care at all. I’m ashamed of being ashamed.

I’m working on it, but I’m still not there.

 

  27 Responses to “pussy pride and labia shame”

  1. I will admit that I don’t get the whole pride/shame about one’s genitals. The best I can do is compare it to penis size issues that guys have….but I’ve never understood that, either. Like you said – it just happens and there’s no amount of personal effort or wishing that changes it.

    But I also have to say that I have never met a guy who would let the size or shape of a pussy stop him from trying to get inside of it any way he could. As far as I’m aware, it just doesn’t figure into men’s thinking at all.

    I understand it isn’t about what OTHER people think. Sometimes what we think about ourselves is ten times worse than anything someone else would even consider.

    • But I also have to say that I have never met a guy who would let the size or shape of a pussy stop him from trying to get inside of it any way he could. As far as I’m aware, it just doesn’t figure into men’s thinking at all.

      When it comes to actually having sex, I agree with you. But, when it comes to talk, men certainly contribute to labia shame issues. (Myself excluded) I don’t know if women ever refer to their own genitals or other women’s genitals as “meat curtains.” My guess is that sort of language was invented by a dude, and used mostly by dudes. It’s a similar thing with pubic hair — I don’t know that a man would ever actually turn up their nose (or mouth, or cock, or fingers) at an unshaven bush, but lots of them talk trash about women who refuse the razor.

      Of course, I don’t think it’s a ton of men who talk like this, but it’s a pretty loud minority… loud enough to get into women’s heads, at least.

      I understand it isn’t about what OTHER people think. Sometimes what we think about ourselves is ten times worse than anything someone else would even consider.

      Yes! Thank you for saying this. It helps. I know I’m ridiculous, but sometimes, I can’t help it. :)

      As always, thanks for your thoughts, Tomio. (Hope you and Delila are well!)

      • We are doing well, thanks.

        I didn’t think about some of the slang that is tossed about – mostly because I don’t use it. I think the focus on labia has become more pronounced now that shaving/waxing has become more normalized. I think this is a kind of a porn-ification of women’s bodies (comparing all women to porn stars – which is like comparing all men to body builders, or something).

        I don’t think it’s about self-esteem – which is a catch-all term that often means “I don’t understand why you feel like that, so there must be something wrong with you.” We all have SOME part of our body that we don’t like, and the degree to which we dislike it varies. My personal belief is that just being honest about what we don’t like is a big step towards accepting it and dealing with it in a healthy manner.

  2. I didn’t really think about what mine looked like until after I’d had a baby. I mean, I’d looked in a mirror before and was neither here nor there about it, but it wasn’t until after I’d been sewn back together and then healed that I started to have a weird relationship with my labia. That’s partly because they were scarred (a lot) and partly because I ended up with a flap of skin where I’d never had one before. Over a year later I’m learning to get used to it, but I suspect that’s as far as I’ll ever go. No hate, but far from love too.

    • @Tara: Ouch. Sewn back together? *shudder* I’m sorry to hear it — I hope there’s no lasting pain.

      I didn’t really think about what mine looked like until after I’d had a baby.

      I wonder if attitudes are markedly different between women who have had biological children and those who haven’t? Not just about labia, but about the whole set up down there.

      I’m learning to get used to it, but I suspect that’s as far as I’ll ever go. No hate, but far from love too.

      That’s what I’m hoping for… indifference. :)

      • Nope, no pain anymore, but it took 6 weeks to fully heal.

        I can’t speak for all women who haven given birth, but I find my attitude has hugely changed at different points for different reasons. Like I said above, I didn’t really think about it pre-pregnancy–it looked okay and worked just fine. When I was pregnant I worried more about nerve damage and responsiveness than actual cosmetic damage from the birthing process. Then… I didn’t look at it for 6 weeks because I was afraid to see the horror show I was convinced was down there. I suspect it was for the best because when I did look, I was sad and surprised and confused all at the same time to see the scarring and the skin flap in addition to how stretched out everything was.

        I think the thing that makes it easier for me to be indifferent is knowing that my husband doesn’t care either way. So now I just lump it together with the stretch marks and saggy tits that are all part of my pregnancy/motherhood experience and chalk it up as worth it to have this amazing little human as part of my life. It’s not like I have to look at my labia unless I want to.

        • I was afraid to see the horror show I was convinced was down there. I suspect it was for the best because when I did look, I was sad and surprised and confused all at the same time to see the scarring and the skin flap in addition to how stretched out everything was.

          I can’t imagine what that’s like — to know your body has changed in some way (and a quick change — not over a long period of time). I can see why someone would be hesitant to look, and to learn of what damage may have happened.

          I think the thing that makes it easier for me to be indifferent is knowing that my husband doesn’t care either way.

          I’m glad to hear it. :) I’m also glad to learn that you’re like most healthy people who believe their partners when they make statements like this. I’m sure it’s my own self-centeredness and esteem issues, but I don’t ever really believe anyone when they tell me they don’t care about this or that (particularly when the this or that is something that bothers me).

          Yeah. It’s self-centeredness. Yuck.

          stretch marks and saggy tits that are all part of my pregnancy/motherhood experience and chalk it up as worth it to have this amazing little human as part of my life.

          Yes! Beautiful. They’re reminders of what your body can do, of nourishing and protecting your little one before she or he made a grand entrance into the world. :)

          • To be honest, I didn’t believe him right away, but that was probably partly bound up with the raging shitstorm of hormones. It was until we got our sex lives back and I was able to see that he was as excited about my body as before and, okay, maybe the mild post-partum depression going away. And I still get bummed out if for some reason I look when I’m not aroused because I really wasn’t prepared for that, but I just try to focus on being grateful that I didn’t lose sensation or my libido like some women and that tends to help me get that indifference. Besides, it’s not like I can change it unless I get a surgery, and I’m just not that upset about it, not to mention that we’re planning on having one more kid.

  3. I understand and sympathise with your displeasure in that part of your body. They say every woman has some part of her body she’s dissatisfied with. I am no exception. I’m 5′ 11″ in bare feet. That puts me at over six feet in a pair of heels – and those heels – I have to buy them in online shops for crossdressers, because I wear women’s size 12 (men’s size 10-½). At least what you find displeasing in your body can be cacheted from the rest of the world behind a pair of attractive panties. I would gladly trade with displeases you with what diespleases me. I do grow wearing of all the questions of whether I am a transsexual.

    I sincerely hope J is like I am when I think of Sir. I hope he finds you truly beautiful with all of his heart that he worships you exactly the way you are – despite your allegedly oversized labia, all of the tiny lines, the blemishes, the scratches, the tiny flaws in your skin. I do not judge my Dominant’s genitals based on magazine photos. I worship them because they are an integral part of him. I know that those picture-perfect genitals in magazines cannot do to me, what a skilled Dominant can do to me. And so I find my Dominant imperfectly perfect. I am J finds you no different at all, and worships you as his epitome of imperfect perfection.

    • I understand and sympathise with your displeasure in that part of your body. They say every woman has some part of her body she’s dissatisfied with. [. . .] I would gladly trade with displeases you with what diespleases me.

      This actually does make me feel better! Not that you’re displeased with your height, but knowing that most women (most people) have issues just like I do. It does help… at least I know I’m not the only one who focuses on something that shouldn’t matter at all. :)

      J is like I am when I think of Sir. I hope he finds you truly beautiful with all of his heart that he worships you exactly the way you are

      I think J is like that. J isn’t the problem. It’s me. For whatever reason (again, self-centeredness), I never really believe stuff like that. It’s not a “constant reassurance” thing, it’s an “I don’t believe you because I hate this thing, so you must hate this thing too.”

      Sad… but true. :)

      J finds you no different at all, and worships you as his epitome of imperfect perfection.

      Noooo! I am perfectly perfect! I’m perfect! Ok, I’m not, but I’m damn close. :)

  4. I’m normally prideful of my pussy (it does a great job) and not at all that interested in my labia. I think mine are big (??), but I decided a long time ago to not give a shit. I feel quite apathetic about them, actually, and since I figured out how to wear jeans commando without them getting pinched in the crotch, I rather rarely even think about them (btw, the trick is to wear jeans that actually fit).

    But I hear ya. It’s a weird thing all around. I’ll admit to being slightly ashamed about my chin hair, though. Just slightly. I mean, fuck it if some dude can’t handle the occasional chick whisker.

    • I decided a long time ago to not give a shit.

      That’s my goal: to not give a shit. Rational brain knows this. Emo brain does not listen.

      Ok, also? Pinched labia? OUCH! I read that line and realized I was crossing my legs really tightly. I wonder if that’s like men hearing about crotch accidents and instinctively covering their junk?

      I’ll admit to being slightly ashamed about my chin hair, though. Just slightly. I mean, fuck it if some dude can’t handle the occasional chick whisker.

      Yes to this. Also, pluck that fucker if you want to. Make that hair serve as an example to other, potential hairs… if any of you baby hairs decide to break on through, know that this is your fate… you’ll be plucked and discarded just like this one… consider yourselves warned!!!

      (apparently, I imagine you talking to your facial hair) :)

  5. I’m proud of all your labia (labii?) – you know what I mean.

    • I’m proud of all your labia (labii?) – you know what I mean.

      Why thank you. If I had the ability to move them of my own free will, I’d make them clap for that comment.

      Also, I think “labia” is plural and labium is singular, but usage is all over the place. Some sources seem to use “labia” as both singular and plural.

      It’s weird — a little like pair of jeans or pair of scissors. Is “jean” (singular) just one pant leg? Is “scissor” (singular) just one blade? But worse than all of that… what’s with “pair of panties”?

      Wow. I just turned into an awful Seinfeld impression… and now I hate myself for that…

      :)

  6. I often wonder where the dissatisfaction with one’s labia even starts. (not criticizing, actual curiosity there).

    I mean, body shape and size I get, we get lambasted all over the place with pictures of what we “should” look like. I find it’s hard to not have body issues of some type.. even if slight. But the labia… where do we decide what it “should” look like? Outside of porn, it’s hardly on display. Within porn, labia sizes and shapes are all over the map. So what is a pretty labia look like anyway?

    But than I wonder, if maybe it was simply my exposure that made me so indifferent. Being bi-sexual and enjoying porn… I’ve seen a lot of labia up close and personnel… and never once found one so repugnant that I even thought to stop and go “ewwww”. I wonder if my indifference is derived from my personnel feelings towards others.

    Wish I could bottle it up and give it to you. It’s been a wonderful coping tool in dealing with recent and upcoming vulvar surgery due to health issues. The scars, the drastic change in shape and size… there’s no doubt they can be officially classified as deformed now. Personally, I take my huge, flappy labia over this any day. Yet, once the healing was done and life came back to normal.. it was easy to see nothing had changed. Not about me as a whole at least. So with round two coming up…I’m no longer concerned about what they’ll look like. I have no doubt I’ll be back to my normal self in a couple of months.

    Wish you luck

    • I often wonder where the dissatisfaction with one’s labia even starts. (not criticizing, actual curiosity there). [. . ] Within porn, labia sizes and shapes are all over the map [. . ] But than I wonder, if maybe it was simply my exposure that made me so indifferent.

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, it was porn. I never gave labia a second thought until I saw porn in my mid-twenties. After that, I came to think I was abnormal.

      But… I didn’t watch a ton of porn (or even a lot of it). So, I think you’re right in thinking that exposure to variety — whether from porn or experience — is healthy. It would have been better for me to either not have seen any porn or watched a lot more of it. It was the middle ground that did me in.

      In recent years, I have realized there’s a lot more variety out there (but still, I’m not a huge consumer of porn — most of it doesn’t do it for me). Unfortunately, the feeling of being “abnormal” or ugly isn’t so easy to shake. My rational brain knows I’m beautiful, normal, etc., but my emo brain is embarrassed and ashamed anyway.

      Wish I could bottle it up and give it to you. It’s been a wonderful coping tool in dealing with recent and upcoming vulvar surgery due to health issues [. . .] I have no doubt I’ll be back to my normal self in a couple of months.

      Thank you — that’s incredibly touching! I’m sorry to hear about your upcoming surgery, but glad to hear that your self-awareness and positive self-image are coping tools for you. It’s stories like yours that make me realize how very silly I am for caring at all. I’m healthy, happy, and that should be all that matters.

      Good luck to you, Maggie. I wish you a speedy recovery. :)

      • “Unfortunately, the feeling of being “abnormal” or ugly isn’t so easy to shake. My rational brain knows I’m beautiful, normal, etc., but my emo brain is embarrassed and ashamed anyway.”

        Completely understand. In a weird way, raising a daughter who is now at the age where sexuality is coming to it’s peak… this is my biggest fear for her. Body issues can be so debilitating, it’s probably the one thing in life I want for her to avoid the most. But you start to realize how HARD that is in today’s day and age. You just can’t simply tell them they are beautiful just the way they are when they are bombarded with comparisons everywhere.

        • @Maggie:

          In a weird way, raising a daughter who is now at the age where sexuality is coming to it’s peak… this is my biggest fear for her.

          I can’t even imagine the fear that comes with raising a daughter for just that reason. I have nieces and goddaughters and whenever I get the chance to pay them a compliment, it’s always about their intelligence, curiosity, creativity, or kindness. Even in what little contact I have with them, I constantly hear adults telling them how beautiful they are, how pretty, how cute they look. While all of that is true, I just wish the compliments were a little more balanced.

  7. I completely agree with you. We should not need Pussy Pride. I wish we didn’t need it but sadly I think we do and any dialogue or discussion on this subject that helps people to communicate with others is worth doing.

    I want that email *gives hard stare…. I think over time the Pussy Pride Project has developed into something beyond pride, maybe into a truth. Many of the posts people have written are not happy positive ones, many of them are not full of pride but by writing them they share a truth and truth is a powerful thing. I would love for you to write a piece for the project. All stories and voices are welcome we all have something to offer to this conversation.

    Mollyxxx

    • I want that email *gives hard stare….

      Ha! I can feel it from here! Your hard stare is incredibly effective!

      I think the email would make you sad though, and really, it was just my asking whether my earlier post could be part of the project. :) While it’s a whole bunch of sad admissions and self-deprecating humor, I’m still really proud of it, and proud of myself for writing it and putting it out there for the world.

      Pussy Pride Project has developed into something beyond pride, maybe into a truth. Many of the posts people have written are not happy positive ones, many of them are not full of pride but by writing them they share a truth and truth is a powerful thing.

      Oh! I love that! It is a sort of truth project!

      All stories and voices are welcome we all have something to offer to this conversation.

      It’s a good project, Molly, and you’re a good woman for hosting it and encouraging so many voices. :)

  8. Hmm. You’ve brought it up before and I never commented because it’s not a trigger topic for me, but it’s also never something I really paid much attention to except from a place of accepting it like any other part of my body. Not super special but not super unspecial either.

    Now you have me curious, though. What are you using to compare yourself to that makes you feel your bits are somehow extraordinarily unacceptable to you as they are? What norm or standard, that is, are you using? Porn is just all kinds of bad for comparison, for example, and I’m trying to think what else you’d have a source of comparison unless you’ve had a wide experience in looking at a statistically representative sample of them in one way or another.

    • Now you have me curious, though. What are you using to compare yourself to that makes you feel your bits are somehow extraordinarily unacceptable to you as they are? What norm or standard, that is, are you using?

      Good question. I’m sure you’re shocked, but I have a longish answer. :)

      The short answer is porn… but not really porn.

      The long answer is that I think I saw some porn where most of them women were tucked in, or had smaller labia, and it was sort of shocking to me because I assumed most women looked like me (because I hadn’t seen a lot of women, so I guess I thought labia were like elbows… slight variations, but basically all the same).

      It wasn’t long-term exposure or programming where I compared myself to women I saw in porn, but it was more like the idea got stuck in my head and never left. I “realized” I was ugly down there, and that idea stuck. I got fearful to show myself to men, embarrassed to be seen, scared to let anyone go down on me…

      And I guess the idea just stuck. And IT’S STILL FUCKING THERE! And seriously… what’s up with that? I’m educated, I understand all women are different (and some people even prefer larger labia!), but still, once it’s in my head, it just doesn’t go away.

      I still get skittish when my current partner sees me and he isn’t otherwise occupied. It ruins things, and it sucks, and meh… I’m just stubborn.

      what else you’d have a source of comparison unless you’ve had a wide experience in looking at a statistically representative sample of them in one way or another

      Ha! I’m not sure that any sample I’ve seen is statistically representative, but certainly representative of variety.

      I guess it’s no different than someone who hates one of their body parts for whatever reason — she may know she’s normal, hear it’s attractive, know in her brain it’s fine… but still can’t seem to get past it.

      (Umm… not as if it’s something I think of everyday all day long, mind you. It’s just the Salon.com piece that got me thinking of it again.)

  9. Long answers are good! I left out a couple of words but yay! you got the gist of it.

    I get where you’re coming from; you got imprinted at an impressionable time with an ideal that was radically different from what you had, and that concept has been giving you an inferiority complex ever since.

    That is a tough one, and I’m not sure how to work around that. Maybe visit a bathhouse and learn to be less self-conscious not just about your bits but about the rest of your body, too?

    • Bathhouse? Ummm… no thank you. :)

      Also, I have my moments, but I’m okay with the rest of my body. I’m pretty fucking hot, actually. :) It’s definitely not low self-esteem… it’s um, low labia esteem? (the pun was not intended, but I’ll take it!)

      • Hey, if you’ve got it, work it. Nothing wrong with that. :)

        Uh…labial dysmorphia? Labia majoris dysmorphic disorder…okay, I’m going to stop there! *laughing*

  10. “Better yet, if you have a magic don’t-give-a-fuck potion, I’d appreciate the recipe.”

    Found it! You even put it up on your own site silly: http://dumbdomme.com/2012/11/bdsm-lexicon-entry-22-protocol.html

    The Dumb Domme cocktail. Enough of those and you’ll be ‘not-giving-a-fuck’ in no time!

    *Warning; Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, loss of memory, loss of clothes, significant property damage, insignificant (human) property damage, light blindness, migraines, loss of balance control, uncontrollable laughter, loss of motor control, slurred speech, and loss of bladder control. Merdorolli inc is not responsible for any harm to yourself or others do to use of The Dumb Domme cocktail. Drink wisely.

    • The Dumb Domme cocktail. Enough of those and you’ll be ‘not-giving-a-fuck’ in no time!

      Dammit! I hadn’t thought of that before… and the answer’s been here the whole time!

      *Warning; Side effects may include . . .

      Since we’re being thorough, you forgot hair loss and impaired judgment… :)

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