More on pornography and labiaplasty

Further to Jender’s recent post on labiaplasty, Lih Mei Liao and Sarah Creighton have recently published a study in the British Medical Journal looking at the causes and effects of cosmetic labia/genitoplasty (here if you’ve got Athens). They interviewed healthy adults who had undergone surgical reductions in “normal” labia to find the reasons given for wanting this procedure. They found pornography was often implicated. To quote from the BMJ press release:

“Patients consistently wanted their vulvas to be flat with no protrusion beyond the labia majora, … some women brought along images to illustrate the desired appearance, usually from advertisements or pornography that may have been digitally altered.”

They also suggest that the increase in numbers having this surgery is leading to a further increase in numbers wanting the surgery. They argue that the increased numbers of cosmetically altered labia contribute to the narrowing of our ideas about what counts as “normal”, leading women to feel greater concern about their own bodies, thereby increasing demand for labiaplasty. Apparently, numbers of procedures on the NHS have doubled in the last five – since the NHS won’t perform cosmetic surgery in the absence of psychological trauma, it suggests these procedures aren’t mere whimsy.

Also interesting is that Reuters reported on this article and its contents (here). However, they didn’t file it under “Health and Science” and “Lifestyle”, but under “Oddly Enough”, their section for jokey and bizarre news events.

10 thoughts on “More on pornography and labiaplasty

  1. I don’t have Athens, so I couldn’t access the links. The Reuters report seems to be freely available, if it is this one. (This is however listed under “Lifestyle”, so maybe they reported more than once, or maybe it is a different report.)

    The report doesn’t mention the title of the Liao & Creighton’s BMJ study, so I couldn’t search for it. Could anyone give a pointer here? Many thanks in advance!

  2. Hi Anon ymus. The link to Reuters that you posted is the same article, but I think that it’s Reuters US, right? The Reuters U.K. link is under Oddly Enough. So yes, I guess they reported it more than once. Also the title/ref for the article is:

    “Requests for cosmetic genitoplasty: how should healthcare providers respond?”
    Liao and Creighton 2007 BMJ.334: pp1090-1092.

    Hope that helps.

  3. I don’t know anything about the pornography industry, but do they really select for labial shape?

    I suppose that there are very few sources for labial pictures – pornography being the principle one (contrary to the article I’ve never seen an advertisement featuring one) and if women have an idea that their body is not right in some way then they might eventually settle upon their labia being the problem.

    It still seems to me bizarre that we live in a society where we do this to ourselves. I was going to say “where women feel they need to do this to themselves”, but then I considered the enormous amount of junk mail I recieve regarding penis enlargement…

  4. Many thanks for the reference! I didn’t notice it was also available through the link you provided in the original post, sorry. Isn’t it odd enough indeed this discrepancy of policies between Reuters US and Reuters UK? Maybe worth keeping an eye on ;-).

    In the full version of the article, Liao & Creighton only mention pornography in the quote you originally also provided, so the role of porn in so far as the study is concerned seems just to be as a source of the relevant images, together with advertisement. (As to the source of the latter, they refer to this study, whose convenience sample was located primarily through Google searches using terms like ‘designer vagina’ and ‘labiaplasty’, and through surgeon websites.)

    Does anybody know of further studies about pornography and labiaplasty?

  5. It would be interesting to hear about men being influenced by pornography to have genital plastic surgery. ;-) Actually I suspect if it were available to them, they would. Just think of the proliferation of penis-enlargement products (coming into your e-mailbox every day, I’m sure).

    From my not-terribly-extensive but also not-unextensive exposure to pornography, I would say there in fact IS NOT a norm for labia, and in fact, it is somewhat liberating to view the variety that are out there.

    This discussion also suggests to me another route for feminist artists or art critics. I used to speak of it as essentialism when I criticized Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” (the installation with plates depicting various of history’s famous women with reductive labial imagery) but now I might say it is too homogenizing, since they are all pleasingly tidy and symmetrical.

  6. Calypso, you have a good point. Now I come to think of it, I’ve seen a variety of labia in porn. More extensive research is required (!) but I wonder if there are differences between different kinds of porn?

  7. Calypso, Monkey, I suspect you may me correct that labia in porn are varied, but of course, we (at least I) have no idea what the “normal” range for labia is (indeed as Calypso says, i’d hope there is no “norm”), so we have no idea how the variation in pornographic images looks relative to that range. For example, if the porn range is only a small part of the “normal” range, then using porn as a measure of normality is still going to be misleading. Just a thought.

  8. I did labioplasty after I saw some ads that suggested that big labia were abnormal.
    Before that I had no physical discomfort or insecurities.
    But after I heard about labioplasty I got extremely ashamed of myself.
    Now that I have done it I look mutilated and after 7 months I still have agonizing pain and sex is impossible.
    To what extent do we have to butcher our normal bodies to catch up with the media created “ideals”? :(

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