In 2008 the medical group Surgicare (UK) saw a threefold increase in labiaplasty over the previous year, and inquiries rose sevenfold in three years. Most women asking for the surgery were in their late teens or early 20s, though as young as 10 or 11. In almost all cases, requests came from women with completely healthy vulvas, but seeking more “attractive” genitals. (Round Up: Cosmetic Surgery, Reproductive Health Matters 2010)


Now read that again: Girls as young as ten or eleven are thinking they should have their labia fixed?! As Wrenna Robertson writes in her foreword to I’ll Show You Mine (2011), imagery has the power to define reality, and so too does language. What we need today are positive and honest images and narratives of the amazing variety of female bodies and genitals in shape, size, color and texture—not just aimed at adults, but at children and youth as well.

As a former college professor who taught women studies among other subjects, and who is the mother of a toddler daughter, I feel the acute pressure to empower my daughter to nurture a positive relationship with all of her body, including her genitals.

Human sexuality educator and longtime president of SIECUS, the United States’ largest clearinghouse of sexuality education, Debra W. Haffner stresses the...