ONTD Political

So women and girls are again being made to feel their bodies are gross...

5:45 pm - 07/03/2017
Vagina surgery 'sought by girls as young as nine'

Girls as young as nine are seeking surgery on their genitals because they are distressed by its appearance, the Victoria Derbyshire show has been told.

Dr Naomi Crouch, a leading adolescent gynaecologist, said she was concerned GPs were referring rising numbers of young girls who wanted an operation.

Labiaplasty, as the surgery is known, involves the lips of the vagina being shortened or reshaped.

The NHS says it should not be carried out on girls before they turn 18.

In 2015-16, more than 200 girls under 18 had labiaplasty on the NHS. More than 150 of the girls were under 15.

Some experts fear that pornography and images viewed through social media are leading young girls to have unrealistic perceptions of how their genitals should look.

'Very upsetting'

Dr Crouch, who chairs the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology, said in her work for the NHS she was yet to see a girl who needed the operation.

"Girls will sometimes come out with comments like, 'I just hate it, I just want it removed,' and for a girl to feel that way about any part of her body - especially a part that's intimate - is very upsetting."

Anna's story

Anna - not her real name - considered having labiaplasty from the age of 14.

"I just picked up from somewhere that it wasn't neat enough or tidy enough and I think I wanted it to be smaller.

"People around me were watching porn and I just had this idea that it should be symmetrical and not sticking out.

"I thought that was what everyone else looked like, because I hadn't seen any normal everyday [images] before then.
"I remember thinking, 'If there's surgery for it, then clearly I'm not the only one who wants this done, and maybe it won't be that big a deal.'."

She later decided not to pursue having an operation.

"I'm totally glad I didn't get it done. I didn't need it. I look totally normal. Completely and utterly normal."

Paquita de Zulueta, a GP for more than 30 years, said it was only in the past few years that girls had started coming to her with concerns over the appearance of their labia.

"I'm seeing young girls around 11, 12, 13 thinking there's something wrong with their vulva - that they're the wrong shape, the wrong size, and really expressing almost disgust.

"Their perception is that the inner lips should be invisible, almost like a Barbie, but the reality is that there is a huge variation. It's very normal for the lips to protrude."

Paquita de Zulueta says some girls magnify their physical symptoms to improve their chances of having surgery.

She blames the unrealistic images girls are being exposed to through pornography and social media.

"There isn't enough education and it should start really quite young, explaining that there is a range and that - just as we all look different in our faces - we all look different down there, and that's OK."

NHS England said it did not carry out the operation for cosmetic reasons, only for clinical conditions.

For the past few years clinical commissioning groups have been able to refer only patients who are experiencing physical pain or emotional distress.

But Dr De Zulueta says some girls know they need to overstate their physical symptoms to get the surgery.

"There is awareness that they're more likely to get the operation if they say it's interfering with sex, with sport, they feel that will tick that box."

'Parallels with FGM'

Dr Crouch believes labiaplasty should be given only to girls who have a medical abnormality.

"I find it very hard to believe there are 150 girls with a medical abnormality which means they needed an operation on their labia," she said.

She added there were uncomfortable parallels between this surgery and female genital mutilation (FGM), which is illegal in the UK.

"The law says we shouldn't perform these operations on developing bodies for cultural reasons. Current Western culture is to have very small lips, tucked inside. I see this as the same thing".

Seeking advice

Dr Gail Busby, lead adolescent gynaecologist at St Mary's Hospital, says it is important for girls and their parents to remember:

§  In adolescence, the labia are still growing - with the inner lips growing first - so it is normal for them to appear prominent. Girls should not compare themselves to adult women
§  By age 18, the outer lips will have grown. If girls can hold off seeking an operation until adulthood, their genitals' appearance will have changed - removing the initial reason for wanting surgery
§  Surgery will probably lead to scarring and - as the labia are still developing - could lead to it becoming asymmetrical in adulthood
§  Do not feel alone. Half the girls in your class will be in the same position, it is a normal part of development - it is just that no-one talks about it openly
§  If parents wish to allay fears, take your daughter to a GP
§  In some instances, if there are deeper concerns regarding body image, it may help to create some coping strategies

Body image advice

The majority of labiaplasties are done by private cosmetic surgeons on women over 18.

The industry has been criticised for normalising the procedure.

Plastic surgeon Miles Berry says labiaplasty can improve women's self-esteem.

Plastic surgeon Miles Berry defended the surgery, saying it could improve women's lives.

"It can change people fundamentally, the feelings they have about themselves, their confidence and self-esteem.

"I have seen patients aged between 16 and 21 who have never had a boyfriend because they are so concerned about this."

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said the operation should not be performed until a girl had finished developing, after the age of 18.

SOURCE has video testimonials.
OP: The following is an article from a Canadian publication, but it does cite really interesting data about the U.S.

Embodying Barbie: Cosmetic gynecology on the rise in Canada

Critics say science doesn't support claims surgery helps sexual dysfunction
Critics say the demand for cosmetic gynecology surgeries is prompted by prolific pornography, which doesn't present realistic images of female genitals. (Shutterstock / ileela)

After six years of wishing she looked better below the belt, Alyssa recently shelled out $4,200 to have part of her labia removed.

"Esthetically, there's nothing hanging, there's nothing really excess in that area so it does look better," said Alyssa, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy.

The procedure she got done, known as labiaplasty, was performed in 35 minutes under local anesthetic at the Toronto Cosmetic Clinic and is part of a trend toward cosmetic gynecology being seen in Canada and the U.S.

Cosmetic surgeons argue the procedures can help women build confidence and resolve problems with sexual dysfunction.

But critics say the desire to get labia changed is driven by unattainable standards set by the prolific porn industry, and there is little evidence to support any claims the procedures provide women with any benefit.

The clinic's managing director, Sina Kashani, says the procedure has spiked in popularity since it was first offered in 2005.

Patients can choose from a range of styles — from the "Barbie," "for a perfectly smooth look," to the "more conservative" "peek-a-boo."

Cosmetic surgeons say demand for surgeries like labiaplasty has increased rapidly in the past few years. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Four-fold increase

"Patience is the key when it comes to recovery," Alyssa said. "The first couple of weeks is uncomfortable because it's a very, very sensitive area."

The Toronto clinic offers a range of cosmetic gynecology procedures that also include vaginoplasty to tighten the vaginal muscles, labia puffing to increase the outer labia, and hymenoplasty to repair broken hymens.

While these surgeries aren't new, Kashin says the procedures have increased four-fold since the clinic started offering them and it's now one of several busy plastic surgery centres in Toronto that does so.

Canada doesn't keep statistics on cosmetic procedures, but according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery labiaplasty is the second fastest-growing cosmetic procedure in the U.S.

Some doctors say cosmetic gynecology surgeries can help with sexual dysfunction. (Brooklyn Museum: The Greek Slave)

Cosmetic gynecology has grown so much, the International Urogynecological Association included it as a sub-topic for the first time at its annual conference this weekend in Vancouver.

'This isn't just a trend'

Dr. Robert Moore has clinics in Atlanta, Beverly Hills and Dubai that specialize in reconstructive and cosmetic vaginal procedures, which they've been performing for the past 15 to 20 years.

"This isn't just a trend," Moore said at the conference. "There's actually more science behind this that the members of the society want to know about."

Moore said cosmetic gynecology first began with vaginal rejuvenation, which is often performed on women who suffer from a prolapsed uterus, urinary tract or rectum post-childbirth and may experience pain during intercourse as a result.

"In the past we kind of just said, well, you're a mom now. If things get worse and you start leaking urine all over yourself come see us, we can then do something about it," he said.

"Sexual dysfunction is a real problem, why do we have to wait for things to get so extreme?"

Gynecologists say vulvas can vary greatly in size and shape. (King Sophie's World)

The procedure is now also performed on older women who want to tighten their vaginas, also usually after having had children, and not necessarily because of any problems with pain.

Hymen repair is performed mainly for women who are preparing to marry, but is only a small portion of the business.
In the past five to 10 years, the greatest growth in the specialty cosmetic field has been labiaplasty, which also has some roots as a medically necessary procedure — it is sometimes done to help women who experience pain because of friction caused by unusually large labia.

But Moore admits the surgery is often performed on women who feel uncomfortable being sexual because they don't like how their genitals look.

Reconsidering 'normal'

That's where Vancouver-based gynecologist Dr. Nicole Todd takes issue with cosmetic procedures like labiaplasty and vaginoplasty.

Todd says she regularly has patients ask her about altering their labia, and although they are of all ages, the majority of them are under 19.

"I do feel that there's an increased focus on the appearance of genitals as this is pushed forward by increased access to images on the internet as well as in pornography," Todd said.

"I feel as a medical community it behooves us to know and reassure women that the majority of them do fall well within normal limits."

One of Todd's tactics when patients come in asking about the procedure is to show them medically or feminist-oriented websites like the U.K.'s Great Wall of Vagina to demonstrate the wide variety of vulval shapes and sizes.

She also screens her patients for mental health issues, and warns them of the risks of surgery — which include infection, scarring, nerve damage and increased pain.

As for the science supporting cosmetic procedures for sexual dysfunction, Todd says plastic surgery often suffers from publication bias — the industry is more likely to only publish studies with positive results and not the negative ones.
Instead, she says proven results for post-partum problems include pelvic floor exercises and physiotherapy.

Some additional information:
-Apparently there is an increase in demand for labiaplasty among adolescent girls in the U.S. as well.
-This type of surgery is also on the rise in Australia.

OP: Fuck men, fuck the cosmetic industry, fuck pornography and fuck beauty 'standards'. Did I forget anyone?

Also, on the similarities between FGM and labiaplasty see this link, as well as this link and this link.
velvetunicorn 4th-Jul-2017 04:07 pm (UTC)

Ugh at all of this although I was definitely one of those girls who thought that way. I hate society.

lightframes 4th-Jul-2017 10:08 pm (UTC)
Some experts fear that pornography and images viewed through social media are leading young girls to have unrealistic perceptions of how their genitals should look.

I dislike children being exposed to pornography. Actually just let me be honest, I dislike pornography.
amw 5th-Jul-2017 12:59 am (UTC)
I saw a lot of this in the trans community back in the late 90s/early 00s. Amongst MTF transsexuals, there were grand debates over which surgeon did the best labia and whether you should get one-step or two-step ops to construct the perfect labia, clitoral hood etc. Even in this subculture of people who are perhaps forgivably obsessed with genitalia i found the whole conversation a bit uncomfortable - i just wanted to lose the peen.

The funny thing is, while adult transsexuals sought out a "realistic" vulva with inner and outer labia, it seems the trend with young ciswomen is to minimize the inner labia altogether. For women whose large inner labia cause physical discomfort i can understand that, but it just goes to show that the perfect vag is in the eye of the beholder. And anyone who got their brows done in the 90s knows how quickly beauty trends can change.

I think childhood body shame is something that society is not dealing with very well. When i was a kid we had "skills for adolesence", which i guess is similar to American "sex ed", but although i learned the facts it didn't really help me with the psychological side. I still believe that my desire to change my sex was rooted more in discomfort with my male junk than because "i was born a woman" or something. I am less inclined to blame porn for these warped views than peer pressure, bullying, sexual abuse etc. It's sad, because it's such an emotional and financial waste for kids to hate themselves and change themselves only to realize in adulthood that cosmetic surgery was little more than a very expensive tattoo. Everyone looks weird, all body parts are squishy and gross, and no one really gives a shit anyway.
queerbychoice 6th-Jul-2017 12:26 am (UTC)
"I still believe that my desire to change my sex was rooted more in discomfort with my male junk than because 'i was born a woman' or something."

Just curious, and not expecting you to speak on behalf of All Transpeople Everywhere, but just on behalf of your own experience and perspective as described above:

Do you feel that your life/transition experience/etc. might have been improved if people generally understood better that this discomfort was your main motivation to change your sex? If so, can you describe any more specifically how it might have been improved or what you wish had been done differently?

Or, contrarily, do you feel that it doesn't make much difference what was driving your desire to change sex, because basically the only solution in any case is still going to be to change sex, and there aren't necessarily any different ramifications just because your motivations were a little different than the commonly expressed ones?
amw 6th-Jul-2017 01:49 am (UTC)
That's a very good question.

I will say up-front i definitely do not speak for all transpeople everywhere. I think transpeople come in many flavors. The ones that get the most press are those with a very simple motivation - they identified with a particular gender their whole lives and just want their body to match. Those who - like me - perhaps feel more generally awkward around gender and sexuality tend to get overlooked.

I think if there had been a better support mechanism for being asexual, non-binary etc 15-20 years ago, i might not have transitioned. Or perhaps my transition would have looked different. In my day there was a "genderqueer" movement, but they were all radical and fetishy and i didn't feel comfortable in it. The traditional trans community pushed people into a gender binary, and they seemed more interested in hating on drag queens than really exploring why getting a sex change might be an appealing path for people with issues other than identifying as the opposite gender. I did go through all the psych evaluations, had to do the "real life test" etc, but it's easy to play the part when the system pushes you that way in the first place.

I don't regret my transition any more because it's brought so much richness to my life. I understand women's issues much better than i ever did before. Changing your sex/gender is a really difficult and unique life experience that builds a lot of character. But i think if i could go back and talk to younger me, i would explain that both men and women have social pressures to behave a certain way, that both straight and gay people have social pressures to behave a certain way, that you will be body-shamed no matter how you identify, that you will be feared and perhaps hated by small-minded people regardless of how you read, that both male and female hormones hijack your brain and make you do and feel things you don't want.... Knowing all this i might have still wanted to at least get an orchiectomy, but i would've understood it more as a quality of life surgery - like a breast reduction - than as some kind of magic ticket to a new life that turned out to have all the same problems as the old one.
queerbychoice 6th-Jul-2017 02:01 am (UTC)
Thank you for taking the time to reply! It is an interesting perspective to hear.
_marquis 6th-Jul-2017 11:55 am (UTC)
You say you're less inclined to blame porn, but rather blame peer pressure and bullying.

But where did pressure and bullying come from? Where did this standard to have a pornified body with a Barbie vagina come from? We have a generation of boys who's first sexual education is what they see in porn and therefore unrealistic expectations for women's bodies. And that's having a real effect on the way girls and women view themselves.

I'm sorry but it's not some crazy coincidence that these surgeries (as well as expectations to be completely hairless from the neck down) are on the rise along side increasingly unrealistic dipiction of women in pornography.
tilmon 8th-Jul-2017 06:19 pm (UTC)
Not just the increasingly unrealistic depiction of women's bodies in porn, but the increased availability of porn. When I was a kid, there were ubiquitous displays of Playboy and Playboy-esque frontal nudity, which fed into the move toward breast enlargement surgeries. But porn displaying genitals? Everyone knew it existed, but it was not something that a child, especially a girl child, was likely to see on a frequent basis, and men kept their mouths shut about having it or watching it.

At the same time, casual same-sex nudity was more common. Locker rooms had no privacy at all, and neither did gym showers. Summer camp meant all of us, including our counselors, dressing and undressing together. I didn't know what the nether regions of porn actresses looked like, but I saw enough of my peers' that I knew we weren't enough different to care. And as for looking at myself, it didn't occur to me to do that unless I was doing a tick-check after those camping trips. I wonder how I would have thought about myself if I had been steeped in the hardcore porn-filled/puritanical/body-shaming environment that exists now.

Edited at 2017-07-08 06:20 pm (UTC)
mickeym 27th-Jul-2017 02:39 am (UTC)
It's amazing how all the voices saying labiaplasty shouldn't be done before 18, and preferably not at all because it's not actually necessary, are women...

...and the voices saying, "hell yeah, we need to make this available to all ages, there's nothing wrong with wanting to fix this or that"... are male.

Color me so surprised. /sarcasm
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