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Dear Dr. Kate: Are My Labia Normal?

Thu, Apr 8, 2010

Advice, What's Up Doc?

photo by robbie jim

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City and she answers your medical questions here once a week. To ask her your own question, click here.

Dear Dr. Kate,

My inner labia hangs down lower than my outer labia. I’ve always been self-conscious about this. You don’t see it very often in porn. How common (or freakishly uncommon) is this? And what do you think about labiaplasty to tidy them up?

– Hanging Out

Dear Hanging Out,

Actually, most women’s labia minora (inner lips) extend beyond the outer lips. It’s also common to have one labia that’s longer than the other — like our boobs and feet, we don’t always have the same sizes of our matched sets. So why don’t we see this reflected in porn? For the same reasons that most women have stretch marks and cellulite but you’ll never see them on a model: ads and porn are simply not meant to reflect reality. So please don’t have a doctor take a knife to your lady parts in pursuit of some ideal. Labiaplasty puts you at risk of bleeding, infection, scarring, and chronic pain…not the things you want to associate with your genitals. And there’s no need to take that risk when there’s nothing wrong with you.

– Dr. Kate
Gynotalk
dr_kate_100

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.

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18 Responses to “Dear Dr. Kate: Are My Labia Normal?”

  1. Madamoiselle L Says:

    Dr. Kate is SO right! People are often a little asymmetrical. As a Lactation Consultant, so many women “complain” that one breast is larger than the other, and I always have to assure then that EVERYBODY’S body is like this. (In most women, if they are right handed their left breast is bigger (about 95% of the time) if they are left handed the right breast is bigger (about 60% of the time) That’s so you can work with your dominant hand, and feed the baby on your non dominant side.

    As for your labia, please don’t have surgery on it! In addition to infection, chronic pain and other issues, some women who have this surgery suffer from lack of sensitivity. I’d rather have an “asymmetrical” labia, and be able to have a good time in bed, than have little or no sensation and a “perfectly shaped” one. And the risk of chronic pain! No thank you.

    IMO, the women in porn who really look TOO symmetrical, and who have barely visible inner labia look WEIRD. They actually LOOK like someone “Trimmed” them, and it doesn’t look healthy or natural. I’ve never heard of men who have wrinkly balls worrying about it (because they know there’s nothing WRONG with it. AW, so cute.) why should we worry about asymmetrical labia?

    Life’s difficult enough.

  2. Madamoiselle L Says:

    I was going to say, “men who have wrinkly balls or one hangin’ lower than the other don’t worry about it, because they know there is nothing TO worry about.” It’s NORMAL! (And cute.)

    I’ve never heard of a guy wanting a “testeoplasty” (?) unless he had cancer or something. Certainly NOT for just “symmetrical” balls. No way. It’s simply unnecessary.

  3. SS Says:

    @ H.O.:
    There used to be a great gallery on Betty Dodson’s site that celebrated the diversity of women’s different looks, but she’s had to take it down owing to new web/porn regulations, but you can still read the “artist’s statement” about her reasons for starting it (I think you’ll find it helpful).

    http://dodsonandross.com/genital-art-gallery-artists-statement

    I think it was on Betty’s site that I once followed a link to a different gallery, where you won’t see any “porn star lips”…

    Definitely NSFW:
    http://www.sexylabia.com/

    From what I’ve read, and as Dr. Kate says, this is super common. Surely there are better things to spend money on than genital surgery? Like lots and lots of red wine??

  4. figleaf Says:

    @Madamoiselle L: “I‚Äôve never heard of a guy wanting a ‚Äútesteoplasty‚ÄĚ” Hey, I nominate that one for comment of the week.

    I’d just add that while I don’t think guys know it’s normal for one testicle to hang lower than the other there’s an understanding that nobody really cares if they do. There are a couple of downsides to that, including the one where guys imagine their looks, plus hygiene, plus personality, plus conversational ability are going to help them either.

    Mostly, though, it’s smooth sailing… ok, wrinkly and one-lower-than-the-other sailing for men in the looks department.

    Just for the record, while Dr. Kate’s obviously the expert in this department, if you want a second opinion then over the years I’ve spent time naked with a lot of women and yes, definitely, virtually all adult women’s inner labia are exactly the way you describe yours: perfectly normal.

    One more thing about comparing yourself to porn stars: beyond the usual, obvious caveats, porn producers are aware that a number of jurisdictions (it’s proposed for all of Australia, for instance!) photographs showing only outer labia are legally considered “soft core” while visible inner labia can be labeled obscene. Thus, especially for larger porn producers with international audiences they’re going to look for models with smaller inner labia and/or they’ll use Photoshop to minimize them (while cleaning up all the zits, stretch marks, and wrinkles Kate mentions.)

    So yeah, definitely, please don’t think about labiaplasty to “tidy yourself” up!

    One more thing about Madamoiselle L’s comparisons with men: if men going to worry about the way something looks down there it’ll be about penis size instead. Which as a couple of Em & Lo’s Wise Guys pointed out a lot of men would get “enlarge-o-plastied” in a heartbeat. Which, considering the comments on that post, would also be unnecessary tinkering.

    figleaf

  5. Tusita Says:

    I’m a guy & I love to kiss & suck Outer labia & Inner Labia with so much enthusiasm & I don’t ever care about the size or the shape of it, as long as it’s clean & doesn’t stink!! F.Y.I. there’re a lot of guys there, who love to suck stinkies too!!!

  6. Johnny Says:

    Figleaf wrote: “if men going to worry about the way something looks down there it‚Äôll be about penis size instead.”

    Most guys, yeah. I may be the only guy in the world who’s worried about the size of his balls. I feel like they’re small compared to my penis. I also feel like balls have more to do with jeans-bulge than penis does. I wish my balls were bigger. Literally, I mean. I’m satisfied with my figurative balls.

    Girls have laughed out loud when I’ve confessed my small-ball shame. They said it was the most ridiculous insecurity they’ve ever heard. One girl said, “I’ve never, ever heard a woman say, ‘he was great, but I wish his balls were bigger!’”

    I have only two options, as I see it: testeoplasty, or testeojazzling.

  7. Johnny Says:

    ^ But to stay on-topic, all vaginas look different. The labes minora and majora (thanks for teaching me those terms, Em and Lo!) vary in protrusion from woman to woman. I’ve seen small labes and big ones (and a huge clit or two) and always just sort of appreciated the uniqueness of each woman’s vagina. Never seen one that turned me off.

    I’ve also felt bad for girlfriends I had who were self-conscious about their dark, protruding labes. I loved them in bed and thought it was a shame that they’d beat themselves up over something that didn’t matter at all to me.

  8. SS Says:

    @Johnny, you always make me laugh! Okay, I’m thinking the testeojazzling, or “gonazzling,” as wise-guy Chris was encouraged to get, might just draw attention, which it sounds like isn’t what you’re going for. As for the other, I think there are enough bad Hollywood boob jobs to make you think twice about that route….so, what’s a boy to do? Well, you could start a new career, as the inventor of the “push-up brief.” Women have been doing this for years, Victoria’s Secret’s biggest money maker is the push-up bra, so this could be the next big thing… Seriously, though, that girl was right, I can’t imagine any girlfriend of yours thinking twice about this! Besides, I would think smaller balls would make your other “assets” look larger by comparison… :)

  9. Dave W Says:

    I’ve always felt that the contention about women in porn having small inner labia and breast implants was exaggerated. Sure, MORE women in porn are like this than in the general population, but it might have to do with what kind of porn you watch. I’ve never really watched a Vivid Entertainment movie, but I think companies like that employ more women with said attributes. They’re like Playboy, I guess, and tend to be the company brought up in the mainstream media whenever porn is mentioned. The videos I watch, however, tend to have women with natural boobs, and protruding labia are no problem. Fortunately, for every guy who’d make a “chewed bubble gum” or “roast beef” comment, there’s surely lots more who’d love to play.

  10. Madamoiselle L Says:

    SS said: “Well, you could start a new career, as the inventor of the ‚Äúpush-up brief.‚ÄĚ ”

    SS, they have them. Tighty Whities with a “secret” built in pad in the package area. Similar to a push up bra, I guess, like you said.

    I don’t know if it goes in front of or behind the package, though. Maybe there is both, like the bras that go UNDER the boob and the ones which push in from the SIDES.

  11. SS Says:

    No way! Sorry, guess Johnny will have to keep his day job…

  12. Dr. P. Rapoport Says:

    Wonderful, Dr. Kate and Mademoiselle L. Thank you.

    But (to others), can we get rid of the euphemism “NSFW”? I resent remarks making assumptions about what everyone’s work is. That abbreviation is a lazy euphemism and usually represents a judgement made by the writer that should not be made.

    If some sort of nudity is the only thing that qualifies as NSFW, then this country is in a lot worse situation than anyone knows. The label is presumptuous and narrow.

    If “labia” is the plural (as it is), then “labium” is the singular. “Labium majorum” or “minorum,” of course.

  13. Dr. P. Rapoport Says:

    Unmentioned here is Joani Blank’s ground-breaking book “Femalia,” containing many photos of vulvas. No one looking at it would conclude that there is such a thing as a typical vulva.

  14. SS Says:

    @Dr. P. Rapoport:

    “NSFW” isn’t “presumptuous and narrow,” it is a commonly used courtesy to warn people who may be looking at a website in a work environment where viewing nudity would be, at best, frowned-upon, and in the worst case, cause for dismissal. I don’t make assumptions about what “everyone’s” work is, but I do make the assumption that some of the people reading this blog are in traditional work environments. If “NSFW” is a lazy euphemism, what would you suggest as an alternative?

    “This Picture Contains Nudity Which Is Perfectly Natural And Okay To Display If You Work At Home Or At A Sex Blog But Might Not Go Over So Well At The Trading Desk Of Goldman Sachs,”
    which would be:

    “TPCNWIPNAOTDIYWAHOAASBBMNGOSWATTDOGS”

    Wow, that is so much better, and sex-positive, too! Thanks, Dr. P.R.!

  15. turr2000 Says:

    @SS I was thinking the same thing lol hilarious!

  16. blah Says:

    Yes,isn’t funny how women are apologists and ego stroke amongst themselves when it comes to their bodies..yet these same women will take off the kid gloves when it comes to critiqing the male body and spew their poison and scorn upon the opposite sex.Double standards,hypocrisy and misandry.Everything they accuse men of being they are 10 times guilty of worse

  17. blah blah Says:

    blah…that’s really not true. most women swear that size is not important – the majority of women consistently choose ‘character’ – ‘good sense of humour’ ‘trustworthiness’ over looks. but it seems like you’re just looking to vent against women so i don’t suppose you are much interested in reality.

  18. swagga girl Says:

    WOW!!!!! this has helped me soo much i am a young adult. i would like to just thank all of your post . i was hella inacure about my labia and now after reading this i know a guy has to accept me for who i am not for what i have. the surgey is not worth it after all and its all because of this website i decided not to doo the surgrey :)


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