A study published in the BJOG, an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology which required women to look at photos of "modified" and "unmodified" vulvas found that, unsurprisingly, the women who had looked at more photos of the modified vulvas considered them more "normal" and better fit "society's ideal" than the unmodified ones.
The National Health Service of the United Kingdom found that the number of labiaplasties performed in the U.K. increased five times between 2001 and 2010. So researchers at Australia's University of Queensland School of Psychology decided to see whether looking at these labiaplastied vaginas changed a woman's perspective of regular ones. They took almost 100 women between the ages of 18 and 30 and divided them into three groups to look at two different sets of images. In the first viewing, one group looked at vulvas that had been surgically modified, the second looked at unmodified vulvas and the third looked at no vulvas.
In the second viewing, all of the groups looked at a variety of unenhanced and enhanced vulvas and were asked to rate them. According to the BJOG:
The study found that women who had initially viewed the modified vulvas identified the modified images in the second screening as more normal than the non-modified vulvas. This was significantly different from the control group, who initially viewed no images, and were 18% less likely to rate the modified vulvas as normal.
Furthermore, when asked to rate the images according to society's ideal of genitalia, women in all three groups rated the modified images as more like society's ideal than the non-modified vulva images. Again, women who initially viewed the modified images were 13% more likely to rate the modified vulvas as more society's ideal than the control group.
"These findings further heighten concerns that unrealistic concepts of what is considered normal may lead to genital dissatisfaction among women, encouraging women to seek unnecessary surgery," said Claire Moran, the lead researcher of the paper, adding, "This research is the first to document the extent to which exposure may impact women's genital dissatisfaction and more needs to be done to promote awareness and education around genital diversity in our society." Great takeaways, with emphasis added because hopefully soon, the phrase "genital diversity" will get much, much more play.
Image via Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock