Female Genital Surgery

New York City now boasts of an art exhibit featuring before and after plastic surgery pictures.   According to Allure Magazine, all aspects of plastic surgery are featured in the exhibit, including cleft lip and palate correction, nose surgery, and face lift surgery.   The surgical photos which drew the greatest attention were the before and after pictures of genital surgery  for women.   It was not clear if the fascination was because this type of surgery was so novel to the viewers or because there was a genuine interest in the procedure.

It was pointed out that this seems to be inconsistent in a world where female mutilation still occurs.   Yet it is embraced in some circles as an acceptable alternative for women.   In   fact, women who have undergone genital mutilation often turn to reconstructive surgery once they have emigrated to western cultures.   Female genital mutilation is an involuntary lay practice carried on outside the purview of medial care.   Genital aesthetic surgery is an elective surgery performed by physicians in appropriate hospitals and clinics.   In addition, mutilation is designed to minimize sexual desirability while cosmetic genital surgery is designed to maximize sexuality.   They are completely different and unrelated.

An interesting  study is  now underway by  the World Health Organization.   The title,  “Female genital mutilation and other harmful practices, a multi-country study on gender, sexuality and vaginal practices”   seems to be inconsistent with its own findings.   It was supposed to be, “A study on harmful sexual practice that is being conducted in: Indonesia, Mozambique, South Africa and Thailand.”  The study seems to be confusing and perhaps attempts to avoid any politically incorrect findings.  Their findings seem to minimize harmful aspects and focus on some of what genital aesthetic surgery is trying to accomplish:

  • “Vaginal practices to tighten the vagina during sex are more common than acknowledged”
  • “Practices are not always aimed at “drying” the vagina; women focused more on “closing, warming and tightening”
  • “Motives for the practices are linked to anxiety and competition among women to gain or hold on to sexual partners”
  • “Many practices are linked to a desire to improve sexual relations and necessitate ‘skin to skin’ contact and thus eliminate the possible use of condoms”
  • “There are similar practices in different countries.”

The Allure article goes on to quote 2008 statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery which report a sharp decline in female genital aesthetic surgery among plastic surgeon members.   I suspect this number is inaccurate overall, since much of this surgery is being done  by gynecologists, not plastic surgeons.   In fact, recently a med-spa dedicated solely to vaginal and female genital surgery, called  Phit,  has been established in New York City.   You have to  give them credit on the  name!

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