The 'Husband Stitch' Actually Happens, And It Is Horrifying

by Sara Farrell Baker
Originally Published: 
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If you have somehow made it through your day without screaming into the void, I’m here to remind you that horrible things are happening every moment of every day and we need to press the refresh button and start over.

Here’s a little known fact (well, little known to anyone who hasn’t birthed a human child): During labor and childbirth, many women experience tearing. Others may undergo an episiotomy, a cut made to the perineum. Because pushing something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a strawberry is likely to have some consequences.

Afterward childbirth, the perineum is stitched up so the perineum and vagina can heal. And here’s the kicker: sometimes women are given an extra stitch in this process. It is not always consented to, and many women only find out it’s happening to them when their doctor makes a crude remark about how her lady bits will be even better than new. Sounds horrifying and ridiculous, right? Because it is.

It’s referred to as the husband stitch, and the only purpose of this modification and mutilation of a woman’s body is the sexual pleasure of men. It is one extra stitch in the vaginal opening after birth. And it can lead to a host of complications for the women being stitched up.

Making the opening of the vagina smaller does not make the entire vagina tighter. The fact that a medical professional would be so idiotic to think so would be surprising if you weren’t already aware of the discriminations women face regularly in medicine. But what is even more infuriating is that this is even a thing. What kind of world do we live in when even in the moments immediately following the delivery of their babies, women’s bodies are reduced to objects to be consumed by men? Oh, right. Welcome to Misogyny 101.

Women who have received a husband stitch often complain of painful intercourse. Many women describe their vaginal opening as a skirt with a pleat in it. The flesh on the outside of the vaginal opening is sewn into this pleat, creating frequent or constant discomfort for some.

The pain isn’t confined to those weeks after birth, either, when the body is healing and recovering, but every single time they have sex until the procedure is reversed, either through physical therapy or after they have another baby and tear again before being stitched properly. Can you imagine being hopeful that you tear during childbirth?

Sex after a husband stitch often has to be slow and with very specific positioning. If I get an unexpected bump to the cervix, I’m skittish. I cannot imagine the anxiety that would come with anticipating pain every time I have sex.

What’s more, the damn thing doesn’t even work as advertised — which is the absolute least consequential issue with a husband stitch. Often given with a wink and a nod to husbands (and fuck them for that, by the way), men do not experience more pleasurable sex from this because one more time for the people in the back: the actual vagina is not made tighter.

The husband stitch is sexism at its darkest. It is the idea that women’s bodies exist purely for men — for their viewing pleasure and their sexual pleasure, while the comfort and wishes of a woman are completely discarded. It is the fact that while women are trying to figure out how to breastfeed and haven’t even taken that first post-childbirth shit on our own yet, someone is more concerned about our sex life.

The only thing on a doctor’s mind during and after delivery should be the health and comfort of mother and baby. The furthest thing from anyone’s mind should be “How can I soup up that vagina for the benefit of the man standing to her left?” No man has to worry about going in for a vasectomy and coming out with the bells and whistles of our favorite vibrator attached to his penis. So why should a woman have the outside of her vagina sewn into the inside of her vagina so that her husband can feel like he’s pounding the blood pressure machine at the pharmacy?

Answer: they shouldn’t.

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