Do you have labia shame? Have you ever shamed some labes? Throughout my years working with women and sexuality, I have heard a lot of questions and commentary about labia. What are “normal” labia? Those nether lips that some women have never even looked at can bring about a whole new realm of physical insecurity and concern about body image. Not only are women worried about what their labia look like and the response of a lover, most women never have a chance to see what other women look like. Women who have sex with women have the honour of seeing a little variety of labes. Straight women may go their whole lives without ever seeing another woman’s vulva.
Usually size is the biggest concern, as well as symmetry. In labia land, size does seem to matter. The latin words used to describe the two sets of lips are sizeist. Here’s a little review:
Labia Majora makes it sounds as though we are talking about some “major labes” . As far as location, these are the lips that are on the outside, or further away from the vaginal opening. These lips usually have pubic hair on them (depending on what you have done with it!). I like to call these “outer labia” . Why not stick to location, vs. size? We all know that size is relative but the location of eyes, ears and noses are pretty standard.
Labia Minora referres to the labia that are further in, closer the the middle and the vaginal opening. I call these inner labia to be specific. The problem is there are many different shapes and sizes of these labes. Some women have very small inner labia, almost so tucked in that you may miss them. Other women have larger outer labia that may make you wonder who was labelling these in the first place and how well did they know their latin? Some labia are flowing and may resemble petals, others may remind you of theatrical drapery or curtains (what kind of miraculous surprise might appear from behind them?). Any other ideas come to mind? How would you describe the last labia/labes you saw?
I like the word “labes“… I started using it when an awesome and creative woman I know published a zine called “She’s Got Labe“. What a wonderful, empowering and reclaiming use of LABIA! While anyone may “have the guts” and the guys may “have the balls”, some women have the labe!
There are some really positive discussions and depictions of teh vast cariety of labia. I was sad to hear the photography book “Femailia” has gone out of print – a full colour book of around 50 different vulvas.
As for negative images, or those that may contribute to women’s insecurity, one thought is that perhaps it is over exposure to “porno pussy” that has created this problem. Anyone who has seen more than one mainstream porno film can see that there is a culture of “normal” labia being reinforced. While I am a big proponent and supporter of porn, there are many aesthetics in mainstream porn that are not only damaging to women, but to men as well. That may be the topic of a future blog.
I strongly suggest that we all take a good look at some labes! If you have some of your own, you don’t have to go very far to see them. A hand mirror and maybe a flashlight will really help you out. If your partner has some labes that she will let you look at and treat respectively, lucky you. Admiration might be nice too. If you would like to see examples of larger labia, check out these sites:
And find out how you can promote labia-loving, and discourage women from labia shame! Some women consider surgery as the way to normaize their labia. How far does this beauty /plastic surgery obsession need to go. Check out http://largelabialove.blogspot.com
Love those labes ladies! And for all you labia lovers out there, spread the word!