From the Atlantic:
Designer Parts: Inside the Strange, Fascinating World of Vaginoplasty
Why are some women spending upwards of $10,000 for complete "vaginal rejuvenation"? A visit to one plastic surgeon for a evaluation and sizing.
Dr. Ronald Blatt squats on the stool between the fuzzy pink stirrups propping up my legs. As I brace for the gynecologist to start poking around with his lubricated, latex encased paws, my eyes dart from a garage sale castaway of a seascape painting to an anatomy chart then back to the sole odd aspect of this setup: a mirror positioned so I can see my lady parts alongside Blatt's pink necktie-adorned head. Thank goodness I remembered to trim.
But the doctor I'm straddling isn't about to inspect my ovaries or administer a routine pap smear test. Blatt runs the Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery, and he's preparing to assess my vaginal tightness and to demonstrate how he might alter my labia.
I scheduled this complimentary consultation under the guise of wanting "to understand my options." Secretly, I want to explore why a growing number of women are modifying a body part so few can see by undergoing the elective surgeries in which Blatt specializes: vaginoplasty (removal of excess lining and tightening of surrounding tissue and muscles) and labiaplasty (reshaping of the labia minora, and sometimes the labia majora and/or clitoral hood). The former is often pursued by women who believe their capacity to enjoy sex is compromised by a loose vagina, which can be the result of a congenital condition -- as it was for Lucy Mancini in a Godfather plot point neglected by Francis Ford Coppola for the screen -- or childbirth. I'm especially interested in the latter, which is typically endured for purely cosmetic reasons. Although statistics on these operations are difficult to come by since most are performed by OB/GYN's rather than plastic surgeons, it is believed that the number of women having them is increasing rapidly -- some estimate by fivefold over the last decade. Perhaps most interestingly, an August 2011 study in the British Journal of Medicine showed that 40 percent of women who inquired about genital reconstruction reported the desire to go through with it even after being informed that their labia were normal.
Moments later, a middle-aged lady with a black bob in a white lab coat bounces toward me wielding pamphlets. She hugs me then steps back.
"You like my doctor? I love this man," she begins, eyes hypnotizingly wide.
"Have you had it done?"
She confesses that she hasn't, but not before reassuring, "I don't have one dissatisfied lady." Continuing, "This is a life changing surgery. You're saying boyfriend now? After this he's going to marry you. I'm telling you, my love. I'm telling you."
Blatt's hype woman escorts me on a tour of the facilities before wishing me well.
Luckily, the very World Wide Web that hosts all that porn also bestows us with Show Your Vagina, a Tumblr I chance upon while researching. Launched in September 2010, the site encourages women to post anonymous photos of their vaginas. Though shocking at first, the disparities are fixating, and I feel a whiff of empowerment for every female participant while browsing. It seems wrong not to upload my own spread eagle portrait.
Show Your Vagina is an overwhelmingly simple concept that highlights the importance of sharing and openness in combating body-related shame. Unfortunately, we can't rely upon our frighteningly remedial sex-ed programs. Nor can we rely upon popular women's magazines. When I naively pitched this piece to one such glossy, I was told: "Our EIC probably wouldn't take well to an idea that so prominently involves the word 'vagina.'" Exactly.
Read the whole thing here.