New report highlights the psychological desire for a perfect vagina
By Catherine Walker
Recent research which is published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology highlights an alarming rise in the number of women undergoing surgery to create perfect genitalia.
The procedure, known as ‘labioplasty’ , involves the cutting away of excess tissue that protrudes from the vagina. The report not only highlights the psychological desire for surgery but also questions the whole concept of aesthetically pleasing genitals. A ‘shocking lack of information on the potential risks of the procedure’ is also cited in the report.
The report was published following the work of researchers from University College London who reviewed all the existing studies on cosmetic labial surgery. They found that there had been little work to document any longer-term side effects.
The number of women undergoing labioplasty nationwide is unknown. This is primarily because the majority of the operations are performed privately. Last year NHS procedures for labioplasy increased by 70% on the previous year. To have this treatment performed privately costs about £3,000 and is offered for a variety of reasons. Some women complain that it can be uncomfortable when wearing tight clothes or riding a bike. Others say that they are embarrassed in front of a sexual partner.
Sarah Creighton, of the Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital, London, led the study. She said that without evidence of clinical need, there was nothing to distinguish the practice from the genital cutting practised in other cultures, which is outlawed in Britain.
The researchers examined studies dating back to 1950 and found that dissatisfaction with the way the vagina looked was one reason for surgery but patients also spoke o low self-esteem and sometimes sexual difficulties.
Lih-Mei Liao, research author said ‘Advertisements promote labial surgery as easy answers to women’s insecurities about their genital appearances – insecurities that are fuelled by the very advertisements that prescribe a homogenised, pre-pubescent genital appearance standard for all women.’
But rather than curing sexual problems, Dr Creighton suggested surgery might exacerbate them by damaging the nerve supply to the area, impairing sexual sensitivity and satisfaction.
She also suggests that women who undergo this procedure might experience similar problems in childbirth as those who have experienced female genital mutilation, in which parts of the vagina are ritualistically removed.
It is now well documented that women who have undergone such circumcision are more likely to experience significant tearing and bleeding after labour and even the death of their babies, problems which are overcome by Caesarean delivery.
"Labial surgery needs to be rigorously evaluated in future, and for longer term," said Dr Creighton.
"Furthermore, quality research is needed to improve our understanding of the psychological drivers behind women's decision to sacrifice sexually sensitive tissue that contributes to erotic experiences, for a certain genital appearance that used to be an obligation only for some glamour models."
Private surgeons are hitting back by saying that this is a procedure which has been performed for many years and when done properly there are very few risks. It would, however, seem that unless the need for surgery is physically crucial then counseling would be a better option.
The Independent is currently reporting on the new trend for male cosmetic surgery. It states:
The latest cosmetic surgery to get public attention (or at least that of Celebrity Big Brother watchers) is a fake "six-pack".
Displayed with questionable pride by contestant Darryn Lyons – who invests in the firm that does the treatment, the effect is created by producing grooves in overlying chest fat using liposuction, to replicate the tendons inside muscle.
One can only but wonder what long-term effects this procedure will have and does the body feel firm or flabby like the disguised fat that it is?