July 06, 2007

Frontiers of Cosmetic Surgery: "Designer Vaginas"

Oh dear, were you at the office when you decided to check on the latest in wholesome health news? Sitting in the same room with your kids? So sorry!

Actually, a good friend suggested this for a topic, and indeed it is a perfect one for Cranky Fitness: Weird, Slightly Off-Color, and Health Related! The triple crown, as far as Crabby is concerned. But she realizes there is a time and place for everything, including vaginas, and if this is neither for you right now you are most certainly excused.

She was going to post earlier this week. However, that very day she discovered that her friend Jennifer had just kindly linked to Crabby from the Family Resource Blog, saying nice things and including her in a list of "Great Family Blogs."

So she decided she might postpone the Vagina Post for a few days.

Anyway, so what is a "Designer Vagina" and why would a woman contemplate cosmetic surgery in order to have one?

Well, according to this article, the British Medical Journal released a report saying that "women are increasingly seeking cosmetic surgery to make their vaginas match pornographic pictures."

The article does go on to say, however, that some women were having their labias reduced for reasons that had nothing to do with their appearance. They were uncomfortable exercising or wearing tight clothing, for example. Crabby just wants to clarify that she's not making fun of these women. If a woman is experiencing physical discomfort because of the way she's built? Sounds completely reasonable to get it fixed.

But then one doctor said a lot of his patients told him they had better sex because they felt more comfortable. "It's more based on the self-esteem issue than how the labia look...they feel more self-assured."

The British Medical Journal commentary argues that appearance may not be a good enough reason to undergo this type of medical procedure, especially since risks include loss of sensitivity to the genitals. A physician who does these surgeries also warned against going to inexperienced doctors, saying that patients risked scarring, infection and bleeding.


So here's what Crabby thinks:

There may be some rare cases in which even just for appearance, the surgery might make sense. Say a woman is really, really, unusually proportioned. And say she's had a series of terrible experiences with insensitive sexual partners, brutes who have ridiculed her and scarred her emotionally far worse than anything a surgeon could do to her physically. Crabby says: well, okay. As long as you understand the risks and the discomfort you may have to endure for the sake of your "looks," go ahead and let them slice. (Shiver).

But short of that, it just seems insane to have expensive, painful, and dangerous surgery to make your hoo-hoo look more like the one your boyfriend admired so much the other night when you came home early and caught him screening "Eight Women...who Ate Women."

The increasing "need" for this surgery raises all kinds of confusing questions for Crabby. Do women really need yet another part of their anatomy to feel insecure about? And for women who think they look "unusual," how do they know? Do they really believe that porn actresses represent the entire range of normal female appearance? And if it's not through porn, how many "average" vaginas does a typical woman come across at close range in order to make a comparison? (Unless, of course, seekers of the surgery are disproportionately gynecologists, lesbians, and specialists in "Brazilian" waxes, but Crabby seriously doubts this is the case).

She wonders if yet again, insecure women are buying into the idea that there is some sort of "perfect" body out there, and that no amount of sacrifice is too much in order to obtain it. Crabby would like to convince these women otherwise, but she suspects that not many of them are regular readers of Cranky Fitness.

And for those women who might be contemplating this surgery in order to please a disapproving boyfriend, husband, or other sexual partner? Ladies: it's not excess labial tissue you need to cut loose.


  1. *laughing uproariously inwardly* Eight women who...
    hee hee.

    Brilliant post, Mrs. McSlacker. ;)

  2. Thank you Lacy!

    Wish I could take credit for the "8 Women" title, but that's an actual film. Will not say where I might have run into to something like that... But I've always thought it was hysterical and was pleased to get to work it in somewhere.

  3. "Eight Women...who Ate Women."
    Made me laugh. I think I'll be chuckling all day over that one. Thank you.

    On to serious matters. I am offended, but not because of your post. I'm all for your post, it's the mere fact of the existence of this surgery that offends me.

    If a woman is experience pain due to tight clothing, then the very first thing she out to do is sort out if there's swelling due to allergic reaction.
    Corn is a culprit, as are cashews, and many other foods including pineapple juice. I speak from experience as regards the three noted examples.
    One wonders why any thinking being would sacrifice sensation for looks. Just how far does one believe she has to go to please a partner? If said partner is interested in looks more than his/her partner's pleasure and health, then "Ladies: it's not excess labial tissue you need to cut loose."
    However, if there's a real medical reason, then certainly get it done.

    Brilliant, brilliant post, Crabby.

  4. "But short of that, it just seems insane to have expensive, painful, and dangerous surgery to make your hoo-hoo look more like the one your boyfriend admired so much the other night when you came home early and caught him screening "Eight Women...who Ate Women."

    Ha!!! Hysterical!

    As for this kind of surgery, it certainly seems like nonsense to me. Everyone's different, and that's what makes it fun.

  5. In my 20 some years of having sexual intercourse I have never come across one I didn't like. They are all different just like penises(sp). Plastic surgeons are the medical field equivalent of an attorney. Eight..Ate, Great One!

  6. Hi Leah,
    Yes, that has to be one of my favorite Adult Film titles of all time, and I do wish I'd thought it up myself.

    Interesting info about potential allergens causing swelling--had no idea!

    Hi Jim!
    I was wondering if any men would be brave enough to comment, hooray! Thanks for stopping by. (And at first when you said "everyone's different..." I was thinking you meant in their opinions about surgery. Then I realized...Oh, that's not what he meant! And that is indeed part of the fun).

  7. Hi anonymous!
    Glad to hear another vote for variety. Thanks for visiting!

  8. I was looking forward to the X rated, but I have to confess that now . . . I'm just kinda depressed.

    I'm so with you Crabby, this is just insane. And upsetting. And I hate how much the porn industry has become glamourised in the last decade or so. And whee! Yet one more thing for women to feel insecure about.

    Le sigh.

  9. I'm tired of being told I have to change my body to suit someone else. Especially, someone I don't even know or who doesn't even exist! (ie, imaginary man)
    I think anyone who really cares that much about your vagina isn't worth spending time with, much less having sex with. And I feel the same way about any other crazy, painful procedure that will improve my appearance very minimally in the long run.

    (How many people will actually see anyone's vagina, unless you're a porn star? I mean, really.)

  10. ...and just how do you explain this to your family, friends, co-workers..."I will be taking a few days off work because I am having a lobotomy, um I mean labia-otomy."

  11. Hi Adrienne,
    I know, it is depressing. Next X-rated post I'll have to find something more cheerful to write about.

    Hi Second Anomymous,
    Good point about the low "audience" for this surgery. Even if you were willing to surgically alter yourself just for looks, in terms of dollars per impression, vaginal surgery has to be the least efficient choice out there. Unless you're a porn star or you keep really "busy!"

    Ha! Yeah, that's a really good one to try to explain. I think I'd rather confess to the lobotomy.

  12. I am not particularly knowledgable in this area, since I do not possess a labia. Intrigued, I showed the entry to Karen for her input.

    According to her, she really isn't all that detail oriented, therefore probably wouldn't be looking into that procedure. Karen said she had enough obvious issues about her body to be self conscious and didn't need to create anymore by comparing her unmentionables to those of porn stars. Furthermore, any man that meticulous (hee hee) probably wouldn't be interested in her anyway.

    If he was, he wouldn't stick around long enough to discuss such matters. We would quickly asked Sadie to barf in his shoes and send him on his merry way.

    We don't tolerate much silliness in our house, I'll tell you that. . .


  13. Penelope,
    As usual you are a most sensible cat, and Karen sounds quite sensible about this as well!

    Good plan on the barfing in his shoes, should the need arise. But I sense Karen would not make the mistake of letting that sort of creature in the house in the first place.

  14. That sounds like something my ex-husband would would be all for...which is why he is my ex. That is really disturbing, but another way of looking at it is, these women must be really pleased with the rest of their body to be worrying about how their labia looks. If I were to have plastic surgery I can think of at least half a dozen other things I would go under the knife for than my hoo-hoo.

    Eight-women... LOL I almost ruined a keyboard spewing coffee. Thanks for the laugh.

  15. Hi Jen,
    I'm guessing that some of these women are getting to their labias only after carving and/or plumping every other body part first! And gosh, nice Ex--good decision on that one.

    So comment moderation is off for now, which may be a bit optimistic, we'll see. But I'll be in and out today. So should anything too icky be posted, it won't be up for more than a few hours before I take it off. If that should happen, please bear with me. Thanks!

  16. So it has come to this. Can male enhancement be far behind? To expand the discussion: Is this the first faint whiff of the day when sex change operations are commonplace, back and forth from one gender to the other as often as one wishes? Long ago, I read a brilliant science fiction story based on just this premise, by James Tiptree, Jr., who was a woman doctor writing under a pseudonym. Her story examined gender issues such as roles, expectations, and so on.

    How does this relate to designer vaginas? Perhaps only in a small way, namely that yes, many people consider the body sacrosanct, as nature made us, to be accepted as is, etc., and see any attempt to tamper with it as symptomatic of a problem such as low self-esteem. Yet it's also possible that even a procedure as radical as reconstructive surgery is sometimes no more than a choice of convenience or aesthetics. This makes sense to me especially given how very materialistic our society is, when bodies are commodities (think of any celebrity whose fame is not based on talent, and even a great many who are).

    I say this as someone who resisted for many years getting my ear pierced because it was "mutilating" the body. I wouldn't choose to undergo unnecessary surgery, but I allow others the freedom to make their own choices as long as they are not harming other people.

  17. Oh dear, Crabby! I really don't know whether to laugh or cry about this.

    And I followed the entire discussion without a single diagram being needed!

  18. I had no idea what I was missing by not stopping by your blog. I will correct the situation immediately.

  19. Hi Appleton,
    Hmm, never thought about comparisons with sex-change surgery or ear piercing. Instinctively, the three all sound very different to me, yet it's fascinating to see how quick we are to judge others on their choices. Thanks!

    Hi Dawn!
    I do believe you Kiwis are much more worldly about Matters Sexual than they let on. There's some joke to be had about the "Southern Hemisphere" or "Down Under" (though is that just Aussies?) but I can't seem to locate it at the moment.

    Hi Marijke!
    Well, I'm afraid you caught us on a rather off-color day--we're usually a bit more high minded and boring. Antioxidants anyone?

  20. Oh jeez. I'm with dawn. Do I laugh or cry? Beyond ridiculous!
    I also really appreciated appleton's comment too. I have, over the years, changed how I feel about elective plastic surgery. "Meh, whatever" to "Um what the crap did pregnancy do to my body?" to "no thank you!" Much more important things to worry about, spend money on, and I sort of feel that those things that will never be the same (like that annoying part of my stomach that will NEVER be flat again) are kind of battle scars in a way. Not only do I not mind them, I'm growing to appreciate the sacrifice. Maybe I'll feel differently more years down the line, change my mind, and go for the works! we'll see.
    to each his own! I mean, to each HER own. :) But I am really saddened that this is even happening often enough to make news.

  21. oh, and my husband added that one shouldn't look to porn stars' vaginas as something to copy, who knows where they've been or what they really look like! lol!

  22. Hard to resist a comment here :-)

    Two things come to mind...
    Some joke about looking bad, but feeling good....and the expression,"Bumping Uglies!"

    At the fitness center where I work out, someone once walked into the pool area naked. They walked out for maybe 50 feet before they realized their error. They had a towel which they used immediately to cover-up. Someone in the group said, "they covered the wrong area because we usually recognize people here by their faces!"

  23. I'm with Jim on this one. Never met a vagina I didn't like!

    If I were a women the loss of sensitivity would kill any chance of this surgery for me, at least for stricly cosmetic reasons.

  24. Hi Katieo!
    It is funny how one's view on the whole issue of cosmetic surgery changes through the years. Easy to say you'd "never" be tempted do anything corrective when you're 19--a little more understandable once things start getting saggier. So I don't like to judge people for their choices... too often.

    However, I think a lot of us just have this total blehh reaction to idea that we should even have to think about what our nether regions look like, let alone worry about it!

    And thank your husband for his thoughts on porn stars' vaginas! (Bet that's not a thank-you you'd ever thought you'd hear.)

    Hi anonymous,
    That's pretty funny--and yes, I suppose the towel over the head might actually be more practical!

  25. Hi Noah,
    I'm with you on that!

    (Actually, I was specifically referring to the second part of your comment about the loss of sensitivity, but what the heck, lets hear it for likable vaginas!).

  26. Hmmm. This post makes me want to rant about so much.

    I think a more disturbing thought than these women undergoing surgery because they compared themselves to women in porn is that these women are doing so because they have set for themselves a certain mental image of what it should look like, without porn. That these women don't even need to place a mirror between their legs to stare at it and identify what they find unappealing in order for them to be convinced that something is wrong--like the woman with an eating disorder who doesn't need a mirror to be convinced that no matter what, she is still very fat. If these women are looking at porn for a normal vagina, they are seeing something I am not. In my experience, there are so many different vaginas that it's hard for me to derive a standard of normalcy.

    While on the subject of porn, perhaps the women who are seeking this surgery are in fact the subjects, or involved in another kind of sex work. Then it makes more sense. Cosmetic surgery amongst porn stars, strippers, prostitutes, modern-day courtesans, even trophy wives must be more inclined to getting such work done. When I think of these kinds of sex work, it's nearly impossible for me to see it as women liberating themselves, but I'm surprised to find that is exactly what many claim. Even Playboy consideres itself to be a liberal feminist organization. All I can see it as is "Instead of men objectifying us, we choose to objectify ourselves."

    Then again, if it's their thing, so be it. If the woman really wanted to do it--and by really I mean, not because she really wanted to do it for her significant other--then who am I to take her down a notch for it. The last thing I want to do is limit the already-too-limited choices available to women. At least she's claiming to have a choice in the matter. I get slightly creeped out by all the cutting up of genitalia that goes on out there... particularly when it's done without the consent of the person being cut. What particularly bugs me is that doctors will automatically assign a gender to hermaphroditic infants and perform reconstructive surgery on the infant's genitalia. Genital mutilation goes on everywhere, so I see it's catching up to us.

  27. Wow, most recent Anonymous, what a thoughtful post. (Makes me feel a bit bad for being so glib, but, well, that's sort of how I operate here).

    So many good points--about the self-image issues underlying some of this, and the particular issues for sex workers (and I love that you include Trophy wives in this category) and the disturbing issues around non-consensual genital mutilation. Yet you take a very reasoned balanced approach, not a "rant" at all.

    Thanks so much for your comment and for stopping by!

  28. I don't even have one and yet I cringed...creepy.

  29. Hi John,
    Well if it makes you feel any better, I cringe during discussions of circumcision. There seems to be some sort of cross-gender genital slicing sympathy factor!

  30. Love the comments and humor, but guys, ob/gyn's have been doing this surgery for years! After two babies and a few years of cycling, my labia size changed and a great deal of discomfort when cycling (and sex) set in. The ob/gyn did a little snip and sew, six weeks out the the saddle (ALL SADDLES :-) and then good as new....actually, better :-) Sensation enhanced and no tugging and pulling when you want more probing and pushing, if you catch my drift. The plastic guys do charge a fortune for this, and advertise and all. Our family- friendly ob/gyns and been doing this on the sligh forever!

  31. Hi Anonymous!

    Hooray, someone who actually knows something about the topic!

    (Crabby specializes in having opinions about things; actual knowledge is not her strong point).

    Sounds like what you did made total sense--just a medical procedure to make physical activities (including sex) not painful.

    So Ob/gyn's are the place to go, then, instead of plastic surgeons, if you just want to make things more comfortable and are not just trying to "look like a porn star?" Good to know!

    And I think the joking was more aimed at the women who are seeking physical "perfection" and not women having medical procedures.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  32. I used to know a woman who bragged about all the plastic surgery she had done--a breast reduction (because her husband didn't like large boobs) and a vaginal tightening (she had two children). Apparently they made a plaster cast of her husband's penis to make it more "customized". Their marriage is extremely disturbing. The husband is six years younger and a total cad who continually finds fault with his wife's appearance. She is an affluent sugar-mama--extremely self-absorbed and vain who likes to flaunt her wealth to the blue-collar likes of me. Yuck. I think 99% of plastic surgery is unessesary and shows the person to be as shallow as they come.

  33. Hi anonymous--
    I'm with you, that dynamic sounds awfully creepy.

    And that plaster cast--once they paid for it, you wonder if they used it for anything else afterwards? I'm picturing sex toys or novelty dinner candles. (Sorry, getting silly over here).

  34. I think it is a terrible day when women let porn stars and strippers make us feel insecure. They used to be thought of as the dregs of society and not women to emulate. I have to confess that I too was very insecure about my breast and did have an augmentation. I liked the way they looked for sure, but ended up with complications and had them removed. Sadly I have lost all sensations in that area and I regret this. You don't know what you will be missing. I would never let anyone do anything unnecessarily to my vaginal area unless I had to. anyone who emulates porn movies or wants their loved one to emulate a porn woman is not a man I would want.

  35. "And for those women who might be contemplating this surgery in order to please a disapproving boyfriend, husband, or other sexual partner? Ladies: it's not excess labial tissue you need to cut loose."

    Okay, seriously, what *I* would cut lose in that case is definitely the partner. Anyone demanding that of a woman (or simply hinting that it's inconvenient to him) doesn't deserve her to start with. If she wants to do it because she's really physically inconvenienced, alright, but certainly not because someone else tells her to...

  36. Can they put personalized instructions on them :0

  37. Hi Jan,
    I'm so sorry to hear about your surgery. A good reminder that any kind of surgery can have complications. And while I have nothing against women who work in the sex industry, I agree with you that it does seem odd that women who would never consider that line of work themselves are now going to major extremes in order to look like them!

    Hi Kery,
    Isn't that awful, the thought that some women would carve themselves up to please someone else? And what kind of guy would encourage someone to have surgery like that? Not someone you'd want to be with!

    Very funny! Although as for instructions, I believe most women have another orifice further north quite capable of delivering them. Though many women are too shy to do it and many men too shy to ask!

  38. Ok, but how come we never hear about men having their sagging scrotums "adjusted" to be more pleasing to the eye? I mean, it's ok for a man to push this type of thing on a woman (not that i think it's "ok" by any means), but where are the women out there pushing men with big sagging doberman pincer looking sacks to have them fixed up to "look" better!?? Oh wait, men would never do it!

  39. Anonymous,
    Good point! Although I'm still reeling from the visual...

    Interesting, because men certainly care about certain dimensions "down there," but I'm not sure the aesthetics are as much of a concern!

    And thanks for your comment!

  40. So this was a few weeks ago (in a week where I actually had a bit of a life) but gosh, I so just have to comment...

    First off, I was imagining this like when they show plastic surgery on TV and women come to their doctors with pictures of a celebritie's nose or eyes or something... Gosh, are women looking at porn sites now so they can find that perfect look? ha.

    Gosh, I just think that's sad (and painful). And I would imagine the vast majority or these women would have to be heteorosexual. I somehow don;t think any lesbian is going to tell her partner she looks weird down there or any of that nonsense. That's just dumb... And if I was faced with possible loss of sensitivity down there by going through the surgery, there is so no way I would do it. But I don't know. I guess if we want to live in a world that's all about men and pleasing them (and ghaving no fun ourselves) then yeah, the surgery sounds just "great".

    Yeah, it's basically the stupidest thing I've ever heard... And it gives me the creeps....

  41. I'm totally with you on all that, Meg. The only time I could see it was if someone really did have a physical deformity that was causing them pain. And I think that's pretty rare.

  42. Old post, I know, but i think that it is really disturbing that no one--no one brought up circumcision (the male kind). The parallels are perfect--pseudo-science says better hygiene, longer sex; culture says "eww" to foreskin because we were in the grip of said pseudo-science for so long.

    I think it is enormously hypocritical to be castigating these women for unnecessary, unsafe gential mutilation when the same thing happens thousands of times a day in North American hospitals for the same reasons.


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