cosmetic gynecology
Photo credit: International Society of Cosmetogynecology available via Flicker

Yes, this post is going to explore the world of cosmetic vaginal surgery…so if this makes you squeamish, best to log off now. But rest assured, I am not going to feature any before-and-after photos.

I was inspired to write about the topic after seeing the following headline shouting out from the cover of the latest issue (July 2010) of Cosmopolitan magazine: VAGINAS UNDER ATTACK: Don’t Let a Greedy Gyn Talk You Into This. I grabbed the magazine and flipped through the pages until I found the promised article, titled “WARNING: These Doctors Maybe Dangerous to Your Vagina.” The author of the article, Molly Triffin, describes attending the International Society of Cosmetogynecology’s Global Symposium on Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery in January 2010. Cosmetogynecology??? Global…really???

 

Cosmetogynecology’s Global Symposium

She makes a point of telling us that all of the speakers and almost all of the attendees at the Symposium were men, even though approximately half of OB-GYNs are women. I am also pretty sure that 100% of the recipients of these procedures are also female.

Triffin goes on to describe the comments of one doctor, David Matlock, who told the audience that he jump-started the cosmetic vaginal surgery trend after he performed a vaginal tightening at the request of a patient. After that, he began advertising the service and, according to the Cosmo article, he was “immediately inundated with calls.” In addition to “vaginal rejuvenation,” Dr. Matlock began providing women with vulvar (external genitalia) cosmetic procedures, such as altering the size of the labia and the appearance of the clitoris. To help his patients choose what they want to look like “down there”, he shows them photos from porn magazines.

Now, here is something you may not know. The external genitalia of models in magazines, such as Playboy, are “relatively uniform”. According to Brian Gross, a publicist in the porn industry, “some art directors will airbrush models’ genitalia to clean them up,” often removing the labia minora from the picture. Brazilian bikini waxing is cited as contributing to the demand for these cosmetic procedures because women can now see more clearly how they compare to the models in the magazines and/or the movie stars in “flesh flicks”. Triffin says “doctors at the conference called having the labia minora removed completely the Barbie-doll look.” Invisible labia minora is usually a characteristic of prepubescent girls, not adult females.

 

Rife with misogyny and fueled by greed?

Now, I am not one of those people who pooh-poohs cosmetic surgery. I believe women (and men) have the right to alter their appearance anyway they choose—as long as it is with their dollar, not mine. For eons, way before the advent of cosmetic surgery and related procedures, such as Botox and injectable fillers, people have been altering their appearance by dyeing their hair, applying makeup, growing beards, growing hair, cutting hair, shaving heads, piercing ears, piercing nostrils, getting tattoos, and so on.

I am concerned, however, that the economics of Cosmetogynecology (compared to traditional OB-GYN practice) is so seductive that increasing numbers of OB-GYNs are adding cosmetic procedures to their practices. “According to national statistics,” Triffin writes, “patients are charged about twice as much, on average, for cosmetic vaginal surgeries as they are for having a baby delivered.” One doctor was quoted as saying, “Two incisions, 15 minutes, and cash the check.” Another “pointed to a slide of himself performing a labiaplasty” and said, “those are my dirty, golden fingers.”

It is also disturbing to read that teens are seeking (and receiving) these procedures. Dr. Matlock shares, “I see girls as young as 15 coming in now.” Indeed, a search of PubMed confirms that youngsters are getting these operations for strictly cosmetic reasons, as opposed to legitimate medical concerns, such as pain or discomfort.

A prevailing sentiment at the conference, per Triffin, was that female genitalia are not attractive. One speaker even described vulvar cosmetic surgery as “transforming female genitals to an aesthetically pleasing look.” Other speakers supposedly made comments about genitals shown on PowerPoint slides such as, “This is not so pleasant looking” or “notice the aesthetic improvement.”

I guess the appearance of most ordinary female genitalia is just not living up to expectations. Or are they? The best line of the entire article appeared at the very end under the heading “Do guys notice what your va-jay-jay looks like? A Cosmo poll found that most men do not care how long your labia are or how much skin surrounds your clitoris. Ian Kerner, Ph.D, author of She Comes First, the Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman, is quoted as saying,

“Most men don’t pick up on minutiae like that, they’re just excited to have access to the area.”

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