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Article by Laura Fitzpatrick Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008
Appalled at the popularity of so-called designer vaginas, a grass-roots organization called the New View Campaign staged its first-ever protest on Monday outside New York City's Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery. Two dozen women — ranging in age from teenagers to, ahem, sexagenarians — handed out index cards and held up orange poster boards with the message "No Two Alike," while two members of the group donned giant cloth vulva costumes. New View, which was created in 2000 in response to the introduction of Viagra, is trying to fight what it calls "the medicalization of sex," the idea that there is a physical right and wrong when it comes to all things sexual. Says the group's leader Leonore Tiefer, a sexologist and psychologist at New York University: "Promoting a very narrow definition of what women's genitals ought to look like — even for those women who don't want surgery, it harms them." (See the Top 10 Medical Missteps.)
The number of women getting genital cosmetic surgery is still relatively small, with as few as 1,000 women in the U.S. going under the knife each year and 800 in the U.K. But the pace is accelerating: in the U.S., the number of women getting these procedures, which often cost upwards of $5,000 at clinics from Texas to Kansas to California, increased 20% from 2005 to 2006. In the U.K., the number of surgeries more than doubled between 2002 and 2007. And for the first time, a U.S. medical textbook on women's reproductive health to be published in 2009 will include a chapter devoted entirely to female genital plastic surgery. The media have been doing their part to get the word out too. Post-op patients regularly extol their newly improved sex lives in women's magazines. Dr. Robert Rey, star of E!'s Dr. 90210, is big on vaginoplasty, and this fall NBC's Lipstick Jungle featured an episode about G-spot enhancement (via collagen injection).
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