Dear My Little Yoni: How do I help my daughter to love her Vulva?
“Dear My Little Yoni,
My daughter just told me she wants labiaplasty! I don’t even understand where she got this idea from, but she is begging me for this surgery to alter her genitals. She’s only 16! Should I let her do it? How can I convince her she’s perfect just as she is!” -Amanda
Dear Amanda, I understand your concern. Sadly, it’s no surprise to me that your daughter is so young and asking for this surgery. I commend you for attempting to steer her away from this unnecessary procedure. For those who don’t know, Labiaplasty is a procedure that trims the vulva’s inner lips, or labia minora. Labiaplasty in girls 18 and younger jumped up to 49% in one year alone. Between 2015 and 2016, over 200 girls under 18 underwent the procedure, with over 150 of them being under 15. Young women are becoming increasingly concerned with ‘vaginal normalcy.’ Ironically, ‘vaginal normalcy’ has nothing to do with your vagina being normal, but is an idea predicated by increases in edited images of vulvas and pornography. However, young women aren’t the only ones with these concerns. 73% of women know someone who’s embarrassed by their vagina. Ultimately, it’s your daughter’s body, and she’s able to choose what she wants to do with it. But, letting her know the facts about labiaplasty and her labia minora before she makes this decision can only help.
‘Normal’ labia come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s common for the labia minora to stick out past the outer lips of the vagina. Your labia have an important job! They protect the vaginal opening, which is made of delicate mucosa tissue, and filled with highly-sensitive nerve endings. Your labia block harmful bacteria from interfering with this sensitive area of your body. No matter the size, no labia minora are better than others, and these attitudes come from cultural cues your daughter receives.
Small labia have become a cultural norm, due to female performers in the adult film industry having small labia. If this is all young girls see, it’s becomes desirable to them. Take this opportunity to remind your daughter that pornography isn’t real and that some of these performers have gotten labiaplasty themselves. Even for those performers who didn’t, the performer was chosen because of arbitrary industry standards. Show your daughter some images of diverse vulvas, so she knows that yonis come in all shapes and sizes, and are all beautiful.
Pubic hair tends to play a role in the increase of labiaplasty as well. The rise in labiaplasty has been linked to the popularity of the Brazilian wax. The hairless trend makes women more aware of their yoni’s appearance, and often self-conscious. This isn’t to say don’t let your daughter groom her pubic hair, but this is another link in this trend. Explaining to your daughter this correlation allows her to realize this is a trend, and not something she should get surgery over.
An integral influence I see in the trend of labiaplasty: lack of education! Many women feel embarrassed by their yonis, because they can’t fathom that their yonis are NORMAL! Providing sources of education, where your daughter sees that she isn’t alone in this, may help her realize she doesn’t need surgery. I highly recommend the book Vulva Diversity. This book showcases illustrations of diverse vulvas, and includes insights from real women talking about their attitudes towards their yonis. If she’s not interested in a book, there’s an amazing vulva diversity Instagram, and you can always share the My Little Yoni Instagram with her too! I post educational and body positive messages every week. Finding a community to show your daughter she’s normal will instill a new sense of confidence, and maybe change her decision. Opening up the conversation to YOUR attitude towards your yoni helps your daughter see that her relationship to her vulva can change.
Before your daughter makes a life-changing decision to get labiaplasty she should know the risks. Although 91% of women who have this surgery feel satisfied with their genital's appearance, there’s no comprehensive data about the long-term effects. The female body changes throughout your life, so there’s no telling how labiaplasty will affect women through the different phases of life. Depending on when your daughter began puberty, her yoni’s appearance might change, since labias increase in size during this process. Her body will go through several changes throughout her lifetime, especially if she decides to have children. The problem is, there’s no telling how this surgery can affect her and there’s no conclusive evidence on the risks. She needs to consider all these facts before going through with surgery.
As a Yoni, I often want to throw my hands up at the thought of labiaplasty. Really!? Another body part that women need to worry about changing for societal approval? But I also understand that shame around the Yoni is complex, and that young women are fed messages that small labia equal sexually desirable. With plastic surgery, my best advice is to make sure YOU want it for YOU. Not due to outside pressure. Your daughter needs to take in this information and decide if it’s something SHE wants. It has to be 100% her! Knowing that she’s normal, that other women have complex relationships to their vulva’s appearance, and that there’s no telling what effect it will have on her body, allows her to make an informed decision. That’s the best you can do for her, educate her. For anyone else that needs to hear this: Your yoni is normal, you are normal! Keep this in mind ladies, and spread that labia love.