The Rise of Labiaplasty: Having the Perfect Vagina
Labiaplasty is now the fastest growing form of plastic surgery women ask for. It involves the surgical alteration or removal of the inner lips of the vagina. Labiaplasty, also commonly called labioplasty, labia minora reduction, and labial reduction, is a $4,000 – $5,000 operation requested by women of all ages, and from all different cultures. Even girls as young as 16 years old are having their labia lips removed in the hope of having “the perfect vagina.” Is this growing trend something to be concerned about? Why are so many women cutting up their private bits?
Warning: This article is not safe for work (NSFW)
The Rise of Labiaplasty
Most women who undergo labiaplasty are aiming for the same, very specific vaginal look. They want a vagina that is “clean, tucked in, and tight.” They are looking to have little to no lips, complete symmetry, and clear visibility of the clitoris. For these reasons labiaplasty routinely involves cutting off the labia minora (inner lips that hang) right up to the body, and slicing away part of the clitoral hood so that the clitoris can be easily seen. Furthermore, the operation usually only involves local anesthesia, so women remain awake. It sounds like a horrific and unnecessary procedure, but the numbers speak for themselves: women don’t like the look of their vaginas.
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In the documentary The Perfect Vagina (NSFW) a woman from the UK sets out to understand why women are going under the knife to alter the look of their genitalia. She notes that labiaplasty is the fastest growing cosmetic surgery in the UK, and one of the fastest growing operations in the United States. Plastic surgeons all around the world are seeing up to 300% increases in labiaplasty requests in the last two years alone.
According to gynecologist Linda Cardozo, requests from the UK’s National Health Service for what she calls a “designer vagina” have doubled in the last five years. Cardozo is concerned about the well being of women because a labiaplasty means being subjected to a largely unregulated procedure, one that involves the risk of permanent scarring, infections, bleeding and irritation, as well as major changes in vaginal sensitivity. According to the documentary, a labiaplasty procedure can take up to three months to fully heal. In the worst cases, post-operative clitoral hood deformity can occur.
Cardozo noted that it isn’t rare to have three generations from the same family come into her office all looking for the same type of labia reduction. She comments that women are looking to have a vagina that looks like that of a little girl, which will never truly come to fruition because these women aren’t and will never be little girls again.
(Note: Just because you want something to look a certain way does not mean you are trying to look like a little girl. I found the above comment to be horrendous especially considering some women keep that look their entire lives.)
Labiaplasty and the Legendary ‘Perfect Vagina’
Surgeons actually split women seeking cosmetic genital surgery into two main groups: those with an actual congenital condition, and those with no underlying conditions or physical discomfort. A 2008 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that 32% of women who underwent the procedure did so to correct a functional impairment, 31% to correct a functional impairment and for aesthetic reasons, and 37% for aesthetic reasons alone. This shows that the majority of women who choose to undergo labiaplasty surgery are doing so for purely aesthetic reasons.
Labiaplasty: Problem or Solution?
Although there is a great deal of negativity surrounding labiaplasty, women consistently report that it makes them happier and more confident. According to a 2011 review published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, overall patient satisfaction for a labiaplastyprocedure is in the 90 – 95% range.
According to one of the patients interviewed in the documentary The Perfect Vagina, she was teased by her sister for being an ‘outtie.’ She also said that past boyfriends had made fun of her, calling her labia a “hanging ham.” Having labiaplasty surgery allowed her to gain self confidence in life. She reported being extremely happy with the outcome of the surgery.
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Womans News interviewed a 20 year old girl who said that it wasn’t until late in life that she had actually looked at her vagina. She reported being horrified by what she saw, stating that,
I looked in like, those magazines, and saw that inner labia shouldn’t stick out like mine did. So I had a labiaplasty and now I love the way I look; nice and neat and new. My vagina looks perfect.
Let’s not forget that there are women who get labiaplasty due to extremely large lips that legitimately get in the way of daily life. All of this self confidence has to be a good thing right? If this procedure is making women happy and more secure in themselves then what’s the problem?
With the exception of women who have labiaplasty for medical reasons, the original reason they seek out the treatment is usually due to devastatingly poor self-image. Stopping the practice of labiaplasty is pointless, what we need to stop is the ignorance that causes self-image issues.
Talking about these issues couldn’t come at a better time since cosmetic surgery in general is on the rise. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2012 alone there were 14.6 million plastic surgeries in America, a 5% increase over 2011. It’s a figure that continues to rise year after year. These surgeries include breast augmentation, gluteal implants, liposuction, face lifts, and of course, labiaplasty.
The key is open communication, and eventual acceptance of who we are physically and mentally. Los Angeles gynecologist Dr. David Matlock reiterates where women are getting the notion of a perfect vagina from, saying that,
Women want to be tight. They don’t want sagging or loose labia. I can’t tell you how many pages and pages of pornographic material woman have brought into me saying ‘I want to look like this.’
There is a serious denial of reality happening when a woman chooses labiaplasty to reconstruct her vagina based on a digital creation made to look 30 years younger and infinitely more ‘societally perfect’ than her vagina. Altering your body through surgery is by no means harmful in and of itself. What is harmful is the potential psychological conditions that lead to the decision to have labiaplasty.
Shouldn't it be about what a person feels they want? Aside from body morphism conditions, is it not often damaging to feel you want something to look a certain way and for it to make you feel inadequate? Is not telling people there is no perfect similar to saying you should just get over it and your feelings do not matter? Perfect is what a person decides it is.
What are you thoughts on labiaplasty?