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The Perfect Vagina: A Documentary: Vaginal Surgery Is Equal to Female Genital Mutilation In Health Risks

May 26, 2010

It’s the sort of thing that plenty of women talk about and more women should talk about: the way vaginas look. This documentary follows women on the quest to see what vaginas really “should” look like, from women who have plastic surgery, to women who have plastic casts made to see their own vaginas.  All of it made me rather sad:  why don’t women have access to vaginas?  Why is this something that women have so hidden, that only men, from partners to physicians have access to?  It’s so bizarre that only men have the majority of access to vaginas, whether medically or sexually.  Why don’t women have a chance to see what happens during a pelvic exam, outside of diagrams, what normal vaginas look like, what other women look like?

I was surprised to hear that the plastic surgeon who operated on women simply said he was attending to women’s needs.  He said that it wasn’t his place to judge, an honest assessment that I have to admit that I agree with.  The unfortunate side of this equation is that all the women who are having vaginal surgery have said they are doing so as a result of men’s comments, mostly sexual partners or “friends,” and the majority of male physicians who offer the surgery.  Why does it make me so sick that men still own women’s vaginas, our perceptions of them, that women have no access to their own bodies?

The very part of a woman that is supposed to be stretchy, giving, sliding, flexible for both childbirth and intercourse, is now supposed be tight in order to be visually appealing?  All I can think about when the 21-year old in this documentary gets her labia removed is that she will have terrific consequences when that perfectly elastic tissue, designed to slide and give pleasure during sex, to allow intercourse without tearing is removed, the “tight” skin that is left will be incredibly painful, and during childbirth, perhaps a nightmare:

In yet more news aboutthe stupidity of vaginal plastic surgery, a British report finds that women who undergo the procedure may experience some of the same problems in childbirth as those who suffered female genital mutilation.

The BBC writeup of the report — which was originally published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology — should be required reading for anyone considering cosmetic surgery to their reproductive organas. The BBC says some women seek such surgery because “they are embarrassed in front of a sexual partner,” but the reports authors argue that this embarrassment is really caused by ads that promote a “homogenised, pre-pubescent genital appearance” (a claim borne out by the fact that some genital plastic surgeons employ PR firms to get the word out about their, um, services)…

The real kicker of the report, though, is its examination of the risks involved in labioplasty. The authors mention a potential loss of sexual sensation, which we’ve heard before. But they also say that the procedure may cause some of the same childbirth problems as female genital mutilation does, including bleeding and tearing in labor, and even the death of the infant. Anyone eating breakfast might want to skip this part, but a commenter on a an earlier post shared some first-hand experience with the problem:

[I]n nursing school I helped out at the delivery of a woman who’d had labiaplasty several years before, and holy shit. It sort of, um, shredded. One of the most horrific things I’ve seen in my career. It took them a really long time to sew everything back together, and I have a feeling she would have happily gone back to some slightly asymmetric or (gasp!) flappy labia if she could have.

While the doctors say that the real need is for therapy, a patent overstatement, the documentary about this portrays a physician who does the surgery because women feel they need to change their bodies to please men.  Be forewarned, the woman who undergoes a labioplasty does bleed rather extensively.

The voice of this documentary is the perfect voice: she is nervous about her own “bits” and is blatantly uncomfortable with the exploration of women’s approach to their vaginas, but she is empathetic and warm and comes to embrace her own body and the bodies of other women.  From her, I don’t know what else I could have asked for.

The documentary is rather long, but it’s an important watch.  I just wish there was a place that cast vaginas around here–women have way too little information about the normalcy and health of their own bodies.  It’s time that women owned the appearance of vaginas instead of men.

Watch The Perfect Vagina: A Documentary here

But, you don’t have to take my word for it, read it from the experts too:

New Warning On ‘Perfect Vaginas’ [BBC]
“Designer Vagina” Surgery May Be Unsafe, Say Experts [Times Online]

Earlier: Experts Agree: Vaginoplasty Is Stupid, Unnecessary, & Dangerous

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