The increasingly popular practice of surgically reshaping the female genitalia in order to create the “perfect vagina” has come under sharp criticism by medical experts, who claim the practice is akin to female genital mutilation and has little medical necessity.
The procedure, known as labioplasty, usually involves surgically reshaping or cutting off parts of the labia minora/majora, the folds of skin surrounding the vagina.
Reportedly most operations are undertaken for aesthetic reasons, but medical reasons include discomfort caused by an excessively overdeveloped labia, with costs in the region of $5,000. Possible complications include loss of sensation, scarring, and the usual risks of infection and botched operations.
A variety of studies have criticised the practice, with the latest research published by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology damning the procedure as largely unnecessary and poorly understood.
The study criticised the procedure as being an unnecessary one with demand fuelled by plastic surgeons’ own advertising, and questioned the underlying notion that there is a “correct” aesthetic for the vagina:
“Advertisements promote labial surgery as easy answers to women’s insecurities about their genital appearances – insecurities that are fuelled by the very advertisements that prescribe a homogenised, pre-pubescent genital appearance standard for all women.”
Such “standards of beauty” for something so intimate as the female vagina are, particularly in the relatively modest nations of Europe and America, likely to be based almost exclusively on the genital appearance of performers in pornography, hardly providing a broad cross-section of female anatomical variation.
The fact that many of these performers have actually had the surgery further increases the risk that an unrealistic aesthetic is being promoted as desirable.
They also questioned the medical justification for such surgery, saying supposed pain from a protruding labia may well be psychosomatic, and pointing out that male genitalia has similar sensitivity whilst protruding far further – in such cases therapy might be more effective, they say.
The researchers even go so far as to note certain similarities between labioplasty and female genital mutilation, where the labia and/or clitoris are cut off, a practice endemic in certain Islamic nations, saying the procedure may permanently damage sexual sensitivity and cause complications in childbirth.
The study concludes by questioning the wisdom of cutting off the most sensitive parts of the female body for purely cosmetic reasons:
“Labial surgery needs to be rigorously evaluated in future, and for longer term.
Furthermore, quality research is needed to improve our understanding of the psychological drivers behind women’s decision to sacrifice sexually sensitive tissue that contributes to erotic experiences, for a certain genital appearance that used to be an obligation only for some glamour models.”
Just how many women are undergoing such surgery is not known, but numbers are thought to be increasing “exponentially.”
Naturally, plastic surgeons offering the procedure insist there are no possible long-term problems worth “terrorising” customers over, and everyone can now enjoy an “elegant” labia:
“They’ve gone a bit over the top. Essentially this is just about removing a bit of loose flesh, leaving behind an elegant-looking labia with minimum scarring. The procedure won’t interfere with sexual function.
Women want this for a number of reasons – some find it uncomfortable to ride a bike for instance, but for the majority it is aesthetic, that’s true.
Lads’ mags are looked at by girlfriends, and make them think more about the way they look. We live in times where we are much more open about our bodies – and changing them – and labioplasty is simply a part of this.”