For most of my life, I’ve been self conscious about the appearance of my inner labia. It didn’t come out of nowhere. I think I first noticed I was unique when I was 13 and saw my first few porn scenes. The women there looked different from me.
Still, I didn’t feel uncomfortable until I was 16 and my first boyfriend made a hurtful comment. “What’s wrong with your pussy?” he sneered, and giggled to himself. That was all it took for me to develop a complex.
That relationship, thankfully, didn’t last very long. But the embarrassment and insecurity remained. I didn’t seek out new boyfriends or sexual partners for the rest of high school. I didn’t say anything to my mother, who’d noticed I’d grown depressed and self conscious. All I did was hate myself and wish I could change.
Loneliness took a toll. My first year of college, I became “that girl who drinks too much.” It wasn’t long before I was “that girl who drinks too much and brings home random guys every weekend.” Drinking helped with my insecurity and the random guys helped with my loneliness. When I think back on that time, I realize was lucky; the worst physical harm that came to me was a pregnancy scare that turned out to be nothing.
Emotionally, though, the damage added up.
Frat boys, in case you’re unaware, aren’t known for their respect of women and their bodies. At least half my partners made some off color remark about my vulva. Most of the comments were couched in some kind of joke. Some were outright insulting. The worst one was a boy who started going down on me and exclaimed, and I quote, “mmmm I’ve got a fetish for chicks with big fucked up pussies.” I remember crying as he brought me to orgasm.
Associating misery with intimacy was the only thing that stopped my drunken one-nighters. It didn’t stop my drinking, though. On the contrary; I remained in my dorm room and drank alone, hating my body and myself. My grades slipped. The few friendships I’d developed evaporated. Even my roommate, Amanda, who’d been the only consistently positive influence on my life up to that point, barely came by anymore. She spent all her time at her boyfriend’s dorm. I figured she couldn’t deal with me being depressed all the time.
One night before Christmas break, I was drunk in the room when someone knocked on my door. I staggered over and opened it. It was one of the frat boys I’d been with earlier in the semester. I couldn’t remember if he’d been decent to me or not. It didn’t really matter. He wanted to know if I was interested in hooking up.
I wasn’t. But I didn’t tell him no. He came in the room and got on top of me. I passed out.
I woke up some time later to the sound of tinny laughter coming from somewhere around me. I cracked open my eyes and the room room spun. I was still terribly intoxicated. The laughter continued. It was coming from in front of me. I tried to focus on the shape a few feet away.
It was the boy. He was kneeling on the bed, pulling my right leg to the side with one hand. His phone was in the other, aimed at my crotch. More laughter. I realized he was Facetiming with his frat buddies. I gasped and kicked at him. He laughed and jumped up and ran out of the room.
I felt nauseous and violated. Rightfully, I might add. But at that time, my indignation was dwarfed by my sense of shame. Shame and self loathing.
I’m not going to blame what happened next on the effect of the alcohol still coursing through my system. I’m not even going to blame what happened next on what that one boy had just done to me. What happened next was the culmination of years of abuse and subsequent self hatred, depression, and insecurity.
I took a pair of scissors from Amanda’s desk drawer.
She was the one who found me later that morning. The sheets were drenched in blood. My hands were covered. The scissors were coated. I was in the hospital for a month.
I’ll make a long story short: I’d completely excised my inner labia. 80% of my clitoris had been sliced off. My urethral opening had been inadvertently punctured. I had, for all intents and purposes, destroyed my external genitalia.
My physical recovery was painful and fraught with complications. The scissors had not been sharp. The cuts were ragged and difficult to stitch. I developed a severe infection that kept me in the hospital for another two weeks. That was probably a blessing in disguise – it meant more time for therapy.
Eventually, the physical wounds started to heal. The therapy helped me come to terms with my drinking problem, and, along with the help of antidepressants, my body image.
I moved back in with my mom in late January. I wouldn’t ever return to that college again.
The next five years were spent working as a barista at Starbucks near home. I developed a routine I was comfortable with and even made a friend or two. I’d have frequent nightmares about my experiences at school, but I’d done significant work with my therapist on how to move beyond them.
What I couldn’t move beyond, though, was the damage I’d done to myself. The effect of the scissors, the emergency surgery, and stitches, was a lot of scar tissue. I had next to no sensation in my groin. And, to me, it was even uglier than it had been before the incident.
I discussed this with my therapist and she told me plastic surgeons could likely help me, and assured me that, in time, I would find a partner who would love me for who I am.
Logically, I knew she was right. But my emotional side knew it would take a very, very long time. I could never afford that kind of surgery. My health insurance barely covered my therapy. If I hadn’t been under my mom’s insurance when I’d harmed myself, God only knew what would have ended up happening.
I began running out of outlets. Before I disfigured myself, I could at least blow off steam at the end of a rough day by having a big meal or masturbating. But I was terrified of gaining weight and becoming even more unattractive. And masturbation was out of the question. I had no hobbies, no direction, and nothing left except my routine and my therapy — the latter growing less successful every day.
A couple months ago, I was at work, mindlessly serving coffees and pastries when I saw a familiar face in line. I almost jumped for joy. It was Amanda. I hadn’t seen her since she’d visited me in the hospital. We texted infrequently, but since she lived on the other side of the state, I’d never expected to see her.
I informed my boss that I needed to take my break, then sat at a table with my former roommate.
We chatted pleasantly, albeit mostly smalltalk. She seemed reluctant to ask me personal questions. It felt like she didn’t know how much I could emotionally handle.
Instead, Amanda veered the conversation into a strange avenue: she began talking about her religion. Now, I never knew Amanda to be a religious person. Not at all, in fact. This was a side of her I’d never expected to see.
“It’s not like a…religion religion,” Amanda informed me. “It’s more like sense of oneness with nature that allows you to bring change where change is needed.”
I nodded. It sounded a little new-agey for my taste, but at least she wasn’t telling me about the plight of unborn babies.
Amanda continued. “The last time our group met, I told them what had happened to you. I mentioned how you endured so much pain and how it’s going to affect you for the rest of your life.”
I felt a flash of violation, but I squashed it. I was sure Amanda hadn’t told them about me, personally. Just about the incident. She confirmed that a second later.
“I didn’t give them any specifics like your name or that you were my roommate. But I did say you were very close to me, because that’s important in how we can help change things.”
“What do you mean, change?” I asked.
“Well, hopefully, I mean fix,” replied Amanda. “I have something for you.”
She reached into her handbag and produced a jar of what looked like lotion. “We blessed this. That blessing imbued it with a catalyst for change.”
I eyed the jar. It really did just look like lotion. I opened it and sniffed. It was lotion. Cetaphil, I think.
“Mand, what am I supposed to do with this?”
“Apply it to your injury every night. Just do that, and things will be back to normal. Things will be good for you again.”
I stared into her eyes. I could tell she meant what she was saying.
My boss called over to our table, reminding me that my break had ended five minutes ago.
“Trust me,” Amanda whispered. “And text me if you have any questions. But I don’t think you will.”
She got up and embraced me, then she left.
I finished the workday, obsessing over the small jar in my apron pocket. When my shift ended, I hurried home. I ate dinner with my mother, who remarked that I looked happier than I had in a while. I told her I’d seen Amanda. I didn’t tell her about what she’d given me.
Later that night, I showered and got ready for bed. Before I got into my pajamas, I opened the jar from Amanda. I smelled it again. I compared it to the bottle of lotion on my bedside table. The scents were identical. I sighed and felt stupid for getting my hopes up.
Still, I did as Amanda had instructed. I scooped a fingerful of the lotion from the jar and let it warm. Then I spread it over the hard, rubbery scar tissue that composed the remains of my vulva. I got dressed, turned off the lights, and went to sleep.
I woke up before dawn with a gasp. I had sensation. Tingly, prickly waves ran up and down my scarred flesh. It wasn’t painful or pleasurable, but it was something. Something, after years of absolutely nothing.
Days passed and I continued with Amanda’s treatment cycle. Each day brought new sensation, and, something I didn’t believe until I used a hand mirror to study myself, a diminishment of scar tissue. It was like new skin was growing. It was red and soft and puffy – entirely different from the leathery reminder of my butchery.
The recovery wasn’t my imagination. Subsequent applications yielded more results. Before too long, I had full feeling in my genitals. I masturbated for the first time in years. It felt like a shroud had been lifted from me. I was almost a real person again.
I say “almost” because despite the regaining of sensation and the beginnings of growth, the appearance of my crotch was still abnormal. It still looked like I’d been in an accident. The scar tissue was gone, but the marks were still there. My clitoris was still a tiny stump when compared to its former self. Those aspects still kept me self conscious and nervous. Too nervous to seek out a relationship.
After a month and a half, I’d used up all the lotion. The appearance of my vulva had improved, but I still had the same old feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. I texted Amanda to give her the last update, and she responded with kindness and enthusiasm. She was so happy to be able to help me and said, to my relief, that the effects of the lotion would persist until everything was back to how it had been.
The news was bittersweet. A lot of me did want a return to normalcy after years of disfigurement. Still, in my insecurity, I had wished I could be transformed into what I’d idealized: the women in the porn scenes I’d seen when I was a kid. The type of woman the boys at college had wanted me to be. Not the one they’d laughed at.
True to her word, after another few weeks, my vulva had returned to its original state. My clitoris was large and protrusive and my inner labia stuck out and rubbed uncomfortably against my underwear when I walked. I was me again. For better or worse. I wondered if the treatment had been worth it.
Life went as typically as I could have expected for a little while. I was too nervous to ask out a boy I liked at Starbucks, not because I was worried about my disfigurement, but because I was worried about how he’d react to my normal, healthy body. I knew how perverse my thinking was in that respect, but that knowledge did nothing to help my self esteem.
I walked home, alone, every day, feeling my labia chafing against my underwear like they’d done for a long time in the past. The pain, though, seemed a little harder to ignore.
One night, as I was sitting on the toilet after dinner, I felt a terrible, icy-cold jolt rush through me. I jumped up, nearly falling on the floor. Water was dripping off my lips. My eyes widened. My labia were long, but they’d never dangled so far as to land in the toilet.
I tore off some toilet paper and wiped the water away, then examined myself. My labia looked stretched and thicker than normal. All the walking and chafing must have caused some swelling. I sighed and dressed, then snuck down to the kitchen for an ice pack. I slept with it tucked between my legs.
In the morning, when I took a shower, I checked the swelling. It hadn’t gone down. In fact, it had gotten worse. My labia dangled halfway down my thighs. In a panic, I jumped out of the shower and texted Amanda.
Me: Mand there’s something wrong. Everything’s…bigger. What should I do???
Amanda: What do you mean?
Me: BIGGER! My lips are bigger than ever. What is going on?!
There was a pause for five minutes before her response.
Amanda: Don’t worry about it. It will be back to normal. Bye.
Me: What? When?
The message hung in space for about a minute, then returned as “not delivered.” I tried again. Same message.
I started to cry. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I glanced at the clock. I was late for work. I struggled into my clothes and took off running. The pain of each step was almost unbearable.
Everything at work was the worst. The customers were rude, the orders were long and complicated, and the other barista had called out. I was alone with the manager and he was in a wretched mood because of my lateness.
All the while, I was in pain. My crotch felt like it was on fire. Pressure was building against my underwear with every move I made and it took every ounce of my emotional fortitude to not burst into tears. Finally, when there was a break in the action, I excused myself to use the restroom.
I entered the room, locked the door, and pulled down my pants. I screamed so loudly I felt something tear inside my throat. My labia had been stuck to the inside of my underwear, and as I pulled them down, they unfurled to my shins. Each one was as thick as my hand. I shrieked again and stumbled sideways, cracking my head on the the toilet.
Everything spun, just like how it had that fateful day when I discovered the boy recording me for his friends.
This time was different. I heard someone pounding on the door and yelling, asking if I was okay. I moaned in pain and fear. I felt a cold and slippery sensation. In my dazed state, I watched as my labia lengthened before my eyes, sliding against the floor and bunching up in the corner.
The door swung open. It was the manager with the key. He took one look at me and fainted. The tangle of angry, pink flesh on the floor grew and grew. Customers rushed to see what was happening, and one by one they disappeared back around the corner, wide-eyed, gagging, or shouting.
The last thing I remembered before I joined the manager in unconsciousness was the piled flesh in the corner reaching the ceiling and toppling over, covering me.
Now, today, I write this from my hospital bed. The growth has not stopped. Every few minutes, a surgeon removes what appears to be ten feet of thick, heavy skin from the floor at the foot of my bed. I am flying high on a combination of painkillers and adrenaline.
No one knows what is happening to me. None of this should be happening to me. The hospital had my mother bring the empty lotion jar to the labs for analysis, but they could find nothing abnormal. Just lotion. But I know the truth. And it is something I doubt any lab could detect.
A nice, blonde doctor just removed another chunk of my labia. That chunk looked much longer than the last one. Maybe twenty feet. I tried not to notice when he snuck his phone out of his pocket to take a picture. I know whoever’s going to get that photo won’t laugh at what they see. They’ll be horrified, sure, but they won’t be laughing. They won’t be mocking. And I guess, somehow, that’s better than what I’m used to.