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Posted on April 16th, 2014, by

Critically analyse cosmetic genital surgery as a normalising cultural practice.

These days the boundaries of plastic surgery are expanding critically. It has recently reached the most intimate part of human body, the genitals. Cosmetic plastic surgery is becoming more and more popularity, and with the growth of its popularity social and scholar concern about it is increasing as well. It goes without saying that this surgery is first of all directed at improvement of the quality of life for the patients (mostly female). However, the picture is not as obvious as it may seem from the first view. More apparent is the eagerness of surgeon to make money on light-minded and vulnerable women who believe the information provided in skilfully designed advertisements (Fraser, 2003, p. 99). Thus, corrective vaginal surgery seems to be a naturally determined product of the Western civilization. At the same time, the outcomes of such surgical interventions are controversial and not studied enough which makes the issue even more disturbing for specialists, including physiologists, psychologists and sexologists (Mirzabeigi, 2012, p. 127). “In the absence of measurable standards of care, lack of evidence-based outcome norms, and little standardization either in nomenclature or training requirements, concern has been raised by both ethicists and specialty organizations,”¯ Goodman (2009, 154) alarms. Accordingly, this research is intended to come closer to the truth of cosmetic plastic surgery and trace how it has turned from a medical issue into a cultural one.

Earlier cosmetic plastic surgery was a remedy exclusively used by the representatives of certain professions, including movie stars and models. Even more often reconstructive plastic surgery was applied as a necessary tool to decrease discomfort or pain, change vulvo-vaginal structures absent or damaged due to some disease or injury, physical trauma or childbirth (Santoni-Rugiu, 2007, p. 266). For example, there may be chronic labial irritation because of tight closing, coitus, sports activities or other physical actions. In this case the labia may be reduced. The muscles of vagina may weaken after childbirth, so excess vaginal lining will be removed and the surrounding tissues will be tightened. In other words, the medical justification was the only one working. Today cosmetic plastic surgery generally pursues two goals, medical and aesthetical one. The range of terms to describe this type of intervention is gradually expanding. It may be called “cosmetic vaginal surgery”¯, “vaginal rejuvenation”¯, “genital plastic surgery”¯ or “aesthetic vaginal surgery”¯. The aims include strengthening the function of genitals, and firming up or reshaping the tissue to make it look younger. Among the most popular procedures labiaplasty and vaginoplasty, reduction of clitoral hood, perineoplasty, and hymenoplasty are distinguished (Lock, 2001, p. 483). The number of women getting genital cosmetic surgery is dangerously rising. In the U. K., the number of surgeries more than doubled between 2002 and 2007 (Hill, 2012, p. 55).In 2008 the number was rather small, 800 women in the United Kingdom and about 1,000 in the United States.

The surgeons involved in the process ensure that this is a healing procedure and that there is a wide range of benefits. Sexual relationships are said to be improved; self-esteem is increased; physical and moral comfort is achieved (Fenton, 2011).

However, the problem is under scrutiny and the situation is controversial. On the one hand, sexual function improvement is a just right for everyone, but only when there is a physical need for one. It can be understood and justified when women are really losing the elasticity and attractiveness of their intimate organs, but still wish to have sexual interactions and pleasure. Meanwhile, many women come to the surgeon and explain that their sexual partner was the one to inspire them for surgery. The stress on appearance, not on physical need is made. However, psychologists as well as sexologists underline that the surgery will hardly change anything. If the partner is not caring enough to prevent the girl from surgical intrusion, it is much more reasonable to look for another partner. It is even more disturbing when young girls claim they are themselves not satisfied with the appearance of the genitals. Physiologists argue that there can be no normal or abnormal labia or vagina by size or appearance, “in reality genitals are as diverse as faces or fingerprints”¯ (James, 2012). On the contrary, these are media that create produce certain images and provoke the establishment of aesthetic standards. These visual standards are becoming the part of Western culture. Media have for long been dictating the mankind what to do, what to eat, what to but and how to look. Now they have intruded into the most intimate part of human body and there is no one to stop them (Heyes and Jones, 2009, 75).

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