September 5, 2012

Cosmetic Genital Surgery: The Physical and Monetary Cost of “Designer Vaginas”

En Español

Writing in The Atlantic, Melanie Berliet shares her experience as a patient seeking a consult at a vaginal surgery clinic that offers genital cosmetic surgeries.

Berliet’s consult, which included a physical exam, was focused on the supposed sex-enhancing and cosmetic applications of these surgeries — not on medically indicated procedures that address pain and discomfort.

I scheduled this complimentary consultation under the guise of wanting “to understand my options.” Secretly, I want to explore why a growing number of women are modifying a body part so few can see by undergoing the elective surgeries in which [Dr. Ronald] Blatt specializes: vaginoplasty (removal of excess lining and tightening of surrounding tissue and muscles) and labiaplasty (reshaping of the labia minora, and sometimes the labia majora and/or clitoral hood).

In an examination of the “tightness” of her vagina, the doctor offered a vague assessment, noting she was “not real loose, but there’s room for tightening,” leading Beliet to ask, “Could you get it down so just two fingers fit comfortably?”

Sure it’s possible, for $5,900 — or $9,900 for the dual vaginoplasty and labiaplasty surgery, called “vaginal rejuvenation.”

According to Berliet, a female employee told her (OK, prepare to shudder): “This is a life changing surgery. You’re saying boyfriend now? After this he’s going to marry you.”

Ack.

In addition to sharing details of the exam, Berliet explores the idea that these surgeries may be taking off in part because women have no idea that a wide range of normal exists. They don’t know what they “should” look like (or if there even is a “should”). Most of the vulvas they see are the limited view provided through porn. She writes:

What is most striking, however, in the dialogue on this topic is the obvious confusion among women about what they should or should not look like. The pronouncements of self-loathing and embarrassment over genital appearance are widespread, reinforcing my growing sense that we’re failing to educate. If we feel more vulnerable to our insecurities after viewing pornography, it’s probably because no one has filled our vaginal diversity knowledge gap.

As an aside on that knowledge gap, the story conflates “vagina” with “vulva” several times. It’s a minor criticism, but one that reflects a common lack of knowledge or distinction between the vagina and other anatomical parts such as the labia and clitoris.

A related story at ABC News takes a closer look at the health risks of these surgeries. The biggest risks, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, include “infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia (painful contractions of the vagina), adhesions and scarring.”

ACOG also underscores the need for women to be informed that there’s a real lack of data on potential complications. Numerous reports of “botched” surgeries are turning up on online forums, according to ABC News.

For further discussion of this issue, see these previous posts.

End of English post.

Cirugía Estética Genital: El Costo Físico y Monetario de las Vagina Diseñadoras

Escribiendo en The Atlantic, Melanie Berliet comparte su experiencia como paciente buscando consulta en una clínica de cirugía vaginal que ofrece cirugía estética vaginal.

La consulta de Berliet incluyo un examen físico, y se enfocó en las supuestas aplicaciones de estas cirugías– de mejorar las relaciones sexuales y la apariencia cosmética de los genitales — y no en procedimientos indicados para aliviar el dolor o la incomodidad.

Yo hice esta consulta gratis bajo la apariencia de querer “comprender mis opciones”. Secretamente, quería explorar porque más y más mujeres están modificando una parte de su cuerpo tan poco vista por someterse a las cirugías electivas en que se especializa el Dr. Ronald Blatt: vaginoplastia (extirpación de revestimiento excesivo y tensar los tejidos y músculos circundantes) y la labioplastia (remodelar los labios menores y/o la capucha del clítoris).

En un examen del “ajusto” de su vagina, el doctor ofreció una evaluación vaga, notando que “ no estaba muy suelta, pero hay espacio para tensarla,” provocando Berliet a preguntar, “ Puedes tensarla hasta que caben solo dos dedos cómodamente?”

Seguro que es posible, para $5900– o $9,900 para la combinación de vaginoplastia y labioplastia, llamada el “rejuvenecimiento vaginal”.

Según Berliet, una empleada de la clínica le dijo (preparase al estremecimiento!): “Esta es una cirugía para cambiarte la vida. Dices “novio” ahorita? Después de esto se va casar contigo.”

Que asco.

Además de compartir los detalles del examen, Berliet explora la idea que estas cirugías pueden resultar más populares porque muchas mujeres no saben que existe una amplia gama de normal.  No saben como “deben” ser sus genitales, o si hay un “deber”. Muchas de las vulvas que ven vienen de la vista limitada de la pornografía. Escribe Berliet:

Sin embargo, lo que es más sorprendente en el diálogo sobre este tema es la confusión obvia entre las mujeres de como se deben o no deben ver. Las declaraciones   de autodesprecio y abochorno sobre la apariencia genital son muy comunes, y esto reforzó mi sensación que estamos fallando en la educación. Si nos sentimos más vulnerables a nuestras inseguridades después de mirar la pornografía, probablemente es porque nadie nos ha educado sobre la diversidad vaginal.

Hablando de esa educación, el articulo confunde la palabra “vagina” con “vulva” varias veces. Es una critica pequeña, pero una que demuestra la falta común de conocimiento o distinción entre la vagina y las otras partes anatómicas como la vagina y el clítoris.

Un reportaje relacionado en ABC News toma una mirada más detallada a los riesgos de salud que llevan estas cirugías. Según el Colegio de Obstetras y Ginecólogos Americanos (ACOG), los riesgos más grandes incluyen “infección, sensación alterada, dispareunia (contracciones dolorosas de la vagina), adhesiones, y cicatrización.”

ACOG nota la necesidad de informar las mujeres que hay una falta de información sobre las complicaciones potenciales. Según ABC News, están saliendo varios reportajes de cirugías “estropeadas” en foros de la red.


3 Responses to “Cosmetic Genital Surgery: The Physical and Monetary Cost of “Designer Vaginas””

  1. Sienna Says:

    I just had this surgery and am so glad I did. After having twins, each baby weighing over 6lbs, believe me, no amount of kegals did anything to undo the damage of pregnancy and childbirth. It’s not just a vanity thing at all. What gives you the right to judge other people’s decision to have this surgery? It sounds like you have no idea at all.

  2. itsaboutchoice Says:

    Sienna – your choice to have the surgery is not the right kind of choice, therefore pro choice ‘reproductive health’ proponents do not support your choice. sorry.

  3. Rachel Says:

    The intended point of this post (as the blogger above) was not at all that your specific individual choice was inappropriate – it’s that women in general may not be getting fully informed of the risks by the folks pushing the procedures, may not be aware that there’s not much real data available on the procedures in the first place, and may not have a realistic image of the wide range of normal appearances of vulvas. You can make your own choices for your body – but the lack of information in play here to actually help women make informed choices makes it an issue worth talking about.

    All of this is why, a few years ago, the main medical organization for U.S. ob/gyns said: “It is deceptive to give the impression that vaginal rejuvenation, designer vaginoplasty, revirgination, G-spot amplification, or any such procedures are accepted and routine surgical practices. Absence of data supporting the safety and efficacy of these procedures makes their recommendation untenable.” – http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Publications/Committee_Opinions/Committee_on_Gynecologic_Practice/Vaginal_Rejuvenation_and_Cosmetic_Vaginal_Procedures

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