I'm Embarrassed by My Large Labia | Ask Athena | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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I'm Embarrassed by My Large Labia

Published April 16, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Dear Athena,

I have large inner labia and I'm embarrassed to show this area when having sex with my husband. I feel abnormal. And I hear rude jokes about women with large labia. My doctor even told me it's rare. So is it really? Am I abnormal?


Labia Low

Dear LL,

You are absolutely not abnormal. And shame on your doctor. He or she should have been the first person to tell you that every body is shaped differently. One leg might be longer than the other, one breast might be fuller and one eye higher or lower ... you get the idea. Here's what the excellent website labialibrary.org.au says:

"About half of all women have labia minora that are longer than the labia majora. There is a lot of variation in the size of the labia minora, and a study reported in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that there is nothing unusual about having labia minora that are longer than the labia majora. Some women have innies and others have outies."

The site also suggests that most people don't know much about what healthy genitals look like, and that magazines and pornography influence opinions. The Labia Library reminds us that Photoshop is used in most magazine images, and encourages education as a way to get past self-criticism and unhealthy ideas about what is "normal."

What strikes me most about your question is that you feel embarrassed to show your whole self to your husband. Have you told him how you feel? If not, then you're not revealing your whole emotional self, either, and I encourage you to speak openly with him. He might feel insecure about one or more of his body parts, too, and welcome the discussion. I think we all wish we were a little different in one way or another. I wouldn't mind having longer legs and fuller lips, for example. But at the end of the day, being able to embrace your body and feel proud of all its parts is essential to whole-body wellness. Not to mention a much better sexual experience.

Good sex involves letting go. If your mind is elsewhere, your body can't be present. And if you're worrying about how you "should" look, it will certainly inhibit a rollicking roll in the hay with your husband. Practice being truly present when you're getting intimate. Forget about whatever troubles you had that day and just be in the moment.

By the way, your self-consciousness is not at all abnormal, either: Our culture seems to focus on what we should be changing or buying or wearing or eating to make us better. We are constantly encouraged to feel that what we do or have, or how we do look, isn't good enough. But really, no one has the right to dictate how you feel about yourself. I say, kick that crapola to the curb. You've got one body, one mind and one life; be proud and confident in your individuality, and enjoy.