As I sat at my kitchen table, coughing while immersed in self-pity and surrounded by snotty tissues, my friend Eva texted me from Labour and Delivery at NYGH in Toronto.
She was waiting for her multiparous patient to open fully to the idea of getting her baby out. “Have you read Ted Jablonski’s column this morning? I almost spit up my coffee, it’s so hilarious!” When I read the column I realized two things immediately: a. It was very, very funny, b. I had to try and write a response.
I will argue that I have seen at least as many vulvas and vaginas as Ted has seen penises. So that will be the focus of my discussion. I only hope that I can create both the depth and the capacity to please that his ejaculation has achieved!
I too have noticed a change in how the idealized vulva and vagina are being portrayed. Instead of the super-masculinized penile inflation that Ted addressed, the fashion in vulvas is just the opposite. Tiny, tightly furled, bald and closed is now the Barbie-like ideal. I cannot clam up! I must penetrate this mystery! Why is it that the typical vulva in media look prepubescent? Where is the love for generosity, openness and the embracing of pleasure?
I don’t want to pussyfoot around on this. I came of age in simpler times, in the horny, hairy ‘60s. Porn was confined to magazines, and few young people, women in particular, were bold enough to brave the disapproving glares of convenience store owners in order to beaver into the more risqué publications.
My education into the variety of vulvar expression started in the single bathroom of the commune I was living in. I don’t remember how this feminist bonding experience started, but all six of the female inhabitants of the house ended up in there comparing our labia. We were openmouthed with surprise at how different we all were.
So if prepubescent pubes (or lack thereof) is the norm in porn, why does it matter? Well, because as with Dr. Jablonski’s patients, women expect to have what they see. While men want the rod of the god and have to be talked down to a more realistic size, women or their boyfriends want the mini-oyster vulva. Any extension of the labia minora is suspect. Labioplasty is an increasingly popular procedure, and there is little mention of the possible sexual dysfunction that can follow. Other surgeries, gynecological, urological and even orthopedic, can lead to anorgasmia or dyspareunia. Clitoral anatomy has remained a mystery only understood through the dissection of cows (who as far as I know don’t really have orgasms). Only in 2005, was the anatomy of the clitoris understood in all its Romulan Warbird glory as more than a little rudimentary nubbin. It’s amazing to me that this essential piece of anatomy has been this long ignored. A plastic surgery article on labioplasty written in 2018, by Seth, had the nubbin clitoris in its explanation on why it is a-OK to tidy up the pie.
I want to give a shout out to our trans brothers and sisters here. The most recent work on the clitoris and surgery has been done by Dr. Blair Peters, late of Winnipeg, now in Oregon. In researching how to best do phalloplasties, he did extensive work on the clitoral nerve, and discovered that it is gigantic! It has over 10,000 nerve fibers, and for nerves, size does matter. It’s a bit ironic that maximizing sexual pleasure becomes, perhaps, more important when people are transitioning as men.
I am, however, very grateful that someone is looking and someone cares enough to study the yonic power we carry between our legs!
Oops, I realize I’m ranting here. I’ve lost that light and mischievous tone I started with. Maybe it’s my cold or my inherent grumpiness as a post-menopausal woman. After all the ignorance and neglect, I’m glad that we are now finally beginning to understand the vulva’s capacity for infinite variety and pleasure!