Women are now more concerned than ever about the appearance of their genitals. The convergence of the trend toward shaving or otherwise removing pubic hair which leaves the vulva more visible and open to scrutiny, coupled with our society’s ubiquitous exposure to online pornography and the unrealistic ideals it creates, have led an increasing number of women to feel real anxiety about their own genitalia. Frequently this manifests as a lack of sexual self-confidence or diminished body self-image; for some women, the level of psychological distress is so severe that they undergo genital cosmetic surgery. Labiaplasty (reduction of the inner labia, most often for cosmetic purposes) is now a rapidly growing type of cosmetic surgery, with the potential to follow the same growth pattern as breast augmentation did in its early years.

 

Women have long felt extraordinary pressure to conform to societal ideals of beauty. Today, digital alteration of photographs is rampant, and now extends to the most sacred and private part of a women: her genitals. The labia minora (the inner lips of the vulva) are reduced, giving the vulva a “clamshell” or “Barbie Doll” appearance. As a result, viewing pornography may lead to a skewed understanding of the true diversity of the female anatomy. This is particularly insidious as most women do not...