Why Are More and More Teen Girls Getting Cosmetic Genital Surgery?

Most teen girls ask their doctors for labiaplasties for aesthetic reasons.


An increasing number of American teen girls are asking their doctors for cosmetic genital surgery, according to a brand-new paper from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of girls age 18 and under that received labiaplasties—procedures that transform the external appearance of the vulva—almost doubled.

To be fair, that number is still small: The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that 400 girls got the procedure last year, though there are probably a lot more that obtained labiaplasties from gynecologists, which wouldn’t figure in to the data. Julie Strickland, that heads ACOG’s committee on adolescent healthiness care, told the brand-new York Times she was “sort of baffled” by the fast-growing count. Most of these patients are girls that want their labia minora shortened for aesthetic reasons, though some cite discomfort throughout sports as the impetus for their surgeries.  

ACOG’s opinion on teen labiaplasty, released last week, states that young women are particularly vulnerable to body anxieties that could lead to a request for cosmetic surgery:

Adolescents, under the influence of pubertal hormones, undergo rapid transformation and growth of their breasts and genital tissues. This can easily lead an adolescent to question whether her body is normal and to express occasional dissatisfaction along with her body’s appearance, size, symmetry, or function. … This age group might be under particular tension concerning these complications as a result of societal conceptions of the ideal female body and parental comes to for body perfection.

Labiaplasty could affect sexual sensation and function—a concerning prospect for doctors along with patients at the fairly start of their sexual lives. ACOG says doctors need to screen teen girls for body dysmorphic disorder prior to performing any kind of genital adjustment (due to the fact that surgery could worsen bodily dissatisfaction spurred by a mental healthiness issue) and suggest counseling and nonsurgical alternatives.

The Times reports that girls age 18 and under receive fewer compared to 2 percent of all cosmetic surgeries—they’re mostly ear surgeries, nose jobs, and breast reductions—yet nearly 5 percent of all labia surgeries. The body insecurities that come along along with puberty are nothing new, of course. yet adolescent girls didn’t constantly seek surgical alterations for body sections usually only seen by locker room cohabitants and sexual partners. Most young women don’t see several various other girls’ labia in person, so they don’t learn of the wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors of women’s vulvas. Today’s teen girls have actually grown up along with simple access to photos and videos of genitals porn, which are frequently already surgically modified or decided on for their slight, monochrome appearance.

Even once a girl looks outside the realm of porn for clues regarding her place on the labial spectrum, she’ll probably locate only a slim selection of vulvas to compare along with her own. In 2014, Slate asked Vagina author Naomi Wolf to analyze the Wikipedia entry for vagina. “Why is there only one image?” she wondered. “I’ve never seen a labia love that. Not outside of porn. It’s not showing a true range.” Indeed, the entry’s featured photo is a forever shaven pubic area along with a barely there labia minora and a small clitoris—the size and shape beloved by porn films and increasingly desired by teen girls (several of whose labia are well within the normal range) that ask their doctors for genital modification. (The Wikipedia entry for vulva, a lesser-understood term that gets far fewer views compared to vagina on the site, features a tremendous collage of labial and clitoral configurations.) Meanwhile, the penis entry features an entire paragraph on size range in the header and a dedicated section further down the page.

Teenage boys are notorious propagators of the myth that women’s vaginas adjustment shape—and their labia adjustment size and color—depending on exactly how several men they’ve had sex with. The internet teems along with accounts of self-conscious women convinced that their labias look love “roast beef.” Devoid of easily available, medically accurate sex education, girls don’t have actually the resources to withstand these unrealistic ideals. In a climate that prizes a personal sort of vulvar perfection, it’s no wonder teens questioning their changing bodies look to surgery for an answer.