The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has introduced world-first guidelines to respond to the increasing number of women visiting GPs to ask about female genital cosmetic surgery. The guidelines are designed to help doctors navigate women’s concerns about their genital appearance and understand the underlying reasons why they may believe they look “abnormal”. Considering the high and rapidly increasing rates of procedures like labiaplasty, the guidelines couldn’t come soon enough.
**In this blog post I’m talking about CIS women who are perfectly healthy and seeking surgery for cosmetic reasons, and not the tiny percentage who seek surgery for medical issues. For stats on the %s, feel free to read the guidelines linked, and their sources etc**
I find it really odd though that these guidelines come however from Australia, with no mention of changing the laws and reasons why this is happening.[tweet] The main reason why women feel their perfectly normal, healthy genitals are weird and need to be chopped off: Censorship.[/tweet]
Australia’s Victorian age prudery based censorship laws (which extend to MEDICAL AND EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL!) legislate that media cannot depict healthy, normal, adult female genitals. No depictions of most women look like are legal to show or draw for publication. Because logic.
Australian censorship laws prohibit the publication of illustrations of the labia minora and the clitoris. Vulvas are invariably made to resemble that of prepubescent girls, with pubic hair removed and a single crease placed between the labia majora, which contributes to the general lack of knowledge and understanding about female genital diversity.
The Australian Classification Boards views on what constitutes an OK vag VS. an icky, gross, illegal to display in medical diagrams vag is very similar to what society’s views as normal and pretty in a womans genitals: Prepubescent or under developed female labia and other between the legs parts.
Perception of ‘normal’ versus ‘desirable’
The sociocultural norms that are believed to influence women’s perceptions of ‘normal’ are
considered to be significant in driving the climb in this group of procedures.
Not only does modern culture classify the minimalist vulva, where the labia minora do not extend
beyond the margin of the labia majora, as ‘good’, but also the protruding labia as ‘bad’.
Currently available research indicates that perceptions of ‘normal’ versus ‘desirable’ may be
skewed and disparate, resulting in a narrow definition of normal.
[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]MY LABIA AND GENITALS ARE PERFECTLY NORMAL, HEALTHY AND IN AUSTARLIA: ILLEGAL[/clickandtweet]
I actually have direct experience with this legal WTF. My genitals are ILLEGAL to show in Australia. Not becuase howing cunts is illegal either. It’s because I have “too much genital detail”, even with no pubic hair and standing front on with my legs closed. Real, healthy, normal women with labia and clitoris are just deemed too “obscene” for a “reasonable adult”.
Every Aussie magazine I’ve ever been in has airbrushed away my pubic hair and completely removed my inner labia and clit in photos, and have changed the color of my genitals. They gave me a pale, white, bald, front slit that reminds me somewhat of certain features of Lord Voldemort. Awkward is one way to put it. Insulting, humiliating and infuriating is another. Basically: because I don’t look like i”m 6 years old. I have an inner labia you can see, and I have a clitoris. You know, stuff that’s perfectly normal for a normal, healthy, average woman. That’s not to say some women don’t have “neat” cunts, or that if they did they are unhealthy. It’s just to say that that isn’t the majority, and it’s certainly not healthier or more normal than my cunt. For the law to state that it’s ok to show vagina photos or in medical diagrams as long as it doesn’t look like the vast majority of healthy adult women, is just logic I can’t follow.
I highly recommend watching this video explanation of the situation by the ABC’s Hungry Beast show, which goes through Australian Classification board ruling with examples and interviews from industry professionals such as am adult industry magazine worker who legally has to digitally alter women (which they even did to me!), a plastic surgeon specializing in labiaplasty, and a member of the classification board. (Oh, the wonderful question dodging!)
I also recommend NOT watching this is you are icky about graphic depictions of surgery, or you are eating.
Ugh, Just ugh. Everything about the above is just ugh.
So normal, every day average Australians don’t know what womens genitals actually look like, other than a very, very narrow and unrealistic variant. Well, perhaps it’s time for the medical community to get their butts into gear and start doing something about it. The only problem is:
Doctors, Surgeons & other Health Care Providers are Just as Uneducated and Biased by socio-cultural aesthetics & prejudices as everyone else. Many don’t know what is normal, or don’t educate patients on what is normal BECAUSE THEY THINK ONE TYPE OF VAGINA IS ~*PRETTIER*~
Health professionals are influenced by similar sociocultural forces that skew preferences for desirable versus normal.
People have limited formal education in the areas of female genital anatomy and its variations and, to date, there is no evidence-based research that outlines what its normal spectrum is considered to be. Given the paucity of textbook images that provide measurements and ranges of anatomical diversity, GPs who do not perform regular gynaecological examinations as a part of their routine practice may not feel comfortable stating that something is considered normal.
General practice and other medical training curricula do not currently include education in the area of genital anatomy and its diversity. With the absence of formal training, it is not surprising that GPs, surgeons and other health professionals are influenced by the same kind of sociocultural forces that skew preferences for normal versus desirable.
Most countries who legally allow doctors and citizens to have knowledge about female anatomy don’t have such ridiculous laws as Australia does, and yet there is still a bias through out the world for hacking off female genitals for cosmetic reasons. Many people blame porn for that, and to a degree so do I.
LABIAPLASTY: IS PORNOGRAPHY TO BLAME?
Pornography mostly depicts digitally-modified images that portray women’s genitals with no labia minora protrusion, thus potentially skewing young women’s (and men’s) perceptions of what is considered normal.
While I think that porn does influence people and society and can be a tool like all media to shape us, it is just a reflection of societies preferences. We all know western society is obsessed with youth and beauty and that when it comes to aesthetics the mainstream likes its definitions of beauty narrow and exclusive. Much like certain shapes of bodies, boobs & noses, hair, eye & skin color are considered ideal, especially when it comes to looking young, it’s unsurprising that society has an ideal for prepubescent looking, cookie cutter mold vagina standard.
The fashion & beauty industry have just as much a part to play in the international blame game. All the industries are interconnected and based around our own culture while attempting to shape it for maximum profits, generally at our expense as people. I know I personally have a lot of trouble dealing with the ridiculousness of people not understanding the different between normal / healthy , and their personal aesthetic preference. This takes many forms, from not being able to find underwear that isn’t painful to wear (it’s clearly not made by engineers, oi!), to people considering me dirty, un hygienic or diseased for my normal, healthy and personally safer choice (considering my job/life) to have pubic hair. Removing pubic hair increases your risk of STI and skin infections, including but not limited too warts, ingrown hairs, cysts, folluculitis and can result in scarring. Not to mention itchy heat stubble rash and friction burns if ye enjoy and to the bump and grind / have a love for latex like I do! Nooooo thankyou! Feel free to google for sources. I’m avoiding gross studies today that aren’t this one, for my sanity.
2.5 ‘Brazilian’ waxing, grooming and fashion trends
Grooming and fashion trends are believed to influence women’s attitudes to their genital region.
Practices such as ‘Brazilian’ waxing involve removal of most or all pubic hair, exposing sensitive
genital tissue and areas that could not be seen prior to hair removal. This practice is now
extending to permanent hair removal via laser treatments.
Tight-fitting clothing and sportswear tend to give definition to the genital area, and poorly-fitting
undergarments, such as G-strings, cover a minimal portion of the mons pubis. These factors can create the feeling that women’s genital size should be small and discrete.
Fashion that depicts genital contour has resulted in the evolution of new terms like ‘camel toe’ and ‘outie’, which appear in popular media. While women often comment that wearing these items can feel uncomfortable, they remain popular fashion items.
Few will dispute that the request for Brazilian waxing and genital hair removal has gradually
become commonplace over the past 20 years.
Porn however, just like all other industries, still has ethical choices to make. Perhaps not in Ayn Rand capitalistic asshole paradise where ‘if it sells its ok to make and fuck everyone else’ is a perfectly valid train of thought, but we live in real life land where decisions effect real people, and folks can (and should!) demand accountability. Yes, fitting in and pandering to the masses who are too brow beaten to accept the alternative (that they are, gasp, normal and don’t need to spend billions of dollars on beauty and hacking off body parts), but it’s a choice. And if the public starts asking in large volumes for something else, it slowly will start to happen. I firmly believe that we all can’t just wait around for companies and the beauty / fashion industries to change of their own accord when they exist to profit from making us feel shitty for monies. Each industry supports the other (Beauty and fitness and porn are a huge circle jerk cycle that all make each other $!) It’s important people continue to demand change, and support change when it does actually happen.
This one one reason I’m glad to be working in the feminist porn, grassroots part of the industry. Bodies and fucking aren’t bad, exploitative, evil, racist, sexist, harmful or make peeps feel bad about themselves and their bods simply because a camera happens to exist (aka that magical moment when it moves from the realm of “normal” sex/bodies, into “porn” realm. Cameras are magic!) It’s the stuff around it like consent, intention, diversity, respect (or lack there of), advertising, and so on that can make
it either ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’. Supporting what you want to see DOES make a difference, even if it is a small one. People have more power as a group than they think (even if for some groups that’s only money, or only their own voices), and it will only get stronger the more it’s exercised.
Companies and industries of all kinds do have ethical choices to consider and make. Unlike the Australian adult publications industry (who are forced to digitally alter the healthy and normal vaginas/vulvas/labia of women in porn to look prepubescent fit within Australian law (which happened to me, will talk about later)) – the rest of the mainstream pornography industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to healthy body images, photoshopping genitals just for (relevant to this topic) starters! And no, blurring out stuff doesn’t make things any better. It’s just as bad when promoting unhealthy ideals and a lack of education.
Studies show this cultural preference for childlike genitals, and making it illegal to even make medical diagrams let alone show people of any gender what healthy womens anatomy fucks people up and makes women feel terrible about their bodies, with many considering amputating their external genitals. Health professionals & surgeons who make $$$$+ have often been found to be giving out bad advice and information, and promote unrealistic and harmful ideals of womens bodies. How Unsurprising! The people who make money off people feeling bad about themselves, make people feel bad about themselves? No way! I thought this was common knowledge, but it’s good to see it’s of note I suppose.
A recent study from South Australia’s Flinders University revealed that women who had greater
exposure to images of female genitals [sic from pornography] were more likely to consider labiaplasty. Of the 351 women aged 18–69 who were surveyed as part of the study, 17% were interested in having labiaplasty. Most women who are contemplating any form of FGCS are likely to seek information from provider websites. These sites often describe aesthetically pleasing or desirable genitalia as the neat single slit. The quality and quantity of clinical information in FGCS provider sites is poor, providing erroneous information in some instances.
When nearly all mainstream media, doctors, surgeons, advertising, law makers and the average person don’t know what healthy and normal CIS female genitals look like in all their awesome variations, and in the extremely disturbing / harmful case of Health Professionals and Law Makers simply choosing their own aesthetic preferences over realism when advising patients and in law: Things are seriously fucked up. Seriously. Fucked. Up.
This set of carefully constructed, researched, and considerate world first guides by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to respond to the increasing number of women visiting GPs to ask about female genital cosmetic surgery is crucial, and extremely overdue. Considering how many countries have had skyrocketing numbers of labiaplasty and other non medical, invasive female genital surgery because even doctors are falling victim to beauty standard prejudices, it’s shameful this hasn’t come sooner. The fact it came from such a backward nation regarding female sexual health and legalities as Australia, speaks volumes about how seriously (or rather, not seriously) womens issues are taking in the world.
This is not a trivial issue of “petty women’s vanity”.
Many people regard cosmetic genital surgery such as this frivolous. Naught but a petty concern for petty women who are vain, stupid and probably just ugly. It’s an attitude that comes up again and again when talking about womens issues pertaining to looks. Be it about makeup, race, gender identity or well, basically anything, people will tell women to just not be so vain. That attitude is dismissive, gross and needs to stop. It’s part of the reason we got here in the first place.
When it’s considered perfectly normal, acceptable and even demanded that you look a certain way which requires you have invasive surgery to attain, and you get treated as disgusting, wrong, dirty, unhealthy, disfigured or diseased if you dont… well I’d hardly call that frivolous. Just because genitals aren’t generally publicly view-able to others doesn’t mean societies warped views about healthy and normal female genitals doesn’t have the same effects.
When you can’t wear the most common of all clothing items such as underwear or swim wear, or jeans and jogging pants because they irritate, hurt or damage you, give you “camel toe”, or you can’t sit comfortably on a bike and your genitals are perfectly normal: something is wrong. And not with you and your lady bits. When you are perfectly healthy but based on appearance alone you are considered ill, disgusting, diseased, unclean, abnormal, deformed, “used up” or gross: something is wrong. That something is not womens genitals but a world gone mad that doesn’t cater to the majority of women’s actual bodies and needs, but to ridiculous aesthetic preferences.
If mens fashion involved underwear and pants designed so they cut and chafed his genitals, we wouldn’t tell him to cut off his dick or balls! And yet thats the message women are receiving. Women shouldn’t need to remove normal, healthy labia to wear clothes that clearly aren’t designed for women, or by engineers! It’s the wrong clothing, not wrong bodies,
If you weren’t able to wear “normal” clothes or do “normal” things (when those things aren’t made for actual normal, or not made properly for women), If you where considered disgusting or any of the above horrible things, or where rejected by a partner or loved one (it happens, it’s even happened to me) because they think your normal, healthy, clean genitals are fucked up (because they haven’t been educated, and society is fucked up), it makes you feel beyond shit about yourself. Thats hardly trivial. It makes you feel hella abnormal, and it’s not vain or trivial: especially not when those things are then backed up by not just people, beauty, fitness and advertising industries, but also by uneducated Doctors and Medial Professionals who are just as messed up by beauty standards as everyone else. It’s not just a “silly woman problem” of vanity, hysteria, or whatever sexist shit people use to excuse and dismiss womens problems. And it doesn’t just happen in first world countries to privileged women either. It;s a huge problem. I’m definitely not saying women shouldn’t have elective cosmetic surgery if they want too. Women should be able to do as they please. I’m saying they shouldn’t feel like they HAVE too in order to be “normal”, “attractive” or have sexual relationships etc.
The recommendations for doctors in the new guidelines are excellent, and I seriously hope they are metaphorically shoved down he throats of doctos in Australia and overseas. Women should not feel like they are deformed and repulsive, and feel pressured to amputate, strip and bleach their own genitals and be punished if they don’t, and doctors should be helping women realize that societies views are fucked up, and just nonsense and aesthetics.
I recommend reading through the guidelines here, and bringing it up with your local GP if you feel the need. The medical community is a critical place to start spreading awareness where there should NEVER have been a lack. Australia’s censorship of public media, educational and medical materials relating to healthy, normal female genitals is HARMFUL, and it needs to change.