Sanjana Chowhan | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Why The Rise Of Designer Vaginas In India Is More Complex Than You Might Think

Why The Rise Of Designer Vaginas In India Is More Complex Than You Might Think

The Debrief: The issue of vaginal cosmetic surgery in India is one where tradition - and traditional views of female sexuality - intersect with 21st Century beauty standards

A long, expansive chart of vaginas alongside before and after images of loose, tight and hairless vulvas adorn the walls of Dr Sejal Desai’s clinic in Mumbai. Nearby a large cut out featuring a liberated, Caucasian woman endorses a G spot injection, aka the G shot, the latest in cosmetic gynaecology, designed to give women better orgasms. 

In 2012, Dr Sejal Desai who was only a practicing gynecologist at the time decided to pursue Aesthetic Vaginal surgery in Los Angeles. ‘Three patients demanded labiaplasty that year,’ she says. A procedure for altering the inner and outer labia and folds of skin surrounding the human vulva, ‘this was almost unheard of in India,’ she says.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that there are concerns about the rise of cosmetic surgery in general in India. Last year the Times of India reported that social media was to blame .  

Nonetheless with a silent, but sudden surge in demand for ‘designer vagina’ surgeries in an otherwise conservative country, the gynecologists turned their hands to vaginal surgery.  Many were hesitant about whether these procedures would actually work in a country. It was doubly hard for Dr Deepa Ganesh, who practices in Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, to decide if she should practice cosmetic surgery. ‘I was keen to study cosmetic gynaecology much earlier, but was discouraged by my colleagues because of how taboo these topics are in India. I was told to perhaps practice in Delhi or Mumbai, but definitely not Chennai.’

However, last year Dr Ganesh took the plunge and travelled to the home of plastic surgery, the United States to complete five months of training. And in December last year, she introduced the ‘G shot’ to India. 

Essentially it is 30-minute treatment which thickens and expands the elusive and so-called G spot, ‘the injection augments G spot making it more sensitive and easier to orgasm,’ Ganesh explains. Think of it as a non permanent lip filler for your G spot, designed to make it bigger and enhance sex.

Manisha, one of Dr Ganesh’s patients, regards it a must have, ‘the need of the hour’. After a combination of procedures which included the G shot, Manisha says her relationship with her husband has improved, she says it has enabled them to connect physically and understand each other better. ‘See, psychologically also, there are several impacts. Women are aware of their sexuality and deem it necessary to have good orgasms, as opposed to just satisfying their husbands,’ says Dr Ganesh.

While the G shot might be fairly new, there are a whole host of other procedures, some non invasive while all offer women ‘newer’, ‘prettier’ and ‘tighter’ vaginas.  Such claims are obviously problematic, as in the UK there are serious questions about the pressures placed on young women to be physically perfect at all times. When it comes to our perception of how genitals ‘should’ look pornography and poor sex education often shoulder a lot of the blame for promoting a hegemony of ‘neat and tidy’ vaginas when, in reality, as with the other parts of our bodies they come in all shapes and sizes. 

In India all of this points to a problematic paradox: increased sexual awareness sitting alongside traditional values when it comes to sex and female sexuality. Desai explains that the answer to the question ‘what is fuelling the rise in demand for ‘designer vaginas’?’ is not a straightforward one. 

‘I have young girls asking me if there is something wrong with their clitoris and I welcome this increased sexual awareness. But yet, I have maximum requests for hymen reconstruction, from young, unmarried women’ she says. In India, although common, premarital sex is still considered a taboo. 25 year-old Sonia from Mumbai, although sexually active, was expected to be a virgin when her marriage was by her family. ‘I was marrying into a conservative family and I was quite sure even my parents had assumed that I was a virgin. I didn't want to take any chances and cause a hullabaloo in our community, so I underwent the vaginal rejuvenation surgery,’ she says. 

Desai says that even now, many cultures expect women to bleed after intercourse, even though a hymen can tear long before you lose your virginity for many reasons which don’t involve sex at all. ‘There are many women coming in for non surgical treatments because they are paranoid about the scars the procedure might leave and don't want their husbands to know.’ 

However, particularly when it comes to the G shot the doctors I spoke with cite changing sexual dynamics over the cosmetic reasons for the gradual rise in such procedures, amongst women of all ages. ‘My oldest patient was a 62-year-old physiotherapist,’ says Desai. 

Another reason women opt for vaginal surgery is physical changes which occur as a result of giving birth. Take 35 year-old Gayathri, a mother of two. ‘After my second child, I stopped enjoying sex the way I used to. Understandably, I was scared and unaware and didn't want to make it worse, but with a combination of laser vaginal rejuvenation and designer laser vaginoplasty, I was back in action in 4 weeks,’ she says.

With hindsight Gayathri says she is really glad she actually looked up her condition on the internet and got help. ‘There is a great need for more doctors in this field as many women are suffering in silence,’ she says. 

It’s may have been around for some years in most of the West as well as the Middle East , but vaginal surgery is still fairly new to India. And though discreet and possibly refreshing to see members of an otherwise conservative culture sit up and take notice of down under with the introduction of orgasm enhancing procedures, it is nonetheless tempered with Indianisms: ranging from surgeries which reconstruct hymens to ‘prove’ virginity and problematic peels which result in fairer lighter-skinned vaginas. As with everything, prevailing and conflicting attitudes about female sexuality and beauty standards underpin the rise in demand for vaginal surgery. 

The issue of vaginal cosmetic surgery in India is where tradition and progression intersect, and as they so often do in culture more broadly these conversations centre around women's sexuality - whether that's as part of discussions about virginity, chastity, marriage or childbirth. How this develops and whether these conversations continue to open up or merely continue to fuel traditional mentalities remains to be seen

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