“Never underestimate the power of beauty myths to manufacture inadequacies where before there were none. A little over a decade ago, labiaplasty—the partial or wholesale removal of parts of the labia minora, aka the inner vaginal lips—was a relatively obscure plastic surgery, compared with nips, tucks and lifts to various other parts. In more recent years, the number of women opting for the surgery has grown exponentially. Now very young women—girls still in their teens—are requesting the procedure in numbers growing so quickly that even some practitioners are concerned.”
“The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that across age groups, the number of labiaplasties increased 49 percent from 2013 to 2014. (From 2012 to 2013, there was a 44 percent increase, another impressive year of growth.) A recent New York Times piece notes that 400 girls 18 and younger underwent labiaplasties in 2015, an 80 percent increase over the year prior. That figure likely only provides half the story, considering that it omits surgeries performed by gynecologists, who perform the lion’s share of labiaplasties. The Times also notes that while adolescent girls comprise just 2 percent of those who go under the knife for cosmetic purposes in general, they make up 5 percent of labiaplasty patients.”
“The big thing I tell patients about labiaplasty is that there are a lot of unknowns,” Strickland told the Times. “The labia have a lot of nerve endings in them, so there could be diminishment of sexual sensation after surgery, or numbness, or pain, or scarring.”
“Teenagers receive the messages they’re sent via glossy, frothy media loud and clear. Imperfection is a choice; your best self is just one or two, or three invasive surgeries away.”
I’ve written about labiaplasty before, and I linked it to the social institution of heterosexuality that promotes inequality between men and women as something that makes relationships sexier. Women with small labia and hairless vulvas look younger, and thus makes them sexier to men who desire women who are younger and less powerful than they are.
This article in Alternet also made some good points that I didn’t make in my last post. One is that the surgery can diminish sexual sensation or cause numbness and pain. If women want to get surgery that will diminish sexual sensation in order to be more sexy, it’s because women’s pleasure is not important in sex—not important to her or her partner. What’s important is just for her to look a certain way. This is completely absurd, as well as misogynist.
Women are thoroughly taught that our role in sex is just to look good, and that our pleasure is not important, which is why young women accept lots of bad sex and don’t demand better from their partners. Women who are older and wiser know that there is no point in having sex if there’s nothing in it for us. When I was younger and having sex with men, I believed that I had to have as much sex as possible while I was still young, because I believed sex wouldn’t be as good when I was older and fatter. That turned out to be a load of bullshit because I never had satisfying sex with a man, and it turns out that sex gets better with age and maturity (and a female partner.) Women need to know that our role in sex is to feel pleasure, not to just provide a sexy-looking body for men to play with.
I also like Alternet’s point that if surgery is available, then imperfection is a choice. Of course, this choice only exists for people who can afford it, but this is an important point when identity politics and neo-liberalism are a part of the dominant belief system. We are supposedly all a bunch of free agents choosing choices, and we can choose to be anything we want, we can make up an identity and then have surgery to make our bodies match; our bodies are like consumer products to be bought and sold or improved upon, we value technology and perfection instead of our natural selves. In this culture, the solution to not liking our bodies is to simply change them. The people who benefit from this culture are the people who are selling us the products and the surgeries that we use to “improve” our bodies. It all comes back to capitalism. When we value profit instead of valuing ourselves, this is what happens.
Here is a quote from Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier, (which everyone should read,) to remind you of the joy and pleasure of the female body:
“The clitoris not only applauds when a women flaunts her mastery; it will give a standing ovation. In the multiple orgasm, we see the finest evidence that our lady Klitoris helps those who help themselves. It may take many minutes to reach the first summit, but once there the lusty mountaineer finds wings awaiting her. She does not need to scramble back to the ground before scaling the next peak, but can glide like a raptor on currents of joy.”
Imagine cutting off your clitoral hood and labia, when you risk losing the pleasure you can get from them, just to make your vulva look the way men want it to? This goes to show, once again, how men think that we are just a collection of holes for them to deposit sperm into, and that they have no respect for our humanity at all.
Capitalist patriarchy is anti-woman, anti-sex, and anti-pleasure.