04/16/2012 11:52 EDT | Updated 06/16/2012 05:12 EDT

What's Wrong With My Vagina?


Jezebel's post "Your Vagina Isn't Just Too Big, Too Floppy, and Too Hairy -- It's Also Too Brown" made me laugh and want to cry, as so many of its posts do.

In trashing Clean and Dry Intimate Wash, an Indian vagina-bleaching product, Jezebel draws stinging attention again to the multi-billion dollar industry surrounding women's "imperfections." Is there nipple bleach yet? If not, I could get on that right away and make a load of cash.

Then I rewatched Lisa Rogers's 2008 documentary The Perfect Vagina about labiaplasty, a term easier to swallow -- so to speak -- than slicing off parts of your labia. One of the fastest growing cosmetic surgeries.

Both the young woman who has surgery in the documentary and the woman in the Indian ad are young and beautiful. So just in case you thought you were ahead of the game with youth and beauty, think again. You've got an ugly punani. Start worrying. Now.

When I was young, the concern was smell, and advertisements encouraged us to douche to stay fresh. Too bad if fresh came along with itchy and dry. That's the nature of vinegar-based products. Before that Lysol was marketed as the germicidal remedy for what ailed our intimate daintiness.

We sought a Febreeze-like scent wafting from down below. Now, structural changes are also required.

Lighten up, the male vag-bleaching ad exec suggests. You use lipstick, what's the difference? "If you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girl's features more clearly. This is because her complexion reflects more light," he argues. I'm trying to imagine the venues where all these shining, light, vagina-beacons are competing for attention.

Not to make you squeamish with accompanying visuals, even imagined ones, but I feel compelled to weigh in. Lisa Rogers points out that the range of normal for labia minora is between 20 -100 mm. I haven't taken a ruler to them, but let's just say I'm on the longer end of the spectrum. And indeed, I never saw my physiognomy represented in any magazines.

No one explained these things properly when I was a kid. In health class it was glossed over quickly, and we were all too embarrassed to look at the standardized, less-than-helpful diagrams anyway. As a result, while I didn't spend too much time thinking about it, I did consider myself a bit of a vaginal freak. For a while, I assumed that the flapping parts were my clitoris and didn't understand why it was broken in two, and didn't do what it was supposed to. I sorted it out.

Bleach it, tighten it, wax it, freshen it, nip and tuck it. Worry about it -- a lot. That's what the cosmetic industry wants us to do. Forget RRSPs. Invest in your labia. The returns will be worth it.

Maybe I'm thinking of men too simplistically, but aren't most of them just happy for the action? Does the sex that doesn't notice you got your hair cut give any thought to the esthetics down below? Does it take so little to make us think they do?

As a society that's quick, as we should be, to criticize female genital mutilation as it's practiced in countries and cultures we deem "backward" and "extreme," we certainly withhold judgment when bits are being lopped off "voluntarily" for the good of mankind, and we're being charged big bucks for the privilege.

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