Designer vaginas which is female genital cosmetic surgery,is a growing phenomenon that plenty of women are obsessed with.Increasing numbers of women are asking their doctors for a designer vagina. So many, in fact, that the authorities in western countries are said to be reviewing whether such surgery should be publicly-funded through medicare and health insurance.I spoke to both an Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recently seeking their view on this subject but not much was forthcoming bearing in mind they knew I will share my findings online.They both strongly discouraged about designer vaginas unless there are compelling medical reasons and cited a range of potential complications, including scarring, permanent disfigurement, infection, pain, and altered sexual sensations.So why are so many women demanding labioplasty,a surgical operation that involves reduction of protruding labial tissue surrounding the vagina? According to obstetrician, the popular reason given is dissatisfaction with the appearance of the genitals.This dissatisfaction is usual in the general population and very common with young women but not all as my danish photographer friend has proved with her work. One recent survey found over 60% of women felt unhappy with the size or appearance of their labia.In another, close to 40% of women had considered genital surgery. The dramatic increase in genital dissatisfaction over the last few years is not due to changes in women’s anatomy. It’s due to changing social views on what is a “normal” vulva and vagina. A prepubescent, hairless and others appearances that now stands as the ideal.
Pornography is partly to blame, depicting women’s genitals as a slit, with no visible labia at all. Due to globally accepted censorship that enshrines such practices in laws, only allowed “discrete genital detail” can be shown which means few women who seek that service understands the consequences. On instagram, the airbrushing of photographs of women’s genitals has had inevitable consequence. A story is told of how a woman requesting labioplasty took such images to her doctor as a model for surgery which shows the insidious nature of pornography’s influence.Despite all that, there’s no way how heterosexual women can find out what “normal” female genitals look like and outside of pornography, women’s genitals are culturally invisible. In words of obstetricians, the days of self examination in feminist consciousness raising groups, when women used a mirror and speculum to explore their vaginas, are long gone. This is a shame. If women dared to look,they would find that the majority of adult women look very different from the photographs depicted in pornographic magazines. A discussion with gynaecologist continued, it was clear genital size in women has huge variation, with most women having protruding labia, not a simple slit. To him, medical textbooks ignore this fact, depicting women’s genitalia with smaller proportions than even those shown in pornography. Labia that protrude in a normal way are described as abnormal enlargement, but there’s no clear guidance on what level of protrusion merits such diagnosis. With all this in mind, it’s not surprising that many women are referred for labioplasty without a physical examination, as the woman’s complaint of abnormal labial shape or size is simply accepted.
When an examination is conducted, women are still referred for treatment, even if their labia are in the normal range. Listening to both, it was clear that medical profession should not be guilty of believing that they can make women happy by acquiescing to their requests for genital surgery. However, many women are sexually dissatisfied or anxious about their genitals after surgery and, for some women, labioplasty is just one of many cosmetic surgery procedures undertaken. This is not to criticise women who seek such surgery. It’s difficult to resist the idealised images of female sexuality that surround women. The reality of the female body has been airbrushed for decades, with artists depicting the nude with a vaginal slit and no hair. All notions of seepage, flesh or fluid, are completely removed from the frame. The popularity of removing all pubic hair has made prepubescent genital the new norm. It also draws attention to labial skin that would otherwise be concealed, a further explanation for the increased numbers of women seeking labioplasty. Rather than subjecting women who are dissatisfied with their genitals to the surgeon’s knife, women need to be informed and their partners, about what is normal. Some surgeons show women images of the wide range of female genitals to try to dissuade them from labioplasty. There’s no argument that different stakeholders have normalised and celebrated the diversity of women’s genitals. The real issue here is women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies. Women should be challenging the unrealistic images and expectations that perpetuate this unhappiness, not cutting into women’s flesh.