SOUTH AFRICA: 'Designer Vagina' Trend Comes to SA

South African women following international cosmetic genital surgery trends in search of “designer vaginas” have sparked off debate among sexual health professionals and doctors about the ethics of reinventing themselves.

Women in the US are dabbling with “re-virginisation” to create nights of fun for their lovers, while others go in search of genitals that match the ideals shown in porn movies.

Clinical sexologist Marlene Wasserman, known as Dr Eve, recently attended an International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health congress in the US, where the topic of labial reduction (labia- plasty) was discussed.

“Sex has become a medical issue,” Wasserman said. “Is it a right of patients to request these operations as a form of healthcare, just because they have now become fashionable items?”

She believes plastic surgery to the labia can damage sensitivity and cause problems with arousal. “It is like elective genital mutilation and women who opt for the procedure without having a legitimate health reasons for doing so should seek counselling. Often these women have eating disorders, depression or anxiety.”

But one of the country’s few female plastic surgeons, Dr Nerina Wilkinson, has been doing labiaplasty for the last six years and says her patients have only praise for the procedure. “It has changed their lives. Most of these women have had problems since their school days; it is often a genetic thing. So they could not wear costumes and had difficulty playing sport. For some, sex was painful.

Each month Wilkinson operates on a handful of women, who go under local anaesthetic for the one-hour surgery. “There are different techniques used. If it is done correctly, it can better your life.”

Depending on the technique the doctor uses, labial reduction can cost anything between R6,000 and R15,000.

Wilkinson said she first started doing the operations in conjunction with breast augmentation, “when women would shyly ask if they could have it done. Now they go ahead and ask for labiaplasty.”

Hymenoplasty, known as “re-virginisation”, has not yet taken off in South Africa. “I have only had one e-mail enquiry for it but I do not do it,” said Cape Town plastic surgeon Dr Paul Skoll.

He does labiaplasty using the technique that was perfected by California surgeon Dr Gary Alter, who appears on the reality television series Dr 90210. “Critics of the operation think you can lose sensitivity, but there is zero risk of this as the nerves are nowhere near,” he said.

“What irks me about genital surgery is that it gets compared to ritual circumcision.

“The genitals seem to be sacrosanct. You don’t dabble with them, but it’s perfectly acceptable to make a large, working nose smaller - and no- one calls it nose mutilation.”

Skoll’s youngest patient was a 14-year-old, referred to him by a gynaecologist. His oldest was 62. “If it worries the person, they should have the labiaplasty done.

“No one has come to me for sexual enhancement,” Skoll said.

SOURCE: The Times

AUTHOR: Lauren Cohen

URL: Click here

DATE: 17/03/2008

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