Channel 4’s series Embarrassing Teenage Bodies is meant to reassure young people. But an episode which saw doctors perform labiaplasty on a 19-year-old achieved exactly the opposite effect, argues Bellavita
I was initially a fan of Channel 4’s Embarrassing Illnesses/Bodies series, which aims to reduce the embarrassment surrounding certain illnesses and problems, and encourage sufferers to seek medical advice. However the episode Embarrassing Teenage Bodies: Below the Belt has left me angry and upset, and done untold damage to countless young viewers.
The problem? Nineteen-year-old Lindsay consults Dr Pixie McKenna about the size of her labia minora. She says that they protrude beyond her labia majora and that this cases her a great deal of embarrassment: she won’t undress in front of her boyfriend and she will only have sex in the dark. Dr McKenna asks her if they cause her discomfort and she replies that when she has sex she has to part her labia.
At this point I am really hopeful that Dr McKenna is about to do the right thing and reassure this young woman how normal she is. To talk to her about the enormous variety of shapes and sizes of women’s vulvas, and how very common it is for women to have labia minora that protrude beyond their labia majora. To talk to her about how the labia minora have an important function in protecting a healthy vaginal environment. To talk to her about how they are a responsive part of her sexual organs, becoming engorged with blood during sexual arousal and providing her with a degree of pleasure.