Before you decide to chop off part of your labia to make it prettier, British researchers would like you to consider the possible complications that might arise.
Ronda Kaysen: It might come as a surprise, but slicing off part of your labia -- a procedure known as labioplasty -- can destroy nerve endings, thereby impairing sexual satisfaction and arousal. It can also cause serious complications during childbirth, complications that usually happen to women who've had genital mutilation. Think excessive bleeding, vaginal tearing, and death of the baby.
It's not clear how many women get labioplasty, but the procedure is on the rise. Most women who end up on the operating table with visions of a prettier vagina are there because they feel that their vagina doesn't look like the ones they see in the girly mags, according to both the researchers who criticize the procedure and the doctors who happily perform it.
"Lads' mags are looked at by girlfriends, and make them think more about the way they look. We live in times where we are much more open about our bodies -- and changing them -- and labioplasty is simply a part of this," Douglas McGeorge, past president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, told BBC News.
Researchers say that a woman who turns up at a doctor's office wanting her vagina examined should really be having her head examined instead.
"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," Dr. Sarah Creighton, one of the authors of the study, told BBC News.
Some women say they opt for the procedure because their protruding labia make tight-fitting clothes or riding a bicycle uncomfortable, claims the researchers find hard to stomach given the fact that men rarely complain about discomfort from their protruding genitals, which, we can safely assume, protrude more than even the largest of labias. Other women report that they want to reshape their nether region to please their partners.
"I do think there are women who get this procedure for reasons that are medically necessary, but I share the authors of this study's deep concern and mistrust of the motivations of those who offer the procedure and the way in which the option of labioplasty -- cleverly marketed as vaginal rejuvenation -- is offered," momlogic OB/GYN Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz said. "I am relieved, in fact, to see the academic community pay attention to what I believe is potentially a highly misogynist racket fueled by the mainstreaming of porn images into the culture."
Really people, these are your best bits. You should probably be nice to them.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|