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  • - I don't wanna make any I interview look bad,

  • I don't wanna make anyone who watches this feel bad,

  • it's just such an intimate thing.

  • Vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva.

  • It's like hard to breathe.

  • - [Merle] What do you think this weekend is gonna be?

  • - I would expect crying, maybe even nudity,

  • and maybe even touching oneself.

  • - [Man] So are you alone in this tree house?

  • - [Pamela] I am.

  • - [Man] Oh!

  • (gentle music)

  • - Hello, I'm Merle, and today,

  • I'm going to be airing my largest insecurity

  • on the internet.

  • This is something that I've never really talked about.

  • It's going to be an experience for all of us.

  • Okay, I'm gonna do that again.

  • I'll do a happy one.

  • I was a really naked kid growing up

  • and I loved to be naked, I would run around the house naked,

  • so my mom was super body positive

  • and she always would encourage me as a little girl

  • to take a mirror and go explore you know,

  • go look at yourself and I would do that.

  • The first thought was like, cool,

  • this is me, this is what this is.

  • Somewhere over time, I would look at myself

  • and I'd think, am I different?

  • Am I the only one who looks like this?

  • Am I the only one who feels this way?

  • In photos online or in pornography,

  • I would see what I thought was the normal vulva

  • that was very neat, hairless pink, no drama, like a line.

  • And I don't know about you,

  • but I have way more going on down there.

  • You know what I did to try to find out if I was normal,

  • and if my body was normal, I went on the internet.

  • I remember typing in what does a normal vagina look like?

  • (upbeat music)

  • It really did not help.

  • - Labiaplasty is actually one of the

  • fastest growing cosmetic procedures

  • out of all cosmetic surgery,

  • there's even reports that girls as young as nine years old

  • are inquiring about getting labiaplasty

  • and changing their bodies because

  • they feel like they're not normal.

  • - This led me to think, who wrote

  • the rule book on what is normal?

  • How is this happening and nobody's talking about it?

  • So I decided I should go talk to a surgeon.

  • - Labiaplasty has been around just for a few decades.

  • The first report in the medical literature

  • was about in the early 80s.

  • Of course, there have been other forms

  • of labiaplasty just in terms of cultural,

  • you know, female circumcisions, or genital mutilations.

  • Usually when people just say labiaplasty,

  • they're referring to the labia minora,

  • and though that's the inner leaf lit of lips,

  • and it's the thinner tissue that

  • tends to protrude if there's any issue.

  • I mean what issue is there?

  • (laughs)

  • - I see patients, sometimes where the labia minora

  • is longer or asymmetrical, and it bothers them.

  • Those are patients that we can fix their labia surgically

  • but it's not recommended unless it bothers them.

  • - So I actually tend to see patients

  • that are a little bit younger.

  • So patients who are teenagers who're either brought

  • in by their parents, usually their mom.

  • Parents, especially the mothers,

  • are actually very supportive of their daughters.

  • I do notice that usually it's that the patients

  • or the daughters are more nervous,

  • because they're younger,

  • they've never had any type of surgery

  • and you're talking about surgery in your genital area.

  • So it's an area that they're already

  • not very comfortable with,

  • they're not very experienced with,

  • and it can get patients pretty nervous.

  • - Labiaplasty is not a benign procedure.

  • In the wrong hands patients can have scar tissue formation,

  • they can have chronic pain,

  • and their sensitivity in that area can be affected.

  • There's always risk of bleeding, there's risk of infection,

  • and in certain types of labiaplasty patients

  • are at risk of the suture opening up.

  • - Some possible complications of the labiaplasty

  • include, of course, having a symmetry at the end.

  • I mean the goal is to make sure that your labia

  • are as symmetric and aesthetically pleasing as possible.

  • - [Merle] How do we decide what normal is?

  • - I would consider a normal or average appearing vulva

  • to be one where the labia minora do not protrude

  • past the labia majora or if they do protrude,

  • it's just slightly you know less than a centimeter.

  • (gentle music)

  • If you're below four centimeters,

  • it's not considered like hypertrophy,

  • like there's a deformity, but you can still get it done.

  • - [Merle] What's the youngest that you've performed

  • the procedure on?

  • - In my practice is 18 but I just did it in a 15 year old.

  • - [Interviewer] So Merle, how are you feeling about this?

  • - I'm like crying.

  • I get nervous when I think about like young girls

  • hearing that there's like some kind of a standard

  • or some kind of a regular or normal

  • when it doesn't feel like that's anybody's position to take.

  • I just, I don't, like the idea that people

  • are gonna watch this and feel the way that I feel right now.

  • I have very conflicting feelings on labiaplasty.

  • I'm not here to tell anyone what to do with their body,

  • but I don't think it's something

  • that should be taken lightly.

  • And for me, I wanna try to do it the homeopathic way

  • and learn to embrace what I've got.

  • So that led me to go to a weekend

  • immersive experience with Pamela Madsen.

  • Okay, I'm already blushing, yeah I'm nervous,

  • I wanna ask you how you feel about Amy doing this video

  • and be me going on this retreat

  • where I think I'm gonna be naked a lot with a lot of women.

  • - I can tell you as much as possible,

  • how beautiful I think you are.

  • But of course at the end of the day,

  • you know, it's a mindset that if it was so easily fixable,

  • just by someone else's words then it would be,

  • but I know something else has to click in your own head.

  • Are you scared that people are gonna think I'm weird

  • and now you're dating me?

  • - Oh I already knew you were weird

  • before I started dating you and I love you because of it.

  • (rock music)

  • - We can talk about sex all we want,

  • but sometimes you have to get in there and feel our bodies.

  • Hey, I'm Pamela Madsen

  • and I am a sexuality

  • educator for women.

  • Women are taught from their first breath

  • to be frightened of their bodies.

  • We are covered up, our bodies are talked about.

  • Women are cultured into body disconnection.

  • So we don't really get to see other women's vulvas,

  • so we have no idea what a normal vulva is.

  • So here's the truth.

  • There is no normal vulva.

  • - Viva la vulva!

  • (laughs)

  • - There are no two vulva's that are alike.

  • You have big inner labia and small inner labia

  • and big clits and small clits

  • and you come in all different colors.

  • Isn't that amazing?

  • And we think there's only one kind of vulva

  • because we're only showed the one

  • in the little girly magazine,

  • where some man decided that was the perfect vulva.

  • My favorite story is I was in fertility,

  • being at a dinner with reproductive endocrinologists

  • and one was showing off about his new

  • really fabulous labiaplasty program that he had.

  • And I looked at him and said, so why are you doing that?

  • Like what is the reasoning behind

  • cutting off women's inner labias?

  • So he said to me with a very straight face,

  • well women with large inner labias

  • are uncomfortable wearing blue jeans.

  • - So functional reasons for labiaplasty

  • could be that the patient is having pain.

  • - They feel uncomfortable.