This two-part series on labiaplasty is all kinds of horrifying / fascinating / mostly horrifying (part 1, part 2). Usual caveat: Do I think that people should legally be able to do pretty close to whatever they want with their bodies? Yes. Do I nonetheless think that amputating part or all of your inner labia because you want a designer vagina is about 17 kinds of fucked up and says a whole lot about our culture and our views on female sexuality? Yes. The fact that there’s a labiaplasty surgery called “the Barbie,” which removes the entire inner labia, is horrific. Barbie doesn’t have genitals! Barbie is a plastic doll. The goal of looking like you don’t have a vulva — not for any medical purpose, but because normal female genitalia has somehow been deemed aesthetically displeasing — is a pretty disturbing one.
People modify their genitals for all kinds of reasons, and have been doing so for centuries — see, e.g., circumcision. But a whole lot of female genital modification has been based on a hostility to female sexuality, and a related disgust with the female body. There are of course some people who have labiaplasty for medical reasons, but those are few and far between. The vast majority of women who are removing part or all of their labia are doing it for aesthetic purposes. I don’t blame women themselves for wanting to conform their bodies to a particular aesthetic ideal — most of us do that to some degree, although not usually to the point of amputating a body part — but I do blame a sexual culture that sees female sexuality as existing to serve and please men, and that views women as receptacles for male pleasure.
Also, the doctors who are performing these surgeries and who evidence some very clear disgust with totally normal human bodies? Fuck those guys.