Labiaplasty, Brazilian Wax and the Subjugation of Women

Over a year ago, I posted information about the increasing incidence of labiaplasty. Women who were undergoing genital surgery in order to make them conform to the genitals of porn actresses. They were often doing this either because boy friends pressured them or because they thought that it would be a “present’ for the boy friend/husband.

Here is another perspective on the same issue, which has actually increased.

This column was published in the LA Times.

Pornification of private parts: A new body dysmorphic disorder?

December 13, 2011 |  1:39 pm

“What’s happening to America’s vaginas?” asks Ashley Fetters in a cultural trend story for the Atlantic. “Is pubic hair going extinct?” In Tuesday’s piece, she examines the rise of down-there hair removal, especially among women under 30, and zooms in on the turning point when the Brazilian wax went from taboo to fetish to mainstream.  

Then, in 2000, one groundbreaking episode of “Sex And The City” made the Manolo Blahnik demographic sit up and take notice: Heroine Carrie Bradshaw found a new swagger in her step after waxing it off. And once Carrie was bare down there …

And like that, Brazilian waxes became as trendy as cupcakes, Fetters writes, pointing to the insightful(?) words of Kim Kardashian: “[Women] shouldn’t have hair anywhere but their heads.”

Here’s Fetters again with the stats:

Indiana University researchers Debby Herbenick and Vanessa Schick found in a recent study that nearly 60 percent of American women between 18 and 24 are sometimes or always completely bare down there, while almost half of women in the U.S. between 25 and 29 reported similar habits. Herbenick’s numbers show a clear-cut trend: More women lack pubic hair than ever before.

Some say it’s a simple matter of hygiene, while others argue that the pursuit of hair removal goes deeper: It’s another way for women to take control of their bodies. But there’s a third theory that women are infantilizing themselves because they’re ashamed of their bodies. Say hello to today’s latest form of body dysmorphic disorder. And the predatory plastic surgeons (and at least one gynecologist) who’re all too happy to prey on women’s insecurities.

That’s right. Some women are going a step beyond removing hair to removing actual flesh. On Saturday, protesters marched on Harley Street in London to call attention to the increase in cosmetic genital surgery, notably labiaplasty — an elective procedure that trims or removes a woman’s labia so she may look more like Barbie.

One of the participating activists called it “a creative protest against the pornified culture driving women under the knife to get a ‘designer vagina.’ ” In the Guardian, she took a stand against the industry, which, in the U.S., is worth millions:

We don’t buy the neoliberal rhetoric that insists this issue is not political because women “freely choose” to get procedures like this done. The cosmetic surgery industry ruthlessly stokes women’s appearance insecurities and mines their bodies to extract maximum profits. Accountability, monitoring, and auditing are not words this industry is used to.

What’s especially disturbing, writes Viv Groskop in another post in the Guardian’s women’s blog, is the latest demographic of interested would-be participants: Self-conscious teenage girls. A recent Daily Mail article concurs. The question is why young women are suddenly so concerned about this aspect of themselves. Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, an obstetrician and gynecologist at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, has a theory. She told ABC News:  

“For every single thing that’s normal about a woman’s body, there’s a man trying to change it […] The last frontier was the vagina.”



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