In Defense of the Camel Toe

In Defense of the Camel Toe

"Designer vagina" surgery is thriving right now as the KarJenners et al try to force ultra-tight bodysuits down our throats. But why must vulvas be invisible?

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Screenshot: Kim Kardashian/Instagram

Trends come and trends go. Some are less savory than others, and yet we passively participate, like sheep. There was a year or two there where we were all wearing black chokers for some reason, and that was kinda weird, but I have no regrets. “Designer vagina” surgery, however, is where I fucking draw the line.

More and more women, the Daily Mail reports, are flocking to get labiaplasty—a procedure that can fix the appearance of “camel toe,” or the visible outline of labia when pants or shorts are too tight around the crotch—in order to wear Kardashian-inspired ultra-tight leggings. Labiaplasty apparently shrinks the labia minora, or the “flaps on the inside of the vagina,” per the New York Post, with a sticker price upwards of $4,000. One U.K. surgeon, Dr. John Skevofilax, told the Daily Mail on Tuesday while he performed just 50 labiaplasties throughout 2021, he’s already surpassed that number this year, and it’s only August. He attributed this at least in part to the recent surging popularity of both athleisure and extremely fitted bodysuits, pioneered by clothing lines like SKIMS, which basically show every fold and contour of the vulva in detail.

Of course, there’s long been a stigma around showing camel toe—as if the mere suggestion of anything existing between our legs besides a smooth, plastic Barbie/Ken doll crotch should be humiliating. But what if we just...stopped caring? People are now wearing the world’s tiniest bikinis, which—as Megan Reynolds has previously noted—create about four feet of space between belly button and crotch and often straight-up show the labia majora. On this season of The Kardashians, Khloe made points in a conversation with Kim about SKIMS: “You guys make fun of me for having a bigger vagina than most,” she said, adding that the crotch of SKIMS’ bodysuits is a mere “sliver” and asking if it’s “just supposed to cover my [clitoris]? The vagina needs a little more fabric, just a little wider.”

Fashion wants to simultaneously erase women’s vaginas while showcasing them front and center. We’re supposed to wear ultra-fitted full-bodysuits sans camel toe; we’re supposed to wear the most nonexistent of bikinis and somehow neatly tuck away any sign of labia. Impossible beauty standards have already policed every other aspect of women’s bodies—does this really have to include the size of our actual vaginas?

I, personally, am not really a leggings person and have never really cared about accidentally flashing anyone at the beach. But I’ve just about had it with the camel toe stigma and tiny-vagina-worship in general—especially from the same society that just a few years ago worshipped Mr. John Hamm for his famous “moose knuckle” (a term, I learned from my colleagues this week, that refers to the outline of men’s genitals in tight clothing). Here at Jezebel, we celebrate your genitals at any size and whatever outline they may accidentally make through your clothes.

In that spirit, I offer you some of camel toes’ (and moose knuckles’) greatest hits, for some positive inspiration:

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Katy Perry, 2010 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

Katy Perry, 2010 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

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Photo: Getty

2010 was Katy Perry’s year, between dropping the legendary album Teenage Dream and her voice-acting role in The Smurfs. If Perry was pulling off camel toe at the height of her career on-stage at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, why should you be embarrassed to wear fitted leggings to the grocery store??

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Miley Cyrus, 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival

Miley Cyrus, 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival

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Photo: Getty

The early 2010s delivered new Miley Cyrus-related “scandals” on a near daily basis, and whatever your opinion of Cyrus, it’s commendable how little she cared about any of it. Case in point: this iconic camel toe moment from 2013's iHeartRadio music festival in Vegas.

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Rihanna at Madison Square Garden in 2013

Rihanna at Madison Square Garden in 2013

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Photo: Getty

If a bonafide style icon like Rihanna is serving and pulling off camel toe, it’s high-fashion. Period.

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John Hamm, at the Biennial Stand Up To Cancer in 2014

John Hamm, at the Biennial Stand Up To Cancer in 2014

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Photo: Getty

In 2013, it was reported that during the sixth season of filming for Mad Men, Hamm was “politely instructed by a staffer at the network to please wear underwear while shooting his scenes” due to the distracting nature of his bulge. We are, as usual, simply not allowed to have nice things.

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John Hamm, again

John Hamm, again

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Screenshot: Twtitter

I’m not sure when this paparazzi pic was snapped, but mind you, Hamm’s penchant for moose knuckling is the subject of an extensive 2017 Cosmo slideshow. So, before you go around preaching at people to “wear underwear” or find “better-fitting clothes,” look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Have I ever been so honored as to have a Cosmo slideshow dedicated to my genitalia?” If the answer is no, we don’t need to hear from you.

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Lady GaGa, 2008 San Jose concert

Lady GaGa, 2008 San Jose concert

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Photo: Getty

If the woman who once dressed as raw meat at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards has flaunted camel toe before sold-out stadiums, you and your Lululemons are in good company at the gym. Be free!! You were born this way...

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The Prancercise lady in 2013

The Prancercise lady in 2013

Prancercise Fitness Workout — The New Internet Craze!? | TMZ

Because we live in hell, at 60-years-old, Prancercise Lady Joanna Rohrback went about as viral as you could get in 2013 over her very visible labia while performing her prancercise routine for the masses. If Rohrback is still alive (and I hope she is), like every 2000s/2010s female celebrity and micro-celebrity, she deserves a collective apology from society.

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Gwyneth Paltrow on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in 2014

Gwyneth Paltrow on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in 2014

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Photo: Getty

The one thing for which I’ll give Goop credit is how unapologetic the brand is when it comes to talking about and making (questionable!) products for vaginas. And here Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow is, bearing hers to the world in a 2014 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon!

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Men’s rowing teams at the 2016 Olympics

Men’s rowing teams at the 2016 Olympics

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Photo: Getty

The 2016 Olympics in Rio were truly a time—just ask Ryan Lochte! Lest you forgot, it was around this time that the New York Post seemed to suggest complaints about sexist policing of women athletes’ uniforms were hypocritical because men’s rowing teams are dressed like... this. (Pictured above is the Australian men’s sculling team from that year. I think I’m starting to get why it’s called the Land Down Under!). Maybe the Post was on to something—maybe we’re just one good moose-knuckle-and-camel-toe-renaissance away from achieving a post-sexist, truly egalitarian society.

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