Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Better than a boob job?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Apparently, in the quest for body parts to Botox, women have turned to their vaginas. Procedures that, were they conducted in the Congo, would be decried as female genital mutilation, are available from plastic surgeons in the U.S., in a staggeringly wide array. Who would have thought there could be so many things wrong with a vagina? Visiting such a clinic, a woman can choose from such an assortment of procedures as “laser vaginal rejuvenation”, “designer vaginoplasty”, “g-spot amplification”, or my personal favorite, “revirgination” (apparently virginity CAN be reclaimed, with the simple reattachment of the hymen).

The surgeries are marketed in a variety of ways, each more disturbing than the last. “It's the ultimate gift for the man who has everything,” said a woman who paid $5000 to have her hymen reattached, giving her husband the “ultimate thrill of conquest.” A vaginoplasty may appeal to a woman who has recently had a child and has experienced an “enlargement of the vaginal opening” (a common – even, dare I say it, natural – result of childbirth). “An oversize labia minora may cause embarrassment with your partner because it doesn't look good,” advises another website. And clearly, a labiaplasty is the only solution.

But even more shocking than the expectation that a woman should need to have plastic surgery anywhere, especially on her vagina, are the associated medical risks. The New View Campaign, an organization which protests the medicalization of women’s sexuality, has called attention to the inherent dangers of these surgeries. Surgeons make unsubstantiated claims about their procedures. “Genital cosmetic surgery franchising spreads misinformation,” said group spokesperson Leonore Tiefer, Ph.D. a New York psychologist. “Professional organizations, the FTC and the FDA are failing to protect women from harm.”

The potential risks: possible scarring, chronic pain, obstetric risks, loss of genital sensation, reduced erotic pleasure, and post-operative anxieties. But according to The New York Times, even doctors who don't advertise say that they get inquiries from patients every month.

"Now women shave," said Dr. Gary J. Alter, a plastic surgeon and urologist who has come up with his own "labia contouring" technique. "Now they see porn. Now they're more aware of appearance."

How far can we really say we’ve come, when women are being convinced to physically recreate their virginity for their partners’ pleasure, or risking permanent damage to their bodies because of insecurity about the size of their labia? These sites are all over the Internet, but each one seems more absurd than the last. Apparently vaginal cosmetic surgery is advertised on billboards across the country, and these are expensive procedures, ranging from around $1500-$5000. Even though the procedures supposedly increase sexual pleasure (a medically questionable statement), it’s clear whose pleasure these surgeries are really for.


At November 5, 2008 at 4:45 PM , Blogger PeterW said...

If you're truly supportive of the rights of women, you should not be for banning the procedure, even if, as I previously argued, the women are partly motivated by interest in pleasing *gasp* men. By all means raise awareness of the dangers, but to say "Aww, the poor patriarchy-brainwashed women can't make their own decisions" is an act of paternalism that stands against all that feminism is theoretically for.

At November 5, 2008 at 9:52 PM , Blogger Mike said...

I don't is my understanding that one can never truly know how much of a woman's motivations can be attributed to either her controlled and conscious desire to please a man rather than to an automatic and subconscious desire to conform to standards and norms that are in place as a result of a world history that has been largely dominated by men.

It would be interesting to explore whether men choose to please woman in any sexual sense (dress, actions, reconstructive surgery, etc.) without first having been influenced by societal expectations associated with matriarchy. If we can find as many examples of this as you suggest we may be able to find for women then I suppose we have achieved some measure of equality.

At November 6, 2008 at 3:13 AM , Blogger Roscoe said...

I want a penis enlargement surgery so I can better please my partner (cause she's told me various times that other partners with longer penises please her more). Can I now ask my partner to get vagina surgery without the fear of being called a sexist? Is she not a feminist if she does?


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