Thursday, March 4, 2010

Some kind of shock (not G-rated today - strong language and adult themes)

Over at Blue Milk there's a bit of discussion about such things as shaving one's underarms and legs and the nature of feminist decisions and choices.

Last night on Hungry Beast they showed a segment about cosmetic surgery on people's vaginas, which seems like a super-sized version of the same kind of issue, that is, who has the right to determine what is acceptable, appealing or attractive about a woman's body?

Apparently some women feel that their vaginas are not the correct or acceptable shape and have surgery to alter the profile. The TV show had some footage of a scalpel peeling away some of a woman's flesh, the bit of the labia minora that was exposed outside.

The thesis of the show was the censorship, from the Classification Board, is to blame for women's skewed view of their bits, because the Classification Board is more likely to accept smooth looking vaginas in soft porn photos than bulgy, bulky or more lippy looking vaginas. These ones are then refused classification or sealed away in plastic and popped up on the top shelf (implied the show - I don't know the truth of it).

I think this is a bit of a long bow to draw. I don't recall the Classification Board being a particularly large market for pornography, actually. The magazine designer Hungry Beast spoke to (and showed photo shopping many women's bodies) claimed that it was never a commercial decision to alter the appearance and that it was only in response to Classification Board guidelines. It seems most disingenuous of the designer to say so, and really rather disingenuous of the show to accept it without much dispute or analysis. After all, it is not the Classification Board insisting that women who appear bulgy or bulky in other areas of their bodies are never, ever seen in pornography or other kinds of magazines. Somehow that just happens, apparently.

The key point of the program, though, that women feel pressured into getting surgery on perfectly healthy bits of their bodies is bloody terrible. What bothers me more than anything is that women thing they have to go to these lengths to please their partners or some imaginary potential partner, and that their partners must be so hung up on appearances (in an extraordinary narrow way) that they are encouraging, supporting or pressuring women into something so ridiculous.

Kaz Cooke wrote in the eternal classic, A Modern Girl's Guide to Safe Sex, that a bloke once told her (and I paraphrase) that he would put a kettle on his dick if it meant getting a root. I can't help thinking that people who are attracted enough to each other to want to get down and dirty shouldn't be looking at each other's active ingredients in a such a critical light. They should be thinking more along the lines of 'woo' and 'hoo' than - 'hmm, if only I could get this other person down to the surgeon licketty split then I could really have a good time'. Frankly, that seems a bit more than dysfunctional and spilling over into something like controlling or abusive. And not based on mutual attraction at all. Leaving out other discussions of love, respect and fun and all.

Also, factoring in recovery time, surely that surgery would put you off your game for quite some time? Why would a surgeon do such a thing to someone anyway? Is there any risk of infection? And who spends all their time thinking so much about the appearance of their vaginas? Do they not have good books to read?

Disclosure: I really have utterly no experience of pornography at all, and haven't spent a lot of time thinking about appearance issues, so this came as something of a shock to me.


Courtney said...

I have been hearing and reading about this for some time and it never fails to make me furious. It has become an increasing issue for a number of reasons, as I understand it: Firstly, the acceptance of full frontal nudity in easily accessible soft porn has created a strange, liminal world of nakedness. The equivalent imagery in girlie mags of the 1950s and 60s featured a strange, blank 'mound', so perhaps we should be grateful for the crease! But secondly, the now all-pervasive fashion for the complete removal of pubic hair has changed the desirable genital aesthetic. Prepubescent-looking skin demands prepubescent-looking genitalia? There's a great discussion to be had about the infantilisation of female sexuality. For me though, pornographers are really the less sinister end of this industry, strange to say. I do not understand why any surgeon would agree to perform this sort of surgery on perfectly normal young women. It is genital mutilation, pure and simple, without even a semblance of religious belief to justify it.
We need a 'love your labia' campaign. Someone get Saatchi and Saatchi on the phone - surely they'd do it pro bono for the spectacular publicity? ;-)
But where do you stand on vajazzling??

Roger Parkinson said...

The equivalent for males are those mysterious 'enlargement' products the spammers try to sell us. This is, therefore, not a girls-only thing.

What was that movie with Harrison Ford in it, it involved a plane crash and he was stranded on a desert island with a girl. Anyway the line I recall was that 'it's easy for girls. You just have to show up.' Probably an oversimplification but I do think women believe they have to work a lot harder than they do. This is fueled by people trying to sell stuff.

Ampersand Duck said...

The weirdest bit about it for me is that women are doing this in the hope of getting a root (so to speak), but cutting off the bits that will let them actually enjoy the root.

It's absolutely genital mutilation, I wish they'd do it to their brains instead of their bits (if I wasn't so sure they hadn't already).

kazari said...

Freaky, no? The worst bit for me wasn't addressed in that show. Apparently the most popular sort of 'genital cosmetic surgery', if you can call it that, is sewing the hymen back together. It's popular among cultures that still put a premium on virginity (which doesn't surprise me) but increasingly amongst western women also.
i just don't get it.