Most women that I know learned how to look at their vaginas with hand mirrors somewhere around middle school. Either you heard about it in health class, or your savvy friend told you, or you figured it out on your own whilst bored in your room one day. But we were looking back in the day just kind of...for inspection purposes. What was going on down there? What did things look like? Was there any reason to be concerned from a health perspective?
Well, like so much in our ever-changing world, all that is now different. Women are peeping their vag's with a critical eye, and many who don't like what they see are opting for a surgery called labiaplasty, in which the inner labia are reduced so that they don't protrude from the outer labia.
This surgery isn't exactly news; it's been around for years. But now, it's being enhanced; a doctor in Manhattan is doing what he calls "The Barbie" -- taking off part of the outer labia in addition to the inner to emulate a plastic Barbie doll with a flat vagina, and create what he calls a "comfortable, athletic, petite look."
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Over at Guernica, bold writer Kirsten O'Regan is going through the motions to find out what getting this labiaplasty entails. There's the doctor, who insists that she's doing the right thing, the exuberant office assistant, and the skeptic:
"The Barbie's a great procedure if that's what the patient wants," [says Dr. Red Alinsod]. "The problem with this surgery, frankly, is that it looks easy, but there's a lot of finesse involved. If you don't know those nuances, you're going to have dog-ears, or complete removal of the labia when that's not what's requested. That's when the lawsuits occur."
All told, O'Regan paints a picture of a procedure that one can only hope won't take off in the mainstream:
Some women undergo labiaplasty for medical or practical reasons--large labia can cause irritation and pain during sex and exercise--but the vast majority elect to undergo the surgery for cosmetic purposes, anxious to achieve a more attractive genital area. The desired "look" is consistently that of a smaller, less obtruding vulva, with "neat," even labia, and this "streamlined" ideal is becoming increasingly minimalist.