Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cosmetic Vulvar Surgeries

This is off the topic of birth, but timely for women to be aware of. In the last five to ten years, there has been an increase in surgical procedures to alter a woman's sexual organs.

It starts with the commonly-known breast enlargement, lift, etc. I think I'm pretty numb to that already, as it's been around forever. Surely I must have been horrified when I first heard about it? I could have been too young to care or to even think that looking like my Barbie was something that should have raised my eyebrows.

It seems that there are a host of surgeries offered to women who don't like the look of their vulvas. Of course, this distaste for their own girlie bits comes from pornographic images. As a late second/third wave feminist, I'm not down on porn. To each her/his own. I am down on the increasing pressure for women to alter their bodies to look like certain genres of porn stars. Who is introducing these changes to women's anatomy? And WHY? To top it off, male porn stars have not changed their own genitalia at all in the last 100 years (well, aside from shaving and always looking to be 'bigger', a male myth that it's 'better' for women).

One blogger posts about the surgery to restore a woman's hymen (a hymenoplasty). From a Russian website extolling the virtues of "recovering [their] virginity". Why on earth would a woman want this surgery? My 'favorite' reason from the Russian site was this:

4. Enhancing the feelings of sexual gratification

Some women undergo surgery to please their husbands and partners. They want to “lose their virginity” all over again to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary in a very special way. Others have their hymens stitched back together to receive and give more pleasure when making love.

Perhaps you're thinking that this is an isolated look at this subject. Do a Google search for 'hymenoplasty' and you'll be treated to even more. The sad fact is there are women around the world, due to religious and cultural beliefs, could be at risk for alienation, abuse and sometimes even death if an intact hymen was not found.

Now on to more cosmetic and outrageous procedures...achem, "vulva enhancements":

Last but not least, there has been a huge trend in the last five years for anal bleaching. Yep, you read right: anal bleaching.

Let me be clear personally: After the third degree episiotomy involved with my daughter's birth, I had to undergo perineal reconstruction surgery at 15 months postpartum. Even after a year postpartum, I was unable to have sex without incredible amounts of pain and was experiencing fecal incontinence. The surgery helped me regain my sphincter control, as well as remove a quarter-sized piece of hard scar tissue right at the vaginal introitus. I am grateful for that option that allowed me to have sex without intense pain and to not poo my pants in Target.

But still...these procedures? When they're done for cosmetic purposes, we have to examine why we believe that it's more attractive.