Labiaplasty may be one of the saddest words I’ve ever heard and only just learned. It refers to plastic surgery performed to alter the folds surrounding the female vulvae with the intent of giving them a clam-like appearance. In the case of a birth deformity, the procedure has its merits, but with the growth of internet pornography and leaked photos of celebrities like Kim Kardishan bearing all, a false standard of perfection threatens the health and even the sexual pleasure of today’s impressionable young women. (“Wax Dolls,” by Peggy Orenstein, Mother Jones, May, 2016, pg. 58.) What we are facing is a western form of female circumcision.
Unfortunately, the demand for labiaplasty comes from women who have bought the notion that exposing and/ or mutilating their bodies represents freedom of choice and makes them liberated — unlike women of the Middle East who swelter in burkas. But I must ask them to reconsider. What freedom lies in turning the female body into a commodity and pursuing an ideal men are presumed to want? I’m no expert on the male psyche, but I’m pretty sure those worth attracting aren’t lusting for a Barbie doll, especially as the toy lacks a vagina.
Perhaps some women equate sex with power. If so, they are mistaken. Sex is the weakest form of influence. Use your body to arouse a man then see how quickly that power diminishes after the orgasm. Worse, indiscriminate use of that influence invites gender discrimination. When men feel preyed upon, women seem untrustworthy — a view which allows them to justify holding females in check with patriarchal laws as if women were wanton children.
With each iteration of women’s liberation, I see failure whenever men become the yardstick for what freedom means. In the early days, women dressed like men, drank like men, and paid male strippers to perform at parties. Today, women want to celebrate themselves and their bodies. Good. Yet mutilation to achieve a standard of perfection takes them away from liberation.
Every day men show their wives and lovers devotion despite physical imperfections. They have loved us in powdered wigs and pompadours, in bustles and wasp waists, in long skirts or short. They are not our greatest critics. We women are the enemy, estranged from ourselves by a cosmetic industry that survives by promoting a perpetual sense of inadequacy within us. What do men want? They want to be loved and we can’t do that properly until we learn to love ourselves…just as we are.