Monthly Archives: October, 2011

‘Protecting children’ – you’re doing it wrong

Not, strictly speaking, one for our ‘Anti-porn: you’re doing it wrong’ files, but I think it is important that, as anti-porn feminists and radical feminists, we emphasise that we do not condone this puritanical, reactionary, anti-sex bullshit, and that we do emphatically support comprehensive, age-appropriate sex and relationship education for all children.

I think parents have the absolute right to protect their children from this sort of education which is so unhelpfully obsessed with destroying childhood innocence, in a way that’s reminiscent of paedophilia. To me, anyone who wants to talk dirty to little children is a danger to them.”

These words, from the lips of “family values” campaigner Lynette Burrows, were broadcast last weekend as part of a pre-recorded video package on the BBC’s Sunday Morning Live show to kick off a “debate” about sex education.

The comments were left unchallenged, and the show continued with a studio discussion in which Burrows was joined by a historian and a neoconservative lobbyist, rather than, say, a sex education professional or similar expert. The lack of a qualified speaker in the studio removed the possibility of any informed discussion, and things veered downhill from there.

Full article here.

“Designer vagina surgery: snip, stitch, kerching!”

All extracts from: “Designer vagina surgery: snip, stitch, kerching!”

Since many of the obstetricians and gynaecologists at the conference are untrained in plastic surgery, one big question begins to bother me: on what/whom they will practise?

The answer is, they don’t – or, often, not much. A number of those here plan to watch the videos and start operating. Indeed, in one session, a doctor asks how to overcome beginner’s nerves – and what are your obligations to let your patient know? “Do it on a 60-year old – it won’t matter!” comes one helpful suggestion from the audience.

I am unsure of what attractive vaginas are supposed to look like, but after a few presentations with their before-and-afters, a clear surgical ideal emerges: labia inflated to banana-like pontoon proportions, a look that I can only describe as pure, mammalian oestrus. The aesthetic ideal goes one step further when Alinsod, who practises in body-conscious southern California, tells us that his most popular labiaplasty procedure is one he invented, a “smooth” look, called the Barbie (after the doll), that involves shearing off the entire labia minora, the inner lips, to leave a “clamshell” look.

This constant casual talk about vaginas, with the slightly ribald asides about sexual function, feels like a continuation of the trickle-up of the porn aesthetic that started about 10 years ago, when the Brazilian wax went mainstream. (On recently observing a birth as part of my research, I mentioned to one of the nurses that I thought pre-delivery shaving of the genital area wasn’t done any more. She looked at me as if I were 100 years old and said, “Honey, they all come in this way!”)

It should be noted that labiaplasties done for purely functional reasons, such as dyspareunia (pain during sex), may be categorised as medically necessary and therefore eligible to be covered by insurance. However, when I spoke to practitioners at the conference, they waved away the idea that either they or the client would want to take that route. “It’ll take me 10 minutes, but I’ll get only $300,” one explained. “And it’ll look like I spent 10 minutes on it.” Another agreed, explaining that much of the elective fee he charged had to do with the two hours he’d spend “making it look pretty”.

One female gynaecologist says she does these procedures in part because she empathises with her patients, and emphasises the functional as well as the cosmetic aspects. She tells me about the discomfort she has experienced from her own “misshapen labia” and says the reason she hasn’t had surgery is simply because she has yet to find the right doctor.

There are few female surgeons at the conference in Tucson, and between the endless pictures of labia and the macho patter (“I took her from a four-finger vagina to a two-finger, and boy was her husband happy” – complete with a demonstration, via gloved digits), it is invariably awkward reporting it as a female journalist. Alinsod has been generous in granting me full access, but the others here are quite wary as to how their field might be portrayed. Indeed, a good portion of the seminars are devoted to how to counter criticism both from feminists accusing “disease mongering” doctors of preying upon women’s insecurities to create a demand for procedures that they didn’t need, and from negative press in more mainstream media, such as the story that ran in Cosmopolitan magazine last year headlined “VAGINAS UNDER ATTACK: Don’t Let Your Greedy Gyno Talk You Into This Horrible Mistake”.

At the earlier conference in Las Vegas, I had seen a similar presentation: in one slide, showing 150cc of human fat (looking like orange juice in a pitcher), doctors had to puzzle out what to do about a too-enthusiastic liposuction of the thigh area near the vagina, which had resulted in a widening of the opening so severe that the client’s tampons were falling out. Here in Tucson, a PowerPoint slide is labelled “Labiaplasty Disasters” and what I see resembles crushed vegetables more than female genitalia.

A common problem, I learn, is when doctors don’t take into consideration that labia can retract, which can turn a simple trimming job into an inadvertent Barbie. Luckily, Alinsod, the inventor of the Barbie, has also come up with a reparation surgery: flaps of skin grafted to create the trompe l’oeil of resurrected labia. I’m impressed by the man’s constant inventiveness. He also clearly enjoys what he does (“I could do labiaplasties all day!”) and has satisfied patients, judging from his busy practice – so why do I feel a continuing sense of unease?

Three Women win Nobel peace prize!

Three women who have campaigned for peace and democracy in Liberia and Yemen have been jointly awarded this year’s Nobel peace prize.

The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Leymah Gbowee, a social worker turned peace campaigner from the same country, will share the 10m kronor (£950,000) prize with Tawakkul Karman, a journalist and pro-democracy activist in Yemen who has been a leading figure in the protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh since January.

The Nobel committee said the three had been chosen “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.

“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” the committee said in a statement. They are the first women to be awarded the prize since 2004 when the committee honoured Wangari Muta Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who died last month, and bring the tally of female winners to 15, compared with 85 men.

Full article here.

QotD: Self-referencing edition

Johnny Anglais popped over a few days ago to leave a huffy comment after the post I’d written about him. He didn’t want to try to refute any anti-porn arguments, he just didn’t like it that his quality as a teacher had been questioned. Anyway, this is the latest comment I left under that post, and I like it enough to give it it’s own post:

Looks like Johnny doesn’t want to clarify as to whether or not he views women as disembodied vaginas!

“No point banging my drum for people who are clearly too close-minded to attempt to understand or appreciate.”

The sheer tedious arrogance of men and their Profound Words. We poor little women just can’t understand them! And on top of that, us uppity bitches won’t even appreciate his attempts to re-educate us!

What’s to understand? Johnny enjoys porn, it gets him off and he thinks getting off is always good. Johnny likes making porn, he gets off doing it, and none of the disembodied vaginas he’s fucked has ever complained, so everything is fine and dandy! That’s hardly rocket science, hardly a philosophical treatise.

Perhaps Johnny doesn’t want to answer any awkward questions about the porn industry? Y’know, I’d be more inclined to believe in the possibility of ‘better’ porn if it’s advocates would actually condemn the sex industry for the massive scale of the human rights abuses it commits; instead, they act like the Catholic Church and deny the existence of abuse in order to serve their own interests.