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Designer Vaginas: Are Women Going Too Far?

By Carolyn E. Price     May 24, 2007 in Health
The latest "trend" in plastic surgery for women is being lambasted (with complete justification as far as I can say) by the prestigious British Medical Journal.
The tabloids have a name for the latest craze to grip the United States and Britain, cosmetic surgery to the female genitalia is now being referred to as "designer vaginas".
Getting a designer vagina is not an easy cosmetic surgery. The procedure itself is known as elective genitoplasty and it usually involves the shortening or changing the shape of the outer lips, or labia. Also, it can involve reducing or removing the hood of skin that covers the clitoris and can involve shortening the vagina itself.
One of the world's most prestigious health journals has lashed out at this fast-growing trend. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) says that "fashion is being driven by commercial and media pressures that exploit women's insecurities and is fraught with unknowns, including a risk to sexual arousal".
The BMJ says that there is a disturbing lack of data about the phenomenon, there has been negligible assessment about surgical after-effects and to top it all off, there has been no reflexion as to whether a labial "problem" actually exists in the first place.
London gynaecologist Sarah Creighton and clinical psychologist Lih Mei Liao did their own very small-scale survey into why women underwent this surgery.
"Our patients sometimes cited restrictions on lifestyle as reasons for their decision. These restrictions included inability to wear tight clothing, go to the beach, take communal showers or ride a bicycle comfortably, or avoidance of some sexual practices. Men, however, do not usually want the size of their genitals reduced for such reasons. Furthermore, they find alternative solutions for any discomfort arising from rubbing or chaffing of the genitals."
The patients they interviewed who want to have genitoplasty "uniformly" told them that they wanted their vulvas to be flat and not stick out, just like it the prepubescent look of girls in Western fashion ads.
"Not unlike presenting for a haircut at a salon, women often brought along images to illustrate the desired appearance," say Creighton and Liao. "The illustrations, usually from advertisements or pornography, are always selective and possibly digitally altered."
The authors warn that plastic surgery to the labia carries a huge risk because, as we all should know, the area carries nerve fibres that are highly sensitive and are a key pathway of sexual arousal.
"Incision to any part of the genitalia could compromise sensitivity." Well, duh!
The BMJ piece suggests that genitoplasty is a classic example of where commercial, media and social pressures artificially create a problem, fuel concern over it and then put forward a solution for it.
"There is nothing unusual about protrusion of the labia. It is the negative meaning that makes it into a problem -- meanings that can give rise to physical, emotional and behavioural reactions, such as discomfort, self-disgust, perhaps avoidance of some activities and a desire for a surgical fix."
I'm sorry, but I had never heard of this kind of surgery, nor would I ever even consider this to be sometime that I would personally do. How crazy does one have to be to what I would consider mutilating oneself to look "prepubescent". What is wrong with women that they feel that have to go to such extremes?
More about Designer, Vaginas, Cosmetic surgery