By: Trischan Laing
As a teenager growing up in rural Jamaica, sex was and still is an uncomfortable topic- especially between people of different age groups. As girls, we are mostly told to refuse gifts from men and if we don’t, we’ll get pregnant. My household was a little more progressive, I was at least told to refuse sex.
Due to poor sexual education, to fulfill our curiosities most young people turn to pornography. In porn, everyone looks perfect. The women had perfect round, bubble butts, perky breasts that defied gravity and exactly proportional, completely waxed vaginas, void of any ingrown hairs, hyperpigmentation, or scars. Then, I looked at my 15-year-old body, my vagina didn’t look even remotely close to theirs, and to be honest, it still doesn’t, but over time I have learned that that’s okay.
“I thought my vagina was ugly and asymmetrical. I spent hours in the bathroom wondering “Is it supposed to look like that? Why is it so dark?”
Labiaplasty is plastic surgery on the ‘lips’ surrounding the vagina. This surgery can be done on the labia majora or labia minora. Its purpose is usually to make them smaller and more asymmetrical. As a teenager labiaplasty was unbeknownst to me. But, nowadays it has become a request of many American teenage girls. As we become more and more dependent on social media, young people have greater access to what our bodies “should” look like. This is especially perpetuated by Instagram and Twitter influencers who create a façade of perfection. As a result, there is an unrelenting desire to be flawless which does not stop at high cheekbones and an hourglass figure.
So how should “down there” look?
As a medical student, I can assure you that there is no aesthetic guideline for how your female reproductive organ should look. What is important is that it carries out its physiological functions such as menstruation, sexual arousal and intercourse, and childbirth.
Little girls, even today, are still being told that they need to learn how to cook for their husbands. And learn how to clean for their husbands. And learn how to please their husbands. And even now as a self-proclaimed modern woman many of these archaic principles are difficult for me to unlearn. My body insecurities mainly stemmed from thinking I would not be desirable enough to a man. I was so busy pondering, “What if he doesn’t like me” that I did not leave room to love myself.
I have still yet to see a vagina that looks like mine in the mainstream media, and I would be lying if I said I was 100% comfortable with my body. But, I have stopped referring to the things that I am uncomfortable with as flaws. I now see my vagina as a symbol of my femininity and each day I seek to understand it more.
Often times it is hard to drown out the noise and find a place of self-acceptance. Some days I feel like the most beautiful and sexiest woman in the world and other days, not so much. However, I have seen my growth and though my journey towards self-acceptance is far from over, I am happy with the distance I have traveled.