Designer Genitalia: Fad, Benefit, or Mutilation?

An Expert Interview With Cheryl B. Iglesia, MD

Janet Kim, MPH; Cheryl B. Iglesia, MD


January 28, 2013

In This Article

Importance of Education and Advocacy

Medscape: What could the healthcare community do to support women's relationships with their bodies and help to reverse this trend?

Dr. Iglesia: We need to educate women that vulvas are unique and that not everybody has to look like a Barbie doll. Women's health specialists should create campaigns aimed particularly at teens, so that these young women can understand what's normal down there. Displaying contrasting images of normal vulvar anatomy would be useful.

The marketing for these procedures has much power over people's perceptions. That women are willing to alter normal anatomy or have these procedures for sexual enhancement is very disturbing. Even worse, what sells right now in such publications as Playboy and Penthouse and in Internet pornography are prepubescent images. I hope that larger labia and pubic hair return as fads.

It's our ethical obligation to listen to our patients and to educate them. Many women are really bothered because they think that they are supposed to look a certain way. And they may have partners who are also telling them that they need to look a certain way. So it's not just about educating women; it's also about educating both men and women.

Certainly, "vaginal rejuvenation" sounds sexier than an "anterior repair," but the procedures are essentially identical, and much more evidence is available on the pros and cons of anterior repairs. Shoot, I'd pick "vaginal rejuvenation," but I would vaginally rejuvenate with some bona fide procedures.

Resources for Patients

The Great Wall of Vagina. Artwork by Jamie McCartney

Petals . Nick Karras (Crystal River, 2003) Femalia. Joani Blank, ed. (Last Gasp, 2011)