PIP implants, labiaplasty & the myth of choice in a culture of pornography

By Elizabeth Willmott Harrop

6 February 2012

One of the main issues debated in the furore surrounding the faulty PIP (Poly Implant Prothese) breast implants was why women who had implants for cosmetic reasons should get National Health Service (NHS) support. Thereby equating  cosmetic reasons with self-indulgent, lack of necessity.

But where was the analysis of the social backdrop which encourages women with average, small or non-spherical breasts to undergo a painful operation and risk their health, in order to be seen as attractive in the eyes of Western culture. And pay thousands of pounds for the privilege.

Women who had implants as a result of breast cancer were let off the moral hook. However why are the limits of femininity so narrowly defined so that you can no longer feel a woman if you have had a mastectomy.

Labiaplasty and cultural pornification

Just as having regular breasts is no longer a feminine benchmark, having a vagina is likewise irrelevant, unless it is a certain kind. Hense labiaplasty – designer vagina surgery – is the fastest growing cosmetic surgery, used for labial reduction, tightening and reshaping.

Vagina’s are being made neater so they look more like a mouth, the irony being that lipstick is supposed to emulate an aroused vagina, and so we go around in circles.

Labiaplasty and female genital mutilation (FGM), a violation of human rights, have much in common, notably:

  • an emphasis on genital conformity
  • injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons
  • the objective of which is to secure social acceptance and relationship prospects.

Meanwhile research at King’s College London suggests the pornification of our culture is driving up surgery rates as the hairless standardised genitalia of porn stars is seen as a desirable norm.

This is extremely worrying for adolescent girls, as many more young people are exposed to pornography alongside their first sexual experiences, a subject discussed in more detail in my article on child sexualisation.

When a specific body type is promoted as cultural necessity, women can not be said to have real choice. It is society which should pay the cost of corrective surgery, not individual women. And it is society which should question why women are driven to such extremes in the first place.

Liberty & Humanity

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