November 21, 2008

Challenging the Idea that Women’s Vaginas and Vulvas Need Cosmetic “Correction”

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 OBOS content, see Female Sexual Dysfunction: A Feminist View as well as our previous blog posts, Marketing Female Sexual Dysfunction: The Search for the Pink Viagra and Selling Women Unsupported Health Messages and Insecurity about Their Vaginas.


4 Responses to “Challenging the Idea that Women’s Vaginas and Vulvas Need Cosmetic “Correction””

  1. Hilary Says:

    Thanks for linking to me! Oh, yeah, I have a lot to say on this subject. I am president of the student ob/gyn association at our med school, and I am fighting one of the other members who wants to invite a speaker back who was oh-so popular two years ago. He is a vaginal cosmetic surgeon. He talked about how great it is for his patients’ self esteem to fix what’s so ugly about them, vaginally.

    I am glad I stumbled across the MENding Dialogues. When I was putting up posters for the Vagina Monologues last year, I got into an argument with a self appointed men’s rights activist who, at first, wanted to know why there were no Penis Dialogues and thought that made this automatically a sexist production, and then wanted to discuss, in detail, any rape sequences from the production. Now i can just direct such people (who have found other members our women’s group at the med school who are involved) to the MENding Dialogues and tell them to put it on to support us.

  2. pixie Says:

    This sounds weird, but stick with me for a minute: this is the exact reason I am opposed to male circumcision. To me, it is very much a feminist viewpoint. It’s about teaching that normal and natural are, not only just fine, but preferred. In our society, where there’s ever more pressure on women to conform to some “ideal,” making anyone or any one body part “conform” just reinforces the insecurities. “Why can’t you be thinner/less hairy/have different hair? At least it doesn’t involve removing a chunk from your genitalia!” Not to mention, if men were put through penile surgery as infants, shouldn’t women have something happen to their bodies, too?

    Sheesh…

  3. Bradley (Dr. Vaginski) Says:

    I am the actor and co writer of the “Dr Vaginski” piece in the MENding Monologues and I am delighted that it is reaching out to people. The whole idea of this peace is for everyone to accept themselves the way they are. I feel that our culture has a high rate of anamorphic disorder in both men and women and it needs to change. I will never look like the Hulk nor do I want too. Life is short and I love myself and my mate as we are, which allows time for the real gifts in life to be explored. I think that the USA has self imposed limits on what we as a culture are willing to explore and our media is too fear based. Travel outside the US and see other realities outside our own and one will see that we all are the same in so many ways. Our uniqueness is the only thing that sets us apart from the rest, embrace it, love it, and share it with pride. This pride will radiate to others and overcome any insecurity that you or those around you have, making us all strong and free.

  4. Derek Dujardin Says:

    Thanks so much for linking to this piece. I’m the writer and co-founder of the MENding Monologues. I’m Derek Dujardin. If you’re interested a recent commentary I’ve wrote about how it feels to be man and to be sexually harassed, checkout: http://www.vday.org/meet-vday/v-men/dujardin. I”m also blogging weekly at vday4men.wordpress.com if you want to say up to date on other gender related issues and humor. Thanks.

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