Vaginas! Let’s talk about them. Perhaps, like me, you don’t know much about what anyone’s vagina looks like, except for your own. But it turns out the lips of the labia can be “innies” or “outies,” just like belly buttons, and “outies” … well, they look just like they sound. Surely, women with “outies” can feel discomfort down there when riding a bike or wearing tight-fitting jeans. But the truth is, the majority of the time a woman gets labioplasty surgery on her vagina, she’s letting a plastic surgeon have a go at her hooda with a scalpel for aesthetic reasons. She wants the perfect vagina, but what the heck is that?
Slicing and dicing up your ladyflower to “prettify” it is disconcerting on its own, but new research published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has found labioplasty surgery creates similar complications with childbirth that victims of female genital mutilation (also called female circumcision) suffer. Gynecologist Sarah Creighton, a researcher at University College London who conducted the study, found that labioplasty may alleviate some sex-related problems but increases the risk of tearing, bleeding and nerve damage.
Despite the health risks, labioplasties are on the rise as more women pursue the perfect vagina. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a warning against labioplasties in 2007, calling it “deceptive” of physicians to “give the impression” that these surgeries are “accepted and routine,” and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported the procedures increased from 793 in 2005 to 1,030 in 2006. By 2008, a spokesman from the British medical group Surgicare told the BBC they had seen a 300 percent increase in labioplasties and a 700 percent increase in inquiries about labioplasties.
Getting a labioplasty is like getting a boob job on your vagina — even the former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons admitted as much (though he didn’t have a problem with it). Douglas McGeorge told the BBC:
For the majority [of women, labioplasty] 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.”
Dr. Creighton, who researched the report by reviewing all the existing studies on aesthetic labioplasty, strongly condemned the rise in such surgeries:
“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.”
Some women may truly need labioplasty to increase comfort and reduce pain. But the majority of cases, the “psychological drivers,” really need a lot more attention; these women have self-esteem issues or believe that the vagina is “ugly,” “dirty,” or “bad.” It’s absolutely mind-boggling that girls in parts of Africa are forced to suffer painful and oppressive female genital mutilation and experience painful side effects during childbirth, while women elsewhere in the world choose to cut up their vaginas and, thus, suffer those same side effects in childbirth.
But then again, plastic surgeons have never made the big money off of people with good self-esteem.