Tomorrow in London, women will be marching on Harley Street to protest "designer vaginas", partially by attaching large furry things to their (clothed) crotches. While admittedly I'm not up on the latest in vaginal plastic surgery, I think men might owe women an apology for whatever we've done to their collective self-image that this is an actual industry:
At its most modest, the Muff March is against the pornography-influenced obsession with removing pubic hair. But it's also about protesting against the sort of surgery that makes you cross your legs. Typical procedures on offer include labiaplasty (trimming or removing the labia) and vaginal rejuvenation (tightening — usually referred to by "designer vagina").
In the US this industry is worth $6.8m (£4.4m). In the UK the latest figures come from a 2009 report in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. It revealed that in 2008 the number of operations increased by 70% compared with the previous year: 1,118 labiaplasty operations on the NHS. (There were 669 in 2007 and 404 in 2006.) And that's just the NHS. The Harley Medical Group reported over 5,000 inquiries about cosmetic gynaecology last year, 65% for labial reduction.
I recently heard of a woman GP very concerned by the number of girls in their mid-teens coming to her worried about what their genitals looked like: she thought it was becoming an issue largely because of the fashion for shaving off pubic hair, which made them more self-conscious. Of course, there are rare cases where there is an underlying medical reason for this surgery, but they are just that, extremely rare. A doctor who has treated women seeking labiaplasty told me: "When you examine them, they are completely normal."