Before Quean Mo existed, a young girl with a different name carried this body around with her. She had her partnered sexual debut at an early age – fourteen, to be exact. Although she felt “grown up” and “ready” for this monumental experience, she had yet to develop her own identity, and was therefore incredibly vulnerable, impressionable…
Like most of us, looking back on our adolescence and even our childhood, we can easily pinpoint moments that either freed or shattered us. For me, the decision to alter the most private parts of my physical being became a foundational instance in my life; one I would carry with me into adulthood.
One evening after I’d had intercourse for the first time, my parents allowed my friend Jane to sleep over. She’d brought her laptop which had an extensive library of porn. We watched a variety of videos together, giggling and curious. At some point during our cinematic experience, my then-boyfriend called. He was thrilled to hear what we’d been up to, so Jane began describing the scene for him.
A cis man was penetrating a cis woman. Jane described the position the couple was in, the size and shape of his dick, and then her vulva. Up to that point it had been all fun and games, but my then-boyfriend said something that would haunt me for years; something that would profoundly impact certain aspects of intimacy I had with future lovers (you know, my ability to let go, orgasm, not over analyze my naked body). After Jane had described the vulva of the porn star, my then-boyfriend responded: Ew! That’s what Mo’s looks like!
I was devastated; driven deeper into my humiliation by the sound of their laughter; them never having understood how deeply his words wounded me. What was it, exactly, that my then-boyfriend had found so repulsive?
It’s something more and more vulva owners – some as young as NINE years old – look to alter about themselves. It’s a part of our body that no textbook or sex ed class warned us about. It’s a piece of our physical being that media told us was abnormal. If it isn’t pink, hidden or smooth, it’s all wrong, girl!
I’m speaking about the inner labia.
According to my then-boyfriend, mine were long, dark and crimped. All wrong, girl! Never look them in the eye, boys, you don’t know what could happen! They might just wrap themselves around you and gobble you up.
It took three years of carrying this shame around for me to finally decide I wanted them gone, out of here for good. Part of my decision making came as a result of my new boyfriend’s disinterest in sex. I’d concluded it was because my lady-bits were nasty; that no one would ever want ALL of me if I didn’t take certain parts of that away.
I wanted to forget my labia existed, and that those horrible words (Ew! That’s what Mo’s look like!) were ever spoken. So, I told my doctor. He advised against it. So, I lied and told him that their length caused me pain, and I felt I was always pulling on my pants to readjust or move them out of the way; that it made me feel like a man because I had something “dangling” between my legs. He was empathetic, but hesitant. My mother believed my discomfort, supporting my decision. My father was a bit more apprehensive. I remember a wonderfully, awkward late night drive where he’d said, “You know, the human body isn’t meant to be symmetrical. That’s what’s so beautiful about it.” I’d concluded because he didn’t have a vulva, he’d never understand.
I remember the day of the surgery. It felt like it’d be the best day of my life. I knew that when I woke up I’d be a new, perfect woman! That sex would be easy and enjoyable. That just a few little snips would make me desirable, and all of my insecurities would fade away.
What really happened: I woke up in the most excruciating pain I’ve EVER been in. I couldn’t walk, so my mother and boyfriend had to find me a wheel chair before I collapsed in the corridor. Every time I peed, my entire family had to listen to me howl and cuss (have you ever pissed on a stitched up wound before? HORROR!). My left labia swelled up to the size of a golf ball. I was bedridden for a week, and couldn’t engage in any type of genital stimulation for six.
I’m not saying my experience reflects all others. All I’m saying is mine was pretty dramatic, and for what? To please a man who was no longer in my life? I’d been so unsure of myself, so ignorant about female anatomy, that I’d allowed a fourteen year old boy to dictate what my body should look like.
Sometimes I joke that it looks like my vulva went through a meat grinder. My husband hates that because, for one, it puts really gruesome images in his head, and secondly, he doesn’t agree. He describes my vulva as having “so many beautiful details.” Imagine if I’d heard that at the age of fourteen!!!
Even if my surgery didn’t have the physical outcome I’d imagined, it provided one hell of a lesson.
I’m turning 28 in about two weeks. That makes this year the eleventh anniversary of my labiaplasty. Truth is, I’ve never loved my body as much as I do today. Not only has she provided me the strength I’ve needed during moments I wasn’t sure I’d make it through, but she has the scars to remind me of where I’ve been, how far I’ve come, and the bullshit I’ll never put up with again…even if that bullshit was my own.
For anyone out there considering this procedure for reasons similar to mine, please, please, please, understand this: no amount of surgery or alterations will take the asshole out of the ex that told you that you needed them; no amount of surgery or alterations will make you “normal,” and do you know why? Because you aren’t meant to be. The world needs – requires – your uniqueness, whether that uniqueness is of the mind or between your legs.
Photos Taken From @the.vulva.gallery (Instagram)
For body positivity and some vulva-inspo, I recommend the following Instagram accounts:
Until next time,
Fuck well, friends, and love yourself…immensely!
Ps. If you are struggling with major body image issues, I encourage you to speak to a medical practitioner and/or a mental health professional. As a recovered bulimic, I understand that intensity of body dysmorphia, self-loathing and feeling out of control. You are not required to do this alone. You are allowed to love yourself, and get help in learning how to do just that.