Let’s talk about labia

A sample page from the zine. Click to read!

I’m particularly excited about one of the essays in my forthcoming zine, Our Bodies, Our Bikes. It’s a friendly, approachable, no-nonsense guide to crotch comfort and health for women who ride bikes, co-written with my friend Caroline, a nurse, seamstress, and hardcore mountain biker. (Word to the wise: Her current occupation is making kick ass cycling caps. And the holidays are coming up. Just saying.)

This essay was inspired by a number of factors, including a few of my own painful experiences in the saddle and the discovery that another friend and I had both, in our youth, had STD scares that turned out to be saddle sores. The latter conversation continued into somewhat more terrifying territory — the discovery that some women who spend a lot of time in the bike saddle deal with saddle comfort by having their labia surgically snipped.

I also happened on, and was inspired by, a frank article on the blog Lovely Bicycle about women’s anatomy and bike saddles and the hundred plus comments in which readers shared their own experiences, remedies, and preventative strategies — mainly common sense solutions that were news to many other readers, including myself.

Crotches are a major point of contact with the bike. That’s why men’s genital health gets talked about a lot, as it should be, in bike shops and in the New York Times. Perhaps more women would ride bikes — and the labiaplasty option would have less appeal — if we talked about our vulvas more freely. That’s the plan, anyway.


Our Bodies, Our Bikes is out now — Buy it here!

6 Responses to “Let’s talk about labia”

  1. juliet November 28, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    i am feeling rather naive, i had no idea cyclists underwent labiaplasty to be more comfortable on their saddles! I would love to order the zine but there’s gotta be a cheaper shipping option to Canada, $21 just isn’t possible.

    • Elly November 28, 2011 at 9:04 am #

      Juliet, me neither. It’s a wild world out there. I’m still trying to fix my international shipping options. It should be more like $3, definitely not $21! In the meantime, any of you outside the U.S. who aren’t finding what you need please email me — elly@ this domain name — and I’ll send you direct paypal instructions. Sorry about that.

  2. Elletrue December 30, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    Women in many parts of the world are trying to become free from body mutilation. They want to embrace their real selves, and have ownership over their own bodies. Granted, these women bicyclists are making the decision to undergo labiaplasty, but my concern is that this procedure is spreading in popularity to many sectors of society. Porn stars often have this done to be “prettier”. Haven’t women been through enough?! Why can’t we just love ourselves, saddle sores and all?

  3. melinda March 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    Why would I love a saddle sore? Given the choice, I’d rather have a one-time surgical procedure than chafed labia all the time.

    Luckily for me, I don’t have to make that choice. I have a saddle I like and pants that work, and I’m a happy camper.

  4. Elly March 13, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Melinda, the thing that seemed so tragic about that forum post was that the process the poster described that led her to decide on a labiaplasty was one of adding more and more gel padding to her seat, which counterintuitively led to more and more chafing, leading her to conclude that the problem was her body, not her set-up. One reason C. and I wrote this essay was to help people troubleshoot and perhaps find less drastic solutions. Glad to hear you’re riding happily!

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