EW!, OUCH!, and seriously fucked up!

20 05 2009

A 75-year old woman in Russia, Nina M, got a “designer vagina” to help herself get a husband:

Dr Anna Uzunova said: “Usually such requests are from much younger women.
“But she wanted to have an active sex life despite her age so we agreed to do the operation and help her.”
After the operation, Nina delighting said: “I feel like a young woman again.”

It is disturbing that Nina M underwent vaginoplasty, intrusive surgery performed on female genitals to tighten vaginal muscles, just to make her vagina more appealing to and desirable for men and to help her snag a husband. Why do we live in a society where women consider male sexual pleasure a large factor in the decisions they make about themselves and their bodies? It’s my vagina, if you don’t like it, don’t go near it! And my vagina is for me and my pleasure, not for male sexual conquest.

What the press is focusing on is her age – yes, she is 75 years old – but the real issue is the pervasiveness of ageist and misogynist standards of beauty/standards of femininity and the extremes to which women venture in order to fulfill those unrealistic and unhealthy standards. This is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Furthermore, vaginoplasty is not a cheap surgery. The fact that Nina M had that much money and chose to spend it on this is unsettling.

Beauty is a commodity that decreases in value as time goes along. And since beauty is everything – women are taught that our value is based on our appearances alone, not our intelligence, sense of humor, compassion, or any other personality traits – many women fear aging. The anti-aging industry is booming. From anti-wrinkle creams in drug stores to Botox and plastic surgery (nose jobs, boob jobs, etc.), women will do whatever it takes to not appear old. Because old = ugly = non-sexual = undesirable. And no one wants to be a discarded good.

What this case also reaffirms is society’s male-centric view of sex. Sex is thought of in a highly heteronormative way in which female pleasure is missing from the equation. It’s all about male pleasure, and making sure that the man enjoys sex. Reconstructing the vagina for male consumption to enhance male sexual pleasure reflects heteronormative ideology that ascribes the vagina as solely the site for penile penetration.

There is a lot of dialogue in the feminist community about female genital mutilation and the health risks, pain, and trauma that it puts women through. However, licensed surgeons practice genital mutilation in the west as well. Just because it’s super expensive and performed by a licensed medical practitioner in a clean hospital bed does not take away from the fact that it too is harmful and another form of patriarchal colonization of female bodies.



One response

14 07 2009
The Gender Blender Blog

[…] I’ve blogged about our society’s ongoing obsession with virginity before (here and here) and how it is unhealthy and harms women but it remains pervasive and demands a critical eye and […]

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