Challenging the Idea that Women's Vaginas and Vulvas Need Cosmetic "Correction"

November 21, 2008

This week, Time magazine published an article on genital cosmetic surgery,

Plastic Surgery Below the Belt,” focused on women getting procedures such as labiaplasty, vaginoplasty, and “G-spot enhancement.” It notes that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement that these procedures may lead to “scarring, chronic pain, obstetric risks or reduced sexual pleasure,” and that many are calling for more research on the procedures. In fact, ACOG noted this very problem in their statement, explaining that “No adequate studies have been published assessing the long-term satisfaction, safety, and complication rates for these procedures.”

Featured in the article are protests from the New View Campaign, which has at its goal to “to expose biased research and promotional methods that serve corporate profit rather than people’s pleasure and satisfaction. The Campaign challenges all views that reduce sexual experience to genital biology and thereby ignore the many dimensions of real life” and in general to “limit the medicalization of sexuality.” The group protested New York City’s Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery on Monday. Time reports that some attendees held signs referencing the normal variation in female anatomy that read “No two alike;” a visit to the group’s website reveals other messages as well, such as “stop marketing discontent.”

The piece also covers the (mis)conception that cosmetic surgery is an adequate solution to relationship or self-esteem problems. LeLaina Romero of the New View Campaign noted that, “Promoting a very narrow definition of what women’s genitals ought to look like — even for those women who don’t want surgery, it harms them.” Similarly, last year’s statement from ACOG suggested “a frank discussion of the wide range of normal genitalia” and “exploration of nonsurgical interventions, including counseling.”

Along these same lines, I just recently learned via a post at Mom’s Tinfoil Hat about the “MENding Monologues,” an all-male performance inspired by the Vagina Monologues conceived as “a love letter to women, a healing for men, and a call to end violence in all its forms.” One of the monologues is a somewhat humorous character, “Dr. Vaginsky,” who challenges the idea that women aren’t fine just the way they are.

For related blog posts, see Marketing Female Sexual Dysfunction: The Search for the Pink Viagra and Selling Women Unsupported Health Messages and Insecurity about Their Vaginas.

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