More oppression based on the social constructing of gender. In the social construct of gender, women’s humanity is traded for an idealized image.
One of the U.S., U.K., and Australia’s fastest growing plastic surgeries is propagating the notion that not all vaginas are equal.
By Kali Holloway
February 13, 2015
Throughout the Western world, for much of human history, women’s vaginas have been uber-reliable life partners: timeless companions that, as with all things in nature, wrinkled and drooped with age, but otherwise remained largely unchanged. While cosmetic solutions – from facelifts to liposuction – were used to tauten and tighten various other body parts, vaginas faithfully hung in there, often bravely weathering pubescence, childbirth and menopause. Labiaplasty, the surgery that cuts off “excess” parts of the labia minora, or inner vaginal lips, appeared in medical literature as early as 1971, but solely as a corrective measure for congential abnormalities. Otherwise, vaginas came in all shapes, colors and sizes, and there was no singular mainstream vulvar ideal. If you were into vagina, you were just happy when someone invited you to be near theirs. And if you possessed one, you simply played with the vagina you were dealt.
That began to change in 1984, when the first description of a purely aesthetic form of labiaplasty appeared in a scientific journal. The surgery didn’t immediately become an overnight sensation, but the cultural shifts that likely contributed to its ascent were beginning to fall into place. By the mid-1990s, the Internet had helped take pornography – and its generous close-ups of (overwhelmingly female) genitalia – from shrink-wrapped dirty secret to free and discreet ubiquity. Porn stars of both sexes were increasingly removing their pubic hair, providing fully unobstructed views of the goods, and celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Eva Longoria, and Sex and the City’s fictional Carrie Bradshaw championed the Brazilian wax. Laser hair removal got both better and cheaper. Women’s streetwear expanded to include clothes formerly reserved for the gym, including snug, crotch-contouring items like leggings and yoga pants. Photoshop became an often used, and often overused, tool, literally erasing the line between real and fake “beauty.” Our cultural obsession with youth prompted unprecedented spending on every newly developed, youth-preserving cosmetic surgery. As Dr. Norman Lowe, a Manhattan board certified plastic surgeon told me when I spoke with him, “People have gotten to the point where they’re not just happy with their face being lifted…They want their eyes done, brows done, face done. They want their breasts lifted. They want their arms rejuvenated. They want their labia lifted. They want everything lifted. Everything.”
In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 5,000 labiaplasties were performed in the United States. That may not seem like a huge number, but it’s an astounding 44% increase over just one year prior, making labiaplasty the second fastest growing plastic surgery that year. (The top gainer, by the way, was butt augmentation.) In the United Kingdom in 2014, the National Health Service reported a fivefold increase in the number of labiaplasties performed over the decade prior – which doesn’t include private practice surgeries, the most common kind. Australia’s national health care system noted in 2012 that claims for labiaplasty in the country had doubled since 2002. Sharon Osbourne discussed her “excruciating” labiaplasty on a talk show, and porn star Houston auctioned off the bits from her labiaplasty for $50,000. (Sydney Leathers, Anthony Weiner’s sexting partner, attempted the same but had trouble attracting buyers.) When I asked Dr. Lowe if he thought the surgery would continue to skyrocket, he suggested it had more recently become “the fastest growing procedure out there.” He added: “I don’t see any stopping it.” Vaginal rejuvenation – which can also include vaginal tightening, perineoplasty (focused on the skin between the vagina and the anus), reduction of the clitoral hood, laser vaginal bleaching, and injections to increase the size and sensitivity of the g-spot – is, officially, a booming business.