If Barbie had a labia.

Labia, which is the Latin term for lips, are the skin folds that the encircle the vaginal entrance, consisting of the labia majora (outer lips)and labia minora (inner lips). The coloration and size of every woman’s labia is different. And a woman’s labia changes over time. In girls, who have not yet gotten their periods, the labia minora are small. After puberty, the labia minora become more obtrusive and tend to protrude. No two women look quite the same. As with all bodies, everyone is different and it is important to know what you look like and work towards accepting it.

In a recent article that polled both male and female physicians (96 males and 68 females to be exact) – male physicians, including general practitioners, obstetricians and plastic surgeons, preferred surgically altered labia to non-surgically altered labia. The physicians were given four pictures to look at and comment on. Two of the pictures show the labia of two different women pre-surgery and two pictures show the labia of the same two women post surgery. The male physicians consistently chose the surgically altered both as an aesthetic ideal and as what they viewed as “normal”. This becomes somewhat shocking when the statistics show that because of these perceptions, these male doctors are somewhat more likely than their female counterparts to operate on women who are considering vaginal reconstructive surgery.

“This survey clearly reveals that the gender of the physician is a significant influence: male physicians in all specialties are more inclined to perform the surgical procedure, compared with their female colleagues. A patient when consulting a male plastic surgeon for a labia reduction procedure is significantly more likely to be operated on than when consulting a female gynecologist.”

I find this disturbing for many reasons. Of course we are all affected by media and public perceptions as well as the advent of porn. But I think that people generally go to doctors seeking an expert opinion based hopefully on health. Doctors are human too, so their perceptions will definitely figure in, but if it comes to a women unnecessarily altering her body, I wish this was not the case.

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