Why I’m So Glad I Didn’t Get Plastic Surgery on My Vulva

Ellie Sedgwick

Ellie Sedgwick is founder of Comfortable In My Skin, and a creator on app Sunroom.

My story starts back in high school (isn’t that where all insecurities start?) around the time I started going through puberty.

One day, I was sitting at my desk in the maths classroom, and a boy behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and he handed me a folded-up note. I opened it and it read “Do you have an innie or an outie?” This, my friends, was the first time of oh-so-many that I had heard the word “outie”. It is used to describe a vulva’s inner labia that hangs below the outer labia.

As I had never seen another vulva, I had no idea. All the thoughts and nightmares of a usual teenage girl went running wild through my brain — “IS MY VULVA WEIRD? AM I NORMAL? WHAT THE HELL IS AN OUTIE?!?!”

These thoughts continued to perpetuate throughout my adolescence and early twenties. I hated the way it (my vulva) looked in a bikini and I hated being intimate with the lights on or getting changed in front of my friends. I was so worried all through high school that someone would see my vulva and think that my big labia were abnormal. I was so disconnected to my vulva, and therefore — I was so disconnected from my own pleasure.

After years of self-hate with this area of my body, I eventually went to see a cosmetic  surgeon. I was so nervous, I couldn’t even explain what I wanted. I didn’t have an inner labia that I wanted trimmed, I had big outer labia that I wanted “liposuctioned”. I didn’t know any of the correct terminology, because all I had learnt about my vulva in sex education was that if I was to have sex, to wear a condom (which is great advice, but maybe if I had learned more I wouldn’t have found myself in this EXTREMELY awkward situation).

So with the words I knew, I said to the doctor “I want liposuction“. We went into his office and he pulled out a yellow highlighter. He started drawing on my inner thigh. I was standing there in my undies, super confused looking down at this man. I eventually spoke up and asked him “Sorry, why are you drawing those lines on my leg?”.

He looked at me and said, “You want liposuction, don’t you?” I whispered back to him, “On my vagina, not my legs…” He asked me to show him my vulva and I slowly took off my undies. He was kneeling down and asked, “Ellie, have you ever seen another vulva?” I told him “I’ve seen a few, but they don’t look like mine.”

What this doctor did at this moment saved me from cutting off half of my labia. He educated me. He used nice words to tell me that not all girls have the ‘standard’ vagina that you see in magazines or porn and what I was asking to have “liposuctioned” was completely normal to have. He told me to go home and google what vulvas look like and educate myself. He could have dusted off his hands and said “Great, I’ll give you the Rolls-Royce of vulvas” and taken my money. Instead, he was so kind and humane, and I am so grateful every single day for this man to be the one my path led me, too.

I took his advice and went on to photograph over 400 people‘s vulvas. I now know that every single person’s vulva is different, and every single person’s vulva is unique. Just like our eyebrows or our toes!

I truly used my pain as my power and if I had the opportunity now to get labiaplasty for free — I would never agree to it — my body is perfect the way it is. It’s also led me to my current path, where I host workshops that help people connect to not only the vulvas but their entire bodies in hopes that we can all love ourselves and our bodies as they are.

I’m also really active online, and having social presence where I speak about vulvas and ‘different’ types of bodies is really important to me as I didn’t have the right access to information growing up.

One app I love posting to is Sunroom — an app for women and non-binary creators, designed to be a liberating space for unfiltered self-expression and to let creators make money on their own terms. The app’s mission is to remove the stigmas women and non-binaries face when asking for more or showing more in the content that feels authentic to them.

There, I share content about vulvas, self-pleasure and everything in between. For me, it’s really important there’s a platform that supports, showcases and celebrates natural female bodies because when I was growing up there wasn’t anything like that available. And, unfortunately, as you now know, that perpetuated the stigma that I wasn’t ‘normal’ because of what my vulva looked like.

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