Designer muffs: cosmetic surgery below the belt – Guest Post by Jesse Mendes

Posted by on May 24, 2010 in sexual health, women's health | 4 comments

A few months ago, I stirred the pot a bit by writing about genital cosmetic colorants and vaginal rejuvenation. The post was mostly well-received, although I did manage to anger one reader who accused me of ridiculing women who actually needed labiaplasty due to vaginal prolapse or stress incontinence issues. Then I met a writing colleague via Twitter who had similarly written labia amputation, clitoral hood removal and distortion of sexual aesthetics.

I am happy to continue the dialogue with this terrific post – Designer Vaginas. Please show writer and journalist Jesse Mendes some love (and a huge thanks for allowing me to repost this piece).

The push toward cosmetic surgery to “mask” the effects of aging is not news, and as the likes of Heidi Montag will attest, its practice is growing at an alarming rate with young women as well. What is talked about a lot less, though, is cosmetic surgery below the belt or, put another way and a lot more specifically, “designer vaginas” – a moniker granted it in a 2005 Globe and Mail article.
Both men and women today have wildly distorted impressions of so-called “normal” genitalia. Research repeatedly shows that women in particular are widely unfamiliar with real genital diversity, so they tend to rely on marketing and images provided by doctors and other professionals with ridiculously narrow aesthetic and sexual ideals. The reality is that the size, shape and form of a woman’s genitalia vary greatly, and change over time – we are as diverse “down there” as we are in our faces or our fingerprints.

That’s what I learned from the New View Campaign when I interviewed them several years ago. A grassroots organization formed in New York about 10 years ago, its purpose is, among other things, to challenge distorted messages about sexuality, and to expose aggressive marketing tactics that normalize women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies.

We’re talking women as young as 15 years old, going in for procedures such as drastic labia amputation or clitoral unhooding, with poor research on the consequences.

My question is this – how did we get here? How did we get to the point where we are so fucked up about our bodies, women of all ages are lopping off bits and pieces of their private parts in order to feel desirable?

The pressure to conform to a commonly agreed upon norm can be a highly oppressive force. We see and allow for diversity in nature much more easily than we do in our bodies, or for that matter, our sexual experiences. We’re always thinking about whether we measure up. Biologist and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey dedicated most of his life to educating people in this realm in the 1940s and 50s, yet we’re still dealing with a lot of the same (recycled) attitudes today.

Why are we so afraid of being different? As we age, and develop a more intimate relationship with our own bodies and our selves, this question might be more relevant than we think.

About Jesse…

Jesse Mendes is a freelance writer based in Toronto who is deeply committed to helping to change how older women are perceived in North America, and to dispeling the stigma around aging. Her blog, SeptemberMay, is dedicated to that. She came up with the concept of a dating site that celebrates the inherent eroticism, beauty and intelligence of the older woman. SeptemberMay will be launching later this year.


  1. 5-24-2010

    This is Hannah Bevills, I am an editor with We are a medical publication whose focus is geared towards promoting awareness on hospitals, including information, news, and reviews on them. Given the relevance of what you are offering from your site and what our mission is, I feel we may be able to collaborate in some way or another, I look forward to your response regarding the matter. Thanks!

    Hannah Bevills

  2. 11-13-2010

    cosmetic surgeries these are very very popular because most people are very conscious about their appearance ,.:

  3. 7-8-2011

    Why? Sweetest thing to eat! Why change it?

  4. 8-10-2011

    Excellent ideas throughout this post, personally Im gonna have to bookmark this and come back to it. What would you suggest in regards to your post that you made a few days ago?


  1. The Roundup – Guest posts you don’t want to miss « Flashfree - [...] Designer Muffs: Cosmetic Surgery Below the Belt by Jesse Mendes – Designer vaginas. How did we get here? More…

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