Twenty years ago I read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. In it she talked about the mass consumption of conventional concepts of beauty as the new oppressor of women and rallied for the what she called the third wave of feminism.

the-beauty-myth1Twenty years ago she was appalled by what she saw as the growth of the plastic surgery industry in response to women’s desire to meet unachievable physical goals.

Looking back, the text reads like science fiction; how could Wolf have known the psycho/sexual/social landscape where we women now wander and that surgical reconstruction, remodeling, rejuventations, injections, lifts, tucks and fat sucks should become so normalized, and so relatively accessible for the everyday woman?

Plastic surgery was once only in the domain of the wealthy meant for movie stars with too much cash and too little self esteem. But these days my local GP can not only give me a script for antibiotics, he can also shoot my forehead full of botox. Does this infer that ageing has become a illness?

Since the advent of consumer-friendly plastic surgery, grown up girls have been indulging in what I can only describe as socially acceptable self-mutilation. Teenage girls sit in bedrooms around the world cutting themselves, preparing them for the day when they’ll pay someone else to cut them. It’s sick.

A flick through a women’s mag the other day prepared me for the most disturbing revelation of all… The most popular elective surgery? Labioplasty. Yep. Alongside worrying about wrinkles, cellulite, unwanted hair and yellowing teeth we must now worry about whether or not our twats measure up.

I had no idea that there was a perfect aesthetic when it came to the vagina. I haven’t really gone around showing mine to that many people for critiques’ and testimonials so I guess its hard to gauge what is normal, although I have to admit I’ve never had any complaints. ‘I’m not coming over this week Mandy, your labia is too unruly. There’s barely anywhere to sit!’

At what point did women start thinking that trimming their labia was going to make them happy? That it would answer the questions as to why their children were doing poorly at school, or the girls hadn’t asked them to luncheon, or hubby had been so distant? I can’t fathom why women would choose to pay over $10,000 to electively trim their labia when there’s so many other ways of enhancing your life, like putting in a swimming pool, going on a yoga retreat, or growing back your pubic hair.


Kama_VaginaWall-thumb-620x411-52036The Great Wall of Vagina” by Jamie McCartney: 400 plaster casts of female genitalia.


You see, I blame the Brazilian. In the day of the hairy beaver women didn’t worry about whether or not their vag was up to scratch. You couldn’t see it. Once nature’s fuzzy pixilation or ‘pubes’ are removed its curtain call for the labia! Women have suddenly seen their labia and become perplexed. That just can’t be right!

Unless of a girl on girl persuasion, chances are most women have only seen the nice tidy Photoshopped vaginas of internet porn. In comparison, their vaginas aren’t neat enough. They are too chaotic, too random. Too like something from War of the Worlds. As one of my favourite feminist writers Kathy Acker once described female genitalia, too much like ‘an upside down strangled jellyfish’.

Labioplasty treats female genatalia like it’s some sort of entertaining area. It’s like getting the landscapers in to take out the dividing wall, erect a giant Buddha, a BBQ setting and a Bali Hut for those meditative moments. Hey, there’s already a water feature!

labia-mouseDesigner vaginas aren’t cheap. I don’t do designer, I’m more of a budget shopper. I’m talking K-mart, Target and the odd spot of Vinnies. Can you get a designer vag on Ebay? Even then it would probably be out of my reach. If I wanted to get a new vagina I’d have to find mine on Gumtree.

So to all the long labia-ed girls out there in fear of their voluminous flaps destroying their lives, I would say get over it. Men don’t actually care. I’ve never heard anyone say ‘Well I had to end the relationship because of her uneven labia.’ Labias can actually be useful. If you are ever in a situation like the Virgin Mary, and have to ride a donkey sidesaddle at full term then my money is on the girls with the curtains.

They’ve got the grip. Why not keep yours?




I Don’t Have a Cushion Problem

I’m Reporting Gillard to DOCS

What’s Eating Our Girls?

Still Life With Housewife

If I Were You… I’d Stay in Bed

nolan*Mandy Nolan is a Renaissance Woman. Not just a stand up comedian of 27 years, she is also a teacher and writer of comedy, a journalist, a painter and creator of a commonwealth funded humour therapy course for people with dementia. She’s also a mother of 5 and an ex-wife to many more. You can go to her website here.



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  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Like most, the girls with the curtains~ ha!!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    When the focus of aspiration shifts from models and actresses to porn stars then Houston, we have a problem. A big, big problem. Women pay attention to things men like and try to emulate them. It used to be breasts and lips were the main focus. If they see the impossibly perfect genitalia in pornography as that which men desire they will try to produce something to the same effect. There’s so many layers of bad to this I’m not sure where to begin. It makes me a sad Keanu.

  • Reply June 4, 2013

    Karen Reid

    I watched a doco on SBS about it. Truly frightening. Young women are getting this done. Stop it ladies just stop it!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    “The Beauty Myth” was twenty years ago?! I thought it was really recent!
    I had no idea anyone cared what they looked like ‘down there’. I doubt any bloke who has actually reached the point of encountering the labia is going to turn back because of the visuals…

  • Reply June 4, 2013

    Rachel @ Reality Chick

    Love your work Mandy. I’m not opposed to basic maintenance, but messing surgically with your hoo-ha should be out-lawed.

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Great article. Thanks. And I loved “The Great Wall of Vagina”. That’s awesome for the representation and celebration of all shapes and sizes!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    This whole ‘let’s reconstruct our labia’s’ thing just makes my head fall into my dinner with sadness and frustration. I agree with Mandy where it all started – the Brazilian. My first (and only) Brazilian was by default and misunderstanding. The hagged looking beautician, exhausted by the 50 other Brazilian’s she’d done that morning, didn’t hear me say “Oh I haven’t had a wax job for about 5 years, so is it still called a Bikini Wax?” and she ripped the whole lot off anyway.

    I was appalled. Aghast. And needed 5 gins to deal with the insane amount of pain and fried nerves. Honestly I left the place shaking. I guess she just didn’t think. I guess she just doesn’t get requests for modest bikini waxes.

    I like my labia the way it is, thank you. And I’m currently furnishing a ‘winter look’ to my pubic hair, since there’s no damn need to get a wax until summer comes and young children scream and run from me if I don’t.

    For god’s sake girlies. The human body is designed for certain practicalities. That thing cops a bashing! Leave your labia alone and grow some protective hair for Christ’s sake!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Agreed Rachel – maintained healthily, not surgically altered.
    Women who have lived life and are real are far more attractive in every way than some reconstructed doll.

    Just a wild guess but I feel that someone whose priority is ‘make it pretty’ isn’t going to be quite so focussed on experiencing all potential pleasure. Or am I out of line?

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    The vagina is just a tube opening into the area, the area of which we speak is the vulva why can’t we get it right….I can understand blokes getting it wrong but girls…..

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Janetta – I guess that never being able to remember which ‘v’ bit is named which shows how much interest I have in what’s down there. Bottom line is that it all works OK so what the heck, end of story!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Seriously, ladies its called bumping uglies for a reason – have you e-v-e-r seen good looking male genitalia? And as for the gentlemen, I suspect they couldn’t give a flying one about the decor as long as they can get into the venue.

    Sometimes I just despair at the willingness of people to go along with every fleeting brain fart that passes for fashion. If your girl bits aren’t giving you grief, be grateful and leave them the heck alone.

  • Reply June 4, 2013

    Matty Silver

    I am not sure that the surgeons who are happily cutting off pieces of labia realise the additional problems that can occur with this procedure.

    The labia is a highly sensitive sexual organ and plays an important role for sexual response. It is dense with nerve endings and sensory receptors, which are highly sensitive to light touch.
    The main function of the vulva is to give pleasure and labiaplasty has the obvious potential to destroy an erogenous zone and can lead to lack of arousal and impede orgasmic responses. Check out this blog:


  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Last year just before my 50th I had need to see a Gyno to discuss removing a cyst on my lower outer labia that had regularly become inflamed. While he was ‘down there’ explaining that he could easily remove the said cyst he mentioned that he could also ‘tidy up’ the longer of my inner labia so they were more symmetrical. (I must mention I have been married for nearly 30 years so other than various doctors/nurses no one had seen my ‘bits’ other that my hubby).
    I felt slightly pressured into the procedure as he made it sound so easy and as he would be ‘down there’ anyway I would feel no extra discomfort. He processed the forms quick I could have the procedure the following Wednesday. All was fine until the anesthetic wore off. I was too scared to find a mirror to look, I felt so swollen and sore. I visited my GP 3 times the next week, as I couldn’t see if it was healing, was put on antibiotics as a matter of caution, given stronger pain meds and clearer instructions on how to care for the sore area. It felt like I had had an episiotomy again (3 babies by natural birth) it took 4 weeks to really feel ‘normal’ again. (luckily it was over summer so could wear skirts and dresses a’ la commando). Now a few months later I really miss that bit of me that has been taken away, it was me!, it didn’t cause me any problems but now its gone I feel I wasn’t given enough time to process to think about the implications. Maybe being a bit older I fell under the ‘Doctor knows best’ school of thought and seeing magazines etc mention that this was a procedure that other women had researched and wanted then maybe I should too and the surgeon being a male is that how men wanted women to look. (hubby obviously hadn’t cared what it looked like)
    I feel so foolish now. I haven’t told anyone about it. I wish I never had it done to me. I did call the surgeon’s rooms to let him know of my inadequate aftercare and as he was on holidays his receptions said she would pass on the message. He rang me the next day from his overseas holiday and was astonished to find that I was so sore and unhappy. I have never seem him again and wont let anyone near me again.

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    My husband was recently in hospital his mates purchased him a Penthouse – it was frightening the girls had been photo shopped so much they had no labia they were sealed up like a Barbie doll- it was horrifying !!!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    oh dear, oh dear, oh bloody dear!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    It’s your vulva
    Leave it well alone from the scalpel blade
    It’s beautiful shrouded with hair, a little tidy up on the sides for summer can keeps things nice, if you choose
    I do despair this surgery, a Brazilian, think girls think, is is what you want or are you pandering to a bloke and advertising

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Great . I have enought to worry about I can but agree with Jill- oh dear…………

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    I think it’s incredible that your mum or your sisters don’t show you their genitals! Men see eachothers’ in the locker rooms and at urinals I suppose. Imagine not EVER seeing another real vagina/labia except your own!! That is so repressive! Labia are like layers of petals; petals are rarely symmetrical. Commercial porn is not real. If you love porn watch home made stuff by real people with real bodies, or make your own. Leave labia out of the latest round of war against women please.

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Thank you, Janetta. I have made this very point recently re another article in Hoopla. It makes me rather sad that we dont have enough respect for our own ‘bits’ to use the correct anatomical names when referring to them.Is it any wonder that males aren’t bothered. Wendy, maybe a bit of editorial interference might actually be good thing in these circumstances??
    As for cutting off a useful, for FUN, part of your body because it looks ‘different’ !! I truly do despair!!!!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    I can’t help but think that this is really a form of genital on earth has it become socially acceptable? Have we really moved on from foot binding and female circumcision ladies? Surely removal or trimming the vulva is removing erogenous zones. Men would never subject themselves to this! I am really sad to think of the whole industry now assembled around and profiting from this, making it that much harder to get rid of.
    As for Brazilians, shudder, what is
    the attraction of having a vulva that looks like that of a pre pubescent girl, it really is deservedly pornographic. I’m so glad I am not a teenager under all this pressure. My niece has practically had her whole body lasered to remove hair permanently from everywhere and at great expense. When did hairless become beautiful, just think of all those gorgeous Modigliani nudes with a discrete little triangle of hair, they are beautiful, discrete vulvas, imagine a current day Modigliani, no mystery or beauty.

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    The average guy doesn’t care that much. All he want is occasional access. All cats look alike in the dark.

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    ask man if he is really focused on what it looks like before he takes the plunge and he will tell you he is just focused on the act and not on the actor.
    how stupid have we all become?
    who is telling us we are not acceptable and why are we listening?

    • Reply June 4, 2013


      Who’s saying what’s acceptable? Just about everyone making comment on this article! You know, we may have evolved to have pubic hair for a reason (which becomes immediately clear when weeing by the side of the road on long car trips) but honestly, it’s a real pain in the ass otherwise and serves little purpose that I’m aware of. It’s itchy, uncomfortable, and it means I have to get in the shower a whole lot quicker after a run. Life without it is just that bit easier… and not because a porn movie told me so. Don’t knock the XXX ’til you try it!

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    I love the Latin in me~ labia minor and major, clitoris, vulva, vagina. Anyway….thanks for sharing some of your ouch stories. I hope the pain goes away soon~ and the pleasure returns. As a young lesbian feminist me and my then girlfriend had a lot of exploratory fun with a mirror and a plastic speculum. In a good light, you too can do this. Many hours later, I still feel amused about the idea of labia as curtains…

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    Unfortunately I do know of one revolting man who told his girlfriend song with all his mates that he couldn’t be with her because she had an ugly vagina and he couldn’t stand gong down on her. I think it iris so sad that young women feel like this is yet another area where they need to look an unattainable stereotype. To be honest I think labia in general are ugly ( including mine) but who cares they’re not on it heads and given they’re

  • Reply June 4, 2013

    Max McGee

    Brazillians are not to blame….
    You need to look into magazines like “Picture” and “Playboy” who now photoshop any “dangly bits” from shot as apparently that isn’t what readers want. (They never asked me).
    Unfortunately this trend is dictacting vaginal fashion and it is so unfortunate to know woman out there are trimming themselves for this reason.
    I for one am a fan of the “vagine” in all its form, they are unique works of nature’s art and should be left as is. They are not made for aesthetics, neither are the opposite sex’s equivilent.

    I once heard a gynologist say “I’ve been looking at them for years and I haven’t seen a pretty one yet”.

    Girls… leave them alone. Mandy do more research.
    Max McGee.

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    little girls should be shown pictures of vaginas in all their glory all the way through their lives just to reassure them ‘this is it” the vagina isn’t beautiful but neither is the male genitalia!

  • Reply June 4, 2013

    Sue Lappeman

    I saw the headline for this story and thought it was about Michael Douglas and his recent announcement about how he caught throat cancer – which he has now denied he said. Which would make him a cunning linguist anyway.

    • Reply June 4, 2013


      Thanks Sue for reminding me about where the G goes….and meanwhile, still very humoured by the idea of labia as curtains.

  • Reply June 4, 2013


    I have just been playing spot me in the picture~ I might have to go back and have another look at the artwork~ a strange and curious subject which has given and taken pleasure from me~ French woman Luce Irrigaray(s.p) once wrote a piece called “When Our Lips Speak Together”. Mm. Something to think about…(again)

  • Reply June 5, 2013


    I shave, not wax…..all of it. Not because of how it looks, but because it enhances sex. As someone noted, there are thousands of nerve endings down there. How it looks is not an issue, if my partner likes it, that’s a bonus. A young girl changing herself cosmetically because she doesn’t like the look of her ‘lady bits’ is frightening and extreme.

  • Reply June 5, 2013


    Tracey~ I have to ask~ do you use an electric shaver?

  • Reply June 6, 2013


    Not an electric shaver, a men’s 5 blade razor. No cuts if like anything else you do to yourself, you’re careful. It doesn’t make me feel pre-pubescent, after twenty years it is normal and natural to me. Doesn’t itch either. It saddens me that in this day and age, so many women and girls are still looking to others to discover what’s normal, or at least, their perception of it.

  • Reply June 6, 2013


    You mean vulva, not vagina.

    The vagina is the actual canal, the vulva is the part with all the lips, curtains etc. 😉

    I keep seeing this confusion everywhere and I don’t understand it.
    Vagina on the indside, vulva on the out.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Nel Matheson

    When there is no child labour, when no child goes hungry, when all human beings are treated equally, when world peace is achieved, when global warming is conquered, when multinationals contribute all their profits to third world countries – then I might consider labial surgery. My advice is to get ones head out of ones vagina and get a grip on reality. Pathetic!

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Janet G

    So we outlawed female genital mutilation but then you went and elected to do it to yourselves. For whom?????

  • Reply June 8, 2013


    So Scarey!!! A couple of months ago on Radio Natioal they were talking about Brazilions (of the waxing kind) and they were refering to this development simply as “good grooming”. Oh yes and that Gyno’s never saw pubic hair anymore. AND this was on theABC!!! I like my bush and fanny and can’t believe the pressure to wax it all off. After the RN programme I became a little obsessed. I went through every trash mag I cold find and began to notice that NONE of the models or celebs in swimsuits had a small mound where pubic hair should be. I am so troubled by this and cutting off women’s parts. Does scociety not want women any more? Rather f34kabe girl vages attached to breasted women?

  • Reply June 8, 2013


    Have you seen a vagina when a woman is giving birth? There is a reason for all those loose folds-to allow stretching. So these young woman who have mutilated themselves will either have to have a Caesarian or risk tearing themselves from clitoris to anus as the baby is crowning. Makes me shudder to think about it. I love my “curtains”. They allowed me a safe uncomplicated natural birth. Would not trade them for anything.

  • Reply June 15, 2013


    Oh woman, let’s support each other until you do something I disagree with and them I will judge and shame you.
    What is the collective noun for a group of judgmental women on the internet? A hoopla?

  • Reply June 18, 2013


    Actually men who are really into women care a great deal about this. And not just because of the aesthetics. They are just too polite to say anything.
    I personally know men who have broken up with women because of it.
    At the same time, I know women who refuse to have relationships with uncircumcised men.
    Preference exists. It’s life. Deal with it.

  • Reply June 26, 2013


    mine is tidy – ie no labia to be seen…I’m now starting to think this is not right as a majority now after the picture! Tho I do agree that vaginaplasty is too extreme…

  • Reply June 26, 2013


    […] For The Love of Labia […]

  • […] For The Love of Labia […]

  • Reply August 22, 2013


    […] For the Love of Labia […]

  • Reply November 24, 2013

    Alf Arnold

    Never seen one that any man would reject , only thing that bothers me is the jungle you have to climb thru or that other thing ,I forget it name but its on the tip of my tounge.
    You do what you think is attractive ladies, and forget what others think just keep it clean.

  • […] For The Love of Labia […]

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