“Designer vaginas” get a warning label by medical professionals


Who would want to cut up such a happy and serene vagina?
Finally. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have released a public warning against vaginal rejuvenation surgery, saying that not only is there no proof of the surgery being effective, but that it can be severely damaging to, well, your vag:

According to ACOG, the procedures are unproven and the potential risks – including infection, scarring, nerve damage and loss of sensation – outweigh the potential benefits (Zimmerman, Wall Street Journal, 8/31). ACOG in a statement said it is ‘deceptive’ for physicians to ‘give the impression’ that such procedures are ‘accepted and routine surgical practices.’ ACOG’s Committee on Gynecologic Practice in a statement published in the September issue of the group’s magazine said the ‘[a]bsence of data supporting the safety and efficacy of these procedures makes their recommendation untenable.’

And remember that not only are they giving the impression that these procedures are routine, but that they’re also empowering. And while there’s been a “doubling” in the number of labiaplasties in the UK over the last five years (compared to a reported 30 percent rise by the American Society of Plastic Surgery), they’re making attempts to warn women of the negative mental effects:

The British Medical Journal weighed in on the topic with a May article calling cosmetic genital surgeries an ‘extreme and unproved intervention’ that ‘could undermine the development of other ways to help women and girls to deal with concerns about their appearance.’
Most women don’t understand that the size and shape of genitalia vary greatly, leading to ‘misguided assumptions’ about what is normal, said the authors, a clinical psychologist and a gynecologist.

Amen. Hopefully more women will begin to get the hint, especially since they’re doctors and all.

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31 Comments

  1. Roxie
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Question!
    What are the “the potential benefits”?

  2. Posted August 31, 2007 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    A career in porn?

  3. Delirium
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I find labiaplasty appalling when it’s done for purely cosmetic reasons (way too much like female circumcision!!) But I have a friend who it tremendously benefited.
    She explained to me that she’s built a little differently and that the top corner of her labia was very large and thick, so it ended up covering her clitoris most of the time. She told me that she really had to struggle to get an orgasm before her surgery because she could hardly feel any clitoral sensation . She had the piece of skin that was covering her clitoris reduced, and her overall sexual satisfaction has really benefited from it.
    I completely understand why so many people are alarmed by it, but I learned that there are times when it’s appropriate, assuming that the woman makes that choice for herself and no one else.

  4. Delirium
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I find labiaplasty appalling when it’s done for purely cosmetic reasons (way too much like female circumcision!!) But I have a friend who it tremendously benefited.
    She explained to me that she’s built a little differently and that the top corner of her labia was very large and thick, so it ended up covering her clitoris most of the time. She told me that she really had to struggle to get an orgasm before her surgery because she could hardly feel any clitoral sensation . She had the piece of skin that was covering her clitoris reduced, and her overall sexual satisfaction has really benefited from it.
    I completely understand why so many people are alarmed by it, but I learned that there are times when it’s appropriate, assuming that the woman makes that choice for herself and no one else.

  5. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    ROXIE: What are the “the potential benefits”?
    The promised benefits are increased tightness and sensation, particularly after childbirth. The reality, as pointed out in the post, differs.
    “I find labiaplasty appalling when it’s done for purely cosmetic reasons (way too much like female circumcision!!) But I have a friend who it tremendously benefited.”
    And, more generally for women with very long labias, it can interfere with favored activities (e.g., biking, horse-riding, etc.).
    Along those lines, a number of Urology organizations are against penis-enlargement surgery because of complications, low success rates, lack of long-term results, etc.

  6. Interrobang
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    And, more generally for women with very long labias, it can interfere with favored activities (e.g., biking, horse-riding, etc.).
    Uh, sorry… If your labia are getting in the way when you’re horseback riding, you’re doing it wrong. You shouldn’t be sitting on your crotch; you should be sitting on your seat. (That’s what equestrians have those big asses for, don’t you know?)
    I was a very serious equestrian for 20 years and I have the largest labia of anyone I’ve ever seen. I never had a whit of trouble, as long as I wasn’t grinding my crotch into the pommel of the saddle, which is pretty bad form anyway. Wearing panties under your jodhpurs (which you should probably do just on general principles) helps, too…
    I honestly don’t see any good reason to get a labiaplasty, unless your labia are damaged or somehow interfering with your sex life, or something.

  7. Marcus
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    To add a sexist perspective: there’s only one time your lover gets a good look at your vagina, and at that point their impression is formed primarily by taste.
    If a woman has a serious concern about her “situation,” basic hygiene and therapy are better than mutilation (hey that rhymes).

  8. jane
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Wrong Marcus. My husband has always been very interested in looking at my vagina. Before and during sex.
    Many of the shots in porn look closely at the vagina, so I don’t think he is unusual.

  9. Pamela
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    We here in the West are so quick to judge certain Third World societies for their misogynistic practices. And we should be outraged by the practices of honor killings, public stonings, and genital mutilation. But what does our practices of genital mutilation and the prevalence of eating disorders say about us? We need to get off our high horses and examine our troubled society.

  10. Pamela
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    We here in the West are so quick to judge certain Third World societies for their misogynistic practices. And we should be outraged by the practices of honor killings, public stonings, and genital mutilation. But what does our practices of genital mutilation and the prevalence of eating disorders say about us? We need to get off our high horses and examine our troubled society.

  11. Pamela
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    We here in the West are so quick to judge certain Third World societies for their misogynistic practices. And we should be outraged by the practices of honor killings, public stonings, and genital mutilation. But what does our practices of genital mutilation and the prevalence of eating disorders say about us? We need to get off our high horses and examine our troubled society.

  12. Roxie
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    You know Marcus, I was never once, not ever, curious about the sexist’s opinion on this matter.

  13. Therese Norén
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s not a happy vagina, it’s a happy vulva.
    Is it too much to ask of the people who think sexual education is important, to get the words for the female genitalia right? The outer part: clitoris, both sets of labia and the area between the labia, is the VULVA. The inner part up to the cervix is the VAGINA.

  14. jochre
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    “leading to ‘misguided assumptions’ about what is normal.”
    Alas and alack, I was one who thought my labia was too much, too ugly — but I was brought up with only the Barbie doll model of smooth down there, before pink became the norm in men’s magazines even.
    But a feminist slide show in the early ’70s of view after view of women’s pubes, enlightened me. The range of color, size, shape was both amazing and gorgeous (after the initial shock viewers became mesmerized, to the point of oohing and ahing at the pretty colors!)
    I’m not up on porn, but if it limits vaginas to the same narrow standard of female beauty as the rest of the female bodies in slick pornography, perhaps women are still being shamed into thinking their perfectly normal labia are “unsightly.”
    Enough so they’d undergo an operation that common sense would seem to preclude. (Geez, it can be delicate down there, the idea of a scapel makes me wince.)
    I live in Los Angeles, and “vagina rejuvenation” ads proliferate. Sad, sad, sad, when a little done operation which apparently had some medical purpose (as in the friend of the friend anecdote above) is being pushed by hucksters to the general public by shaming women once again about their perfectly normal bodies.

  15. Posted September 2, 2007 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    This—emphatically—shouldn’t be the rationale, but if there are any women who are having labiaplasties—specifically labia minora reductions—performed because of concerns about heterosexal sex appeal, I can’t figure out where they’ve gotten this idea. I’ve never heard any man express a preference against large labia. Personally, as single data point, I prefer them.
    Is another possibility for the concern age related?
    Whatever the rationale is, any sort of body modification as the direct or indirect result of sexism and/or male preferences is largely repugnant, given the cultural context of sexism. Of course, here we get into the ever-controversial discussion of what sorts of concerns about appearance are motivated by a desire for sexual attractiveness as opposed to the more nebulous and presumably defensible “feeling more comfortable with oneself”. I tend to think a lot of the latter claims reduce, at some point, to cultural sexism pressures, but viewpoints differ.
    That said, I’ve been convinced of a pro personal expression standpoint on body modifications in general—and as long as such modifications aren’t done for the wrong reasons (see above), then I think people should be allowed to modify their bodies in any way they see fit, barring those overly dangerous. This should certainly include modifications of sex anatomy; for example, piercings. Why not modification of labia?
    But again, it’s easy to imagine a piercing to be a matter of simple self-expression while, in contrast, a labiaplasty is more than a little suspicious.
    A sad and ironic consequence of sexism is that women’s personal choices can be artificially constrained as much in the fight against sexism as by the sexism itself simply because the context of sexism has poisoned some choices. A man, for example, can have surgery that appears to lengthen his penis and while one may question the wisdom of that decision and many certainly will, few are going to assert that it’s quite demeaning for him to do so. A woman, in contrast, can’t have something like a breast enlargement without the cultural sexism context shrouding that decision under the presumption of it being motivated by a desire to conform to male, sexist expectations and, additionally, value herself primarily as a sex object. The man in my example faces no such scrutiny!

  16. SarahMC
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    And Keith, even “feeling more comfortable with myself” is poisoned because the reason I’d feel more comfortable with myself is because my body would be closer to the feminine “ideal.”
    Let’s use breast implants as an example. Would any woman, alone on an island, get breast implants? Would they make her more comfortable with herself in a vacuum like that? Or do they make her more comfortable with herself because she’s now seen as more attractive in the patriarchy and has more appeal as a woman?
    I think it’s the latter. Personally, I’d like bigger breasts. But I probably wouldn’t get implants. Why do I want bigger breasts? Not because my boyfriend or any other individual has demanded it, but because yeah – they’d make my body more proportionate and proportion and physical beauty is important in this culture. I’d feel better about myself in a bathing suit and most shirts and dresses. Because I’d be closer to what a woman’s “supposed” to look like. Even as a feminist I’m susceptible to patriarchal pressure.

  17. Pengo
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m with a young woman, getting my munch on, and I am called off because she doesn’t want me seeing the small, barely-visible discolored blotching on the inner thigh. Relevance, beyond the implication that I don’t give good enough head to take such concerns off the table? If a lady’s that self-conscious over the appearance of her vaheej she considering surgery to ammend the problem, ain’t much to convince her of otherwise. She gots the money she’s going to have a labioplasty, as we have seen that health concerns do not have (much of) a preventative effect on cosmetic surgical alteration. The HBO film “Breast Men” illustrates this.

  18. Pengo
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m with a young woman, getting my munch on, and I am called off because she doesn’t want me seeing the small, barely-visible discolored blotching on the inner thigh. Relevance, beyond the implication that I don’t give good enough head to take such concerns off the table? If a lady’s that self-conscious over the appearance of her vaheej she considering surgery to ammend the problem, ain’t much to convince her of otherwise. She gots the money she’s going to have a labioplasty, as we have seen that health concerns do not have (much of) a preventative effect on cosmetic surgical alteration. The HBO film “Breast Men” illustrates this.

  19. Pengo
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m with a young woman, getting my munch on, and I am called off because she doesn’t want me seeing the small, barely-visible discolored blotching on the inner thigh. Relevance, beyond the implication that I don’t give good enough head to take such concerns off the table? If a lady’s that self-conscious over the appearance of her vaheej she considering surgery to ammend the problem, ain’t much to convince her of otherwise. She gots the money she’s going to have a labioplasty, as we have seen that health concerns do not have (much of) a preventative effect on cosmetic surgical alteration. The HBO film “Breast Men” illustrates this.

  20. Pengo
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m with a young woman, getting my munch on, and I am called off because she doesn’t want me seeing the small, barely-visible discolored blotching on the inner thigh. Relevance, beyond the implication that I don’t give good enough head to take such concerns off the table? If a lady’s that self-conscious over the appearance of her vaheej she considering surgery to ammend the problem, ain’t much to convince her of otherwise. She gots the money she’s going to have a labioplasty, as we have seen that health concerns do not have (much of) a preventative effect on cosmetic surgical alteration. The HBO film “Breast Men” illustrates this.

  21. Pengo
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m with a young woman, getting my munch on, and I am called off because she doesn’t want me seeing the small, barely-visible discolored blotching on the inner thigh. Relevance, beyond the implication that I don’t give good enough head to take such concerns off the table? If a lady’s that self-conscious over the appearance of her vaheej she considering surgery to ammend the problem, ain’t much to convince her of otherwise. She gots the money she’s going to have a labioplasty, as we have seen that health concerns do not have (much of) a preventative effect on cosmetic surgical alteration. The HBO film “Breast Men” illustrates this.

  22. ShifterCat
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    @ Jochre:
    I’m currently working in an adult store which also rents porn videos. It amazes me how many people think that porn pushes as narrow an ideal of the female body as mainstream fashion does. While a great deal of porn stars are slim blondes with big breasts and shaved vulvas, there is actually an extremely wide variety of body types on display on the average rack of videos or magazines. “Mega Jugs” sits next to “Itty Bitty Titties”, “Just 18″ cheek-to-jowl with “Over 50″, etc. This includes vulvas: some are frilly, others smooth, some are shaved, others hairy.
    Now, a lot of porn content is extremely formulaic, but that’s for another discussion.

  23. ShifterCat
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    @ Jochre:
    I’m currently working in an adult store which also rents porn videos. It amazes me how many people think that porn pushes as narrow an ideal of the female body as mainstream fashion does. While a great deal of porn stars are slim blondes with big breasts and shaved vulvas, there is actually an extremely wide variety of body types on display on the average rack of videos or magazines. “Mega Jugs” sits next to “Itty Bitty Titties”, “Just 18″ cheek-to-jowl with “Over 50″, etc. This includes vulvas: some are frilly, others smooth, some are shaved, others hairy.
    Now, a lot of porn content is extremely formulaic, but that’s for another discussion.

  24. ShifterCat
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    @ Jochre:
    I’m currently working in an adult store which also rents porn videos. It amazes me how many people think that porn pushes as narrow an ideal of the female body as mainstream fashion does. While a great deal of porn stars are slim blondes with big breasts and shaved vulvas, there is actually an extremely wide variety of body types on display on the average rack of videos or magazines. “Mega Jugs” sits next to “Itty Bitty Titties”, “Just 18″ cheek-to-jowl with “Over 50″, etc. This includes vulvas: some are frilly, others smooth, some are shaved, others hairy.
    Now, a lot of porn content is extremely formulaic, but that’s for another discussion.

  25. Mina
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    “It amazes me how many people think that porn pushes as narrow an ideal of the female body as mainstream fashion does.”
    OTOH, what if mainstream porn is compared to mainstream fashion?
    I got the impression that comparing all porn (including the niches you mentioned) to mainstream fashion may be like comparing all fashion (including DIY, burqinis, Lane Bryant, etc.) to mainstream porn.

  26. Mina
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    “It amazes me how many people think that porn pushes as narrow an ideal of the female body as mainstream fashion does.”
    OTOH, what if mainstream porn is compared to mainstream fashion?
    I got the impression that comparing all porn (including the niches you mentioned) to mainstream fashion may be like comparing all fashion (including DIY, burqinis, Lane Bryant, etc.) to mainstream porn.

  27. samara
    Posted September 3, 2007 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Has anybody ever heard of the Vagina Institute. It’s this revolting website that tries to persuade women their vulvas are deformed. I wrote an angry article about it for The F-Word a while back:
    http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2007/07/vagina_institute

  28. samara
    Posted September 3, 2007 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Has anybody ever heard of the Vagina Institute? It’s this revolting website that tries to persuade women their vulvas are deformed. I wrote an angry article about it for The F-Word a while back:
    http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2007/07/vagina_institute

  29. samara
    Posted September 3, 2007 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Has anybody ever heard of the Vagina Institute? It’s this revolting website that tries to persuade women their vulvas are deformed. I wrote an angry article about it for The F-Word a while back:
    http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2007/07/vagina_institute

  30. ShifterCat
    Posted September 3, 2007 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    @Mina: It’s true that there’s an awful lot of pigeonholing, but I still see more physical variety in mainstream porn than in mainstream fashion.

  31. ShifterCat
    Posted September 3, 2007 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I checked out your article, Samara. On top of everything else about the Vagina Institute, their “banana test” sounds like a good way to get yourself an infection.

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