SEE Magazine


Women don't tend to check out each other's labia in the locker room. Perhaps that's because we're less concerned with the size and shape of things down there than guys are.

Well, that's changing.

Dr. Robert H. Stubbs, a cosmetic surgeon in Toronto, offers labia reductions and female circumcisions. Before you get your knickers in a knot, the procedure is approved by the College of Physicians and Surgeons and requested by women.

"The words 'female circumcision' create all kinds of confusion and adverse reaction in the West because of increased awareness of the practice of female genital mutilation in certain cultures," says Stubbs. "But female circumcision is not the correct term for something like clitoradectomies where the entire clitoris is cut off. I go to great lengths to protect the clitoris."

Thank God for that.

What Stubbs does do is trim down the labia minora on women who feel they have an excess. The labia minora extend up over the clitoris to form the clitoral hood and are analogous to the male foreskin. If the excess also extends over the clitoral hood, trimming it is technically called a female circumcision - a term that makes people very nervous. "When I started doing the procedure," says Stubbs, "I wanted to make sure I wouldn't have my license removed, so I wrote the College of Physicians and Surgeons (the body that licenses him) and included pictures of what I was doing: that is, shortening the labia minora up around the clitoris - technically a female circumcision.

"The lawyer/doctor at the college was flabbergasted but they acknowledged that what I was doing was appropriate."

Stubbs, I kid you not, is best known for a specialized penile-augmentation technique that he learned from - get this - Dr. Long in China. He wasn't aware genital shape and size could also be a female obsession until 1986 when a woman concerned about the size of her labia showed up at a public clinic where he worked. Now labia reduction has become a standard procedure at the Cosmetic Surgicentre, Stubbs' private clinic.

"In the last year, I've seen a number of women concerned about the appearance of their genitals and have performed surgery on about eight or nine of them," he says.

Describing herself as a bit of a "peacock," Deborah has had her eyes done and had breast implants and some liposuction. She started thinking about her labia when her first husband brought home porn magazines and she started comparing herself. "I saw some other ones that were cuter than mine and thought, 'Hey, I want that one,'" she laughs.

But it wasn't just cosmetic, Deborah is quick to add. She says the excess skin made sex less enjoyable, both physically and psychologically. It's not like her labia were dragging on the ground but, measuring in at about 3-1/4 centimetres, they were a little bigger than average.

"There was just too much skin," explains the 30-something woman. "I was always having to stop during sex to shift it or move it out of the way. It was a real pain."

A doctor with whom Deborah shared her concerns 10 years ago told her to get over it - that the excess made things nice and "cushiony" for her lovers. Deborah was too insecure to protest. Then a couple of years ago she found Stubbs. He gave her inner labia a trim, including the part that extends up over the clitoris to form the clitoral hood.

Another patient worked in a doctor's office; after years of assisting on pelvic exams and seeing so many vaginas, she realized hers was different. She decided to do something about it. An older woman with two kids, she was pretty embarrassed when she showed up in Stubbs' office, he recalls. "She asked me if there was anything I could do," says the doctor. "Her labia minora measured five centimetres hanging down and went right up around the clitoris and hooded it so that her most sensitive part was being covered."

Deborah is thrilled with the results. "Look ma, no hands," she laughs, explaining what sex is like post-surgery. Stubbs says most of the women who have the procedure report more sexual pleasure. "One woman who had never had an orgasm with normal sex was suddenly becoming responsive," he says. "There wasn't contact between her and her partner because there was all this skin getting in the way."

Stubbs is careful to explain that the women coming to him for this procedure are mostly in their 30s. "They've had a chance to assess what they want in life, what they're prepared to put up with and what they can afford. They're not young, inexperienced women out on a whim."

And he won't do the procedure for everyone. "One woman came in who'd been a professional body builder and steroids had made her clitoris and hood grow to the point where they almost looked like a young boy's genitalia," Stubbs explains. "She wanted me to remove her clitoris but I told her I didn't think that would be wise. I told her what I would be comfortable doing but she wasn't interested, so I didn't do the surgery."

Depending on the extent of the reduction, the procedure takes one to two hours and involves sedation and local freezing. Cost ranges from $1,500 to $2,000.

Deborah says it hurt. "It stung pretty bad for a couple of weeks," she says. "I used a lot of cream and took plenty of seltzer baths. It was a bit of a nightmare but it was worth it."

Remember though (before you all haul out your rulers or start getting insecure about what's going on down there), like snowflakes and penises, no two vaginas are alike.

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