We had a heated discussion around the Costhetics water cooler earlier this week. The subject: designer vaginal surgery.
The hot button issue: whether the uptick in genital rejuvenation is a signal that women are comparing themselves to the unrealistic images they see in movies?
The News reported, “The internet and M-rated soft pornography, which is governed by laws that require photo shopping of images to remove crucial parts, have been blamed for misconceptions about what is normal.”
5 Reasons Women Want to Have Genital Surgery
Researchers at the school of psychology at Flinders University, surveyed 351 women aged between 18 and 69 and found 17% were interested in having labiaplasty. “We think that if women and their partners were made aware of the large variation in normal genital appearance, this might help to alleviate some of their concerns about their own genitals,” says study author Gemma Sharp. “…women who had greater exposure to images of female genitalia through a range of media sources – from television, online, advertising and pornography – were more likely to be dissatisfied with their own genital appearance and consider surgery.”
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners published their findings regarding the four main reasons that female genital cosmetic surgery has become so popular. Here’s what they say
- Misperception – Research indicates that women’s idea of the appearance of “normal” and/or “desirable” genitals may be skewed and disparate.
- Digitally modified images, pornography and communication – “Vulvas are invariably made to resemble that of prepubescent girls, with pubic hair removed and a single crease placed between the labia majora,” says the RACGP. This contributes to a general lack of understanding about female genital diversity.
- Lack of anatomy education – Most Australians have limited formal education in the areas of female genital anatomy. Adding to the problem is the fact that there is no evidence-based research that outlines what its normal spectrum is considered to be.
- Women’s genitals are kept under wraps – Recent studies reveal that women have limited knowledge regarding the names and function of their own genitals and the diversity of appearance that is normal. Women have few opportunities to see other women’s genitals throughout their life and get most of their information from magazines and movies.
- Fashion & Grooming Trends – Tight clothing and gym wear tend to give definition to the genital area, while minimal undergarments, such as G-strings, cover a small portion of the mons pubis. “These factors can create the feeling that women’s genital size should be small and discrete,” reports RACGP.
Know Your Plasty: Vagina vs. Labia
Two vaginal rejuvenation techniques exist to help reshape the area, and while they may sound similar, they are not the same.
- Vaginoplasty/Vagina Tightening – As the name indicates, this procedure works to tighten the inner muscles of a woman’s vagina. Sagging skin and stretched out muscles can make it downright painful to be intimate. At the same time, weakened vaginal walls can also cause a loss of sensitivity and a lessening of sexual pleasure. All these factors can contribute to a loss of self-esteem.
Vaginoplasty can lift self-confidence (along with vaginal tissue) and give women a renewed sense of femininity and youthfulness. The delicate surgery restores control and structure to the vagina. The surgeon shortens the stretched muscle, using sutures to narrow the cavity. A typical recovery takes between four and six weeks.
It should also be remembered that vaginoplasty can be “a gender-affirming, feminising, lower surgery to create a vagina and vulva (including mons, labia, clitoris, and urethral opening) and remove the penis, scrotal sac, and testes,” says the TransCare BC Provincial Health Services Authority.
Your vagina and labia are like two peas in a pod. What affects one can impact the other. Lax vaginal muscles, whether due to ageing or childbirth, are cause a woman to develop a thicker, inflated labia. Other women are simply born that way. For these women, there is
- Labiaplasty – This surgery focuses exclusively on a woman’s vaginal lips – the labia minor and the labia majora. Its goal is primarily cosmetic, as it seems to enhance the outer appearance of the genital organs by tucking/snipping the labia minor so that they don’t protrude from the labia majora. Labiaplasty can also help reduce labia discomfort by re-sizing and re-shaping the area to address chafing and other problems.
According to the RACPG, labiaplasty is the most common form of general surgery requested and performed, accounting for approximately 50% of cosmetic procedures. “It appears that in response to changing cultural norms, this surgery is increasingly being sought by women who want either to feel normal or look desirable,” says the RACGP.
Two methods have developed for addressing the labia. In one, extra tissue and other irregularities are removed, and the remaining tissue is sculpted into a more aesthetic shape. In the other, a sliver of tissue is removed from beneath the labia (in a V-shape) and the edges are sewn back together.
What We See is What We Want
Last year, psychologist Emma Kenny told The Sun, “Ten years ago, Brazilian and Hollywood waxes weren’t popular, which meant we didn’t really see women’s vaginas up close and personal…But with the growth of Internet porn and the popularity of extreme waxing, we can now see every crease, wrinkle and kink at the click of a button.” Thus, she says, a rise in vaginal beautification. Women who have enjoyed the procedure say they can now wear Lycra, spandex, leotards and bathing suits without worrying about sagging skin that one woman described as “looking like I had testicles.”
More recently, however, the UK’s leading labiaplasty expert Dr Paul Banwell told Women’s Health magazine he believes the increase in the numbers of women seeking labiaplasty is simply that the procedure is more readily available…though not for everyone. “The first thing I tell all my patients is that their genitals are completely normal. Secondly, they’re all offered access to a psychologist,” says Banwell. “I’ve turned women down for the procedure plenty of times, as they’re not clear about the aims and objectives of the surgery or, psychologically speaking, they’re not in the right place emotionally to get the procedure done.”
One Last Note: Age Matters
A key reason for denying a patient’s request for genital rejuvenation surgery: age. The BBC reported that “girls as young as nine are seeking surgery on their genitals because they are distressed by its appearance.” Their perception is that the inner lips should be invisible, almost like a Barbie, but the reality is that there is a huge variation, and it is quite normal that the lips protrude. Britain’s National Health Services and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists agree that labiaplasty should not be carried out on girls before they turn 18.
So there you have it, a pubic hair’s eye view of genital enhancement surgery. Do you need it? Do you want it? Only you can decide, but you don’t have to make this important decision alone. As always, Costhetics urges anyone seeking to undergo an aesthetic transformation to find a trained, experienced plastic surgeon you can trust for the best answers.
Stay smart…it’s the best way to stay beautiful