The scene is real. A couple looks through magazines in a waiting room. The girl looks at a cover, where a bikini model wears all her tanned beauty. "What a great guy!" She says sighing, "I love her bikini." He poses his gaze on the image for just a second. "Yes, but it looks like it has a package, they could have done a bit of photshop there, right?" With "there," man refers to the pubic area and the comment is not innocuous. First of all because, in real life, the photoshop with which they reach perfection the models of the magazines is called scalpel. And the operation with which to eliminate a supposed excess of fat "there" is called liposculpture from the Mount of Venus. The anecdote serves to illustrate that neither the most private areas escape the cruel scrutiny to which the women's body.
It is still far from being the plastic surgery most demanded (the breast augmentation, the lifting and the liposuction of hips are still the queens), but according to the Spanish Society of Anti-Aging and Longevity Medicine, the demand has doubled in the last five years in our country. "In 2016 they accounted for 1.5% of cosmetic surgery, while in 2010 they were not contemplated," says Dr. Shirin Zarbakhsh, assistant physician of the Plastic Surgery Service of the University Hospital La Paz.
As intimate surgery It is understood a whole series of surgical procedures aimed at improve the aesthetics and functionality of the female sexual organs. Among the most requested interventions are the labioplasty of reduction, in which the elongated, hanging or asymmetric labia minor are corrected; the increase or lipofilling, in which the volume and turgor of the labia majora is increased; the already mentioned liposuction of the mount of Venus; and the vaginoplasty or narrowing, which consists of a reduction of the vaginal muscle.
Why are women infantilized – with comprehensive hair removal and standardization – and girls are sexualized? "
In many cases, the scalpel is used for medical reasons as incontinence, infections recurrent, injuries resulting from childbirth, physical discomfort caused by the rubbing of clothing and painful sexual intercourse and unsatisfactory. But all these reasons are added today, overcome the first taboos, purely aesthetic.
On the internet, where anonymity trumps modesty, women share their complexes: "I'm 17 years old and I'm disgusted with that part of my body, everything sticks out and hangs up, I'm embarrassed and I know I'll be disgusting to the uncles", write one of them And there may be vanity in the matter of going through surgery to improve the shape, size and even color of the genitals, but in many cases what leads women to make such a decision are the complexes, the dissatisfaction, anxiety and loss of self-esteem.
"You look at the femenine body as something that always has to be fixed and that will never be perfect – says Delifina Mieville, sexologist expert in gender and human rights-. This rising market is based on the feeling that we are ugly and our genitals are ugly, they are something to hide, they smell bad, they bleed, they have hair … ".
The era of design vulvas
Why do women come to exercise such violence on their own bodies? "The concern for the physical and body dissatisfaction are increasingly high and affect 80% of women", says Rosa Maria Raich, Professor of Psychological Intervention at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, according to the data that this researcher uses, which accumulates 30 years of studies on body image, self-esteem and prevention of eating disorders, we receive about 3,000 daily images of perfect and unreal women. "Our society exerts enormous pressure on women (and increasingly also men), to pursue a body not only thin, but perfect. "The result is an almost pandemic dissatisfaction.The extreme would be what is called dysmorphic disorder, which is exaggerated and obsessive concern for The body or a part of it generates great psychic pain because, who suffers it, focuses its life on it, avoids social relationships to not show its body and also sexual ones, because it is where it is most exposed. "I am very self-conscious because My vagina is abnormal. It's not like all of them, you only see the hairline. Nooo, mine is horrible, with minor lips like hanging, "another girl laments on the internet, unlike what happens with the male genitalia, the female remains protected from looks as alien as their own, especially after puberty , which is when they cover themselves with hair, which is why it was the unveiling prompted by the fashion of comprehensive hair removal what has put us face to face with our anatomy. And it happens that what we see in many cases does not look too much like the image that has been forming in our mind of how it should be.
And how was it possible to arrive at the convention of what is considered a pretty vulva? From Gustave Courbet -con The origin of the world in 1866 – to the linear drawings – schematic – that appear in books and magazines and, of course, the porn film industry have outlined the aesthetic canon that is imposed. "There is a market for the infantilization of women, with a certain disturbing point about why we promote infantile bodies with very small, discreet, hairless vulvas, which is similar to that of a girl. why we desexualize the adults and sexualize the minors"says sexologist Delfina Mieville.
There is a real lack of understanding about the true range of genital diversity. "And Dr. Shirin Zarbakhsh, of La Paz Hospital, emphasizes:" Even though the pornographic industry try to impose a model of infantilized vagina, as a woman, my opinion is that some natural genitals are the most beautiful. There are as many types of vaginas as there are types of women. "Precisely to make diversity visible (even if it is scandalized), different initiatives are being promoted The Labia Project (www.labiaproject.com), an internet portal where women upload photos of their genitals. Or artistic projects that contribute to fill the gaps of a sex education empower women to regain their self-esteem, as The Vulva Gallery Book (www.thevulvagallery.com), which shows diversity through delicate illustrations; or the Great Wall of the Vagina British artist Jamie McCartney: "It's my reaction to body fascism," said the artist, "They have discovered a new way to make a box: the vagina, and now they tell women that they are defective down there."
A separate chapter deserves surgery to rebuild the hymen that, although not as common in Spain as in other countries, also exists and is performed in the vast majority of cases to Muslim or gypsy women. "The hymenoplasty It is not a very frequent surgery and it has a very important religious ethnic component. In today's society, she does not have that virtuosity load of decades or centuries ago, "explains Dr. Zarbakhsh, but the cultural imperative of virginity and the myth of the first time still survive.
Some cultures and ethnic groups force women to pass different tests (such as handkerchief tests) to prove that they arrive "intact." Otherwise, they are exposed to punishment and discrimination; to be repudiated by his political family and rejected by his own. And all based on the integrity of the hymen -a membrane that narrows the entrance of the vagina-, despite the fact that science has made it clear that not all women bleed when having sex for the first time, nor does the existence or absence of hymen prove anything, as it can also be broken by other causes than sexual, and even there are those who are born without him. However, it remains the instrument of sexuality control of women who, for fear of consequences, go through the operating room to restore their virginity.
There are clinics that refuse to perform these operations for moral reasons, but few people miss out on the business niche. Even the tour operators take a slice, incorporating this offer in the so-called scalpel tourism. The hymenoplasty is among its catalog of services, along with other classics, such as breast augmentation, rhinoplasty or capillary grafting.
Being "intact" again
For those who can not afford to go through the operating room, a more economical plan B has also been invented: artificial hymen. A capsule to insert into the vagina and, under the effect of temperature and body moisture, softens and, at the time of penetration, releases a liquid that mimics the blood. It was created in the East in the 90s: costs between 10 and 25 euros only the pill; and about 125 euros a more complete kit with two artificial hymens (one for training, the other for day D), thermometer, latex gloves and even a guide to simulate modesty and pain on the wedding night. However, not all revirginizations are made for cultural or religious reasons, and now they are also sold as a kind of sex toy to relive with the couple the first time. A capricious gift for those who already have everything? Or a new freedom that is, in reality, the oldest submission?
Retouch aesthetic or mutilation?
WHO defines female genital mutilation as a form of violence that includes "those procedures of partial or total resection of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons". Based on that definition, some see a clear relationship between the female ablation and genital aesthetic surgery. Isabel Ortega, anthropologist and professor of the Master in Gender Relations at the University of Zaragoza, states in the essay entitled Sculpting the genre. New frontiers of female genital mutilation, an identification between practices rejected by the Western world (female genital mutilation and cutting) and other accepted ones, such as sex reassignment surgery or vaginal aesthetic surgery. "I do not think it's the same thing that a minor girl is amputated in horrific conditions and an adult who chooses," argues sexologist Delfina Mieville, "but I do see a relationship: the ultimate conquest of the patriarchy of violence towards female bodies, symbolic and real. We must realize that something very typical of our time is the subjectification of the domain. That is to say, I no longer need a tyrant to tell me what to do, because I have internalized it and I already castrate myself, believing that it is my freedom ".