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Saturday, 9 March 2013

What if my labia minora were half a centimetre shorter?

Yesterday was International Women's Day and I held off posting this out of respect for the sisterhood, who had more important things to talk about, celebrate, regret, and applaud. But I decided to go ahead with this because of more evidence that women are asking surgeons to do work on their intimate anatomy, being labiaplasty, a procedure (covered by Medicare) that is apparently on the rise. Since the main witnesses to a woman's vulva are the men she accepts into her bed I decided to talk about the relationship between a man and a woman's vulva. Because while women are more precisely connected to their own reproductive organs, it is men (and, in lesbian relationships, other women) who get closest to this specific part of the female body in a purely physical sense. And it is men who women who go through labiaplasty are aiming to please. Proximity and frequency of the same can, in certain circumstances, give men leave to talk about vulvas. It is our privilege to gain access and it is up to us to reassure their owners that surgical intervention is completely, utterly, and unquestionably beside the point.

Even in my first sexual experience I found myself, of my own volition, with my face pressed eagerly against the soft area between the legs of the woman - somewhat older than myself - who had so generously taken pity on my wretched youth. It has to be said with all honesty that the appearance of her labia was the thing most remote from my mind; I was too busy attending to what was required. The tongue and the lips - even the nose - can be deployed to generate those feelings of happiness in a woman who has been so generous as to allow you to come into her bedroom, take off her clothes, and make love to her. You do not think, "These labia are quite large, I'm not happy about that." Nothing could be more distant from your consciousness. From the first moment you let your hand drift down her belly, over the rough mound of her mons veneris, and into the dark area of confidences kept, you are merely overwhelmed by a feeling of pure gratitude. At last someone has the confidence in you to let you get this far.

And confidences are kept. I can hardly conceive of a man who would say even to his best friend, "Rose is a lovely girl but her labia minora are a bit big." You might say, in response to the question, "Did you do it?", "Yes we did." But there is no circumstance wherein a man will carry on commentary on the relative size, shape or colour of a woman's vulva. He would be heckled out of court. He would be made to feel ashamed. And it is true that different women have different vulvas, just as it is true that different days have different skies. Maroon, peach, grey, black, purple, brown, pink: all these colours can be present, but it makes no difference to the main fact. When a man takes a woman to bed he pays no attention to the specific characteristics of her vulva because he is too busy, in deep concentration, lavishing attention on the precious body lying next to him. And so his hand, his mouth, his tongue, his fingers and thumbs stroke, suck, lap, lick, worry, caress, pulpate, separate, depress, envelop, pull, tease and cause to moisten, via the mysterious vaginal process, the important object of his attention and while doing so he listens carefully and with satisfaction to the sounds that arise from his consort's throat, and then uses those sounds as a guide to how quick, how hard, at what point, in what sequence of connective motions he engages with the magical material interface that sits between the outside world and a woman's central nervous system.

He will never in a million years think how much more preferable the experience would be if her labia minora were, say, just half a centimetre shorter.

UPDATE Sun 10.20am: Over two days there were three responses to this post, all from women; one Facebook like, one reply on Twitter, and one plus-one on Google+.

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