Genital surgery. Two words you don’t want to read in the same sentence.

Relax, people. It’s a face. When I worked in magazines I got worked up for quite some time about the censorship requirements around vaginas. Unless anything has changed since then, the basic situation is that any magazine featuring a picture of a naked woman, had to digitally remove

anything visible outside the ‘single slit’ of the vaginal lips. So any stray bits of labia or clitoris had to be airbrushed out. Because it was deemed OFFENSIVE.

[oh, and if you’re at work right now? You might want to be cautious about scrolling down this post….]

Which would be exactly like someone deciding that testicles were offensive and had to be airbrushed out of nude photos of men.

The now defunct magazine Women’s Forum first brought the issue to my attention years ago and Cosmo then took up the cause with a campaign protesting it. What a shocker. And nothing changed.

To this day, any magazine showing any ‘genital detail’ must be sold in a sealed plastic bag. Like pornography. And I’m not talking about explicit legs akimbo shots, just shots of a normal girl standing up with her legs closed. She must look like Barbie or the airbrush will be deployed to make the censors happy and protect our sensitive eyes from OFFENSIVE VISIBLE LADY PARTS.

Did you even know all this? Many women don’t. And since women don’t have a non-sexual place to compare bits with other women (unlike men who see other penises all the time at urinals), the only place any of us are likely to see vaginas that don’t belong to us is in men’s magazines.

And when you’re unwittingly comparing your own lady garden to one that has been digitally altered, it’s no surprise that you may be left feeling…..self-conscious. Or even abnormal enough to make you take drastic measures to ‘fix’ yourself.

Enter genital surgery, a wince-making procedure that gets some air time in parts of the media every so often and allows everyone to throw around the catchy term “Designer Vaginas”. Then, after everyone has raised their eyebrows and had a bit of a giggle, this issue disappears back underground where it exists as a shameful secret for thousands of women who feel so uncomfortable about the way their vaginas look, they elect to have them surgically altered.

But the number of women having genital surgery is doubling every year and some people are pointing to the mainstreaming of porn and brazilian waxes as a probable cause.

Recently, The Age’s senior writer, Suzy Freeman-Greene wrote……

An ability to dance like a stripper seems depressingly necessary for many of today’s female pop stars, with videos virtually shot from the floor up. This new focus on women’s genitalia is mirrored elsewhere in pop culture, with suburban pole dancing classes and Brazilian waxes that impose a pre-pubescent beauty ideal on adult parts.

With female genitals on display like never before, there’s bizarre new pressure on them to conform to a uniform look. Recently, ABC news reported on concerns about the popularity of vaginal plastic surgery. More than 1200 Australian women a year are said to undergo a procedure known as labioplasty, which trims and reshapes the labia minora.

Dr Ted Weaver, president of the Royal Australian and NZ College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told me he believes this figure grossly underestimates the number of women getting ”designer vaginas”. Such surgery, he says, is dangerous, costly and largely unnecessary. (In rare cases, it may be medically required). Labioplasty can have damaging after effects including scarring, infection and painful sex. And despite the claims on some cosmetic surgery websites, he says there’s no evidence it will improve your sex life.

Weaver believes labioplasty often preys on women’s feelings of insecurity. Doctors should instead be trained to explain to them that genital appearance can vary greatly and surgery is not the answer. ”She doesn’t have to conform to a picture that she might have noticed in a girlie magazine.”

Labioplasty can cost anything from $4000 to $10,000. Plastic surgeon Dr Kourosh Tavakoli told the ABC he had been performing it for seven years, with the number of patients doubling annually. He blames less qualified practitioners, such as ”GP surgeons” working in their poorly lit offices, for most health problems linked to the procedure. Eighty per cent of his clients have had a labioplasty for ”cosmetic and psychological reasons” – chiefly discomfort during sex or being unable ”to wear a leotard or (swimming) cossie”. The procedure, he claims, can bring about ”a mental transformation”.

It’s seems astounding that women would endure such pain and cost merely to look subtly different in a leotard. Far more plausible is a link between the widespread availability of porn, the popularity of Brazilians and the growth of labioplasty. Left to their natural hirsute state, how many people would even notice the shape of their genitals?

…Weaver thinks genital appearance should be taught in high school sex education classes. People need to know, he says, that there are as many different labial shapes as there are nose sizes.

It’s hard not to see a further irony in this disturbing trend. While women overseas are often powerless to resist genital mutilation, women here are paying for surgery that may be harmful or utterly superfluous.

A couple of months ago, I posted some pictures of vagina cupcakes which you can see here. In further proof that some people are delighted to celebrate female genitals in all their florid glory, here are some vulva pendants which I totally know you’ll want to order for Christmas. Apparently you take some photos of your lady garden, send them to the lovely VulvaLoveLovely people who will then turn your photos into a pendant FOR YOU TO WEAR. Alternatively, you could give it to someone special in your life. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

stacking images

Oh, they also sell these great throw cushions shaped like a uterus:


Anyway. What do you think? Are porn and brazilian waxes giving women a distorted idea about what a normal vagina ‘should’ look like? Did you even realise that the vaginas you see in mainstream men’s magazines like Playboy and Penthouse have been digitally altered to make them look Barbie-ish?


nailed it

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