Sing Tao
School of Journalism

""Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others."
- Groucho Marx

The staid world of mainstream journalism has undergone something of a facelift in recent years as the scope of features writing, and even business reporting, has opened up to new frontiers. In a new section beginning this issue, we explore some of the story ideas and writing styles that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago.

Designer Vaginas:
A story every reporter wants to get into

By Dorianne Sager

Are there any limits left to what the media will report on? What was taboo only 10 years ago now makes headlines. A cheeky and sassy flair in the 90s is what my mother used to call “talking back.” Sex used to be reserved for the bedroom, but it now lies prominently on the first page. The impotent male, once expected to keep a low profile, has now been raised to new heights with the massive media coverage of the saviour pill, Viagra. Women, perhaps feeling a little stifled with the excessive amounts of testosterone in the air, have retaliated with the latest issue to push the journalistic envelope; designer vaginas.

It's an area of plastic surgery that doesn't get explored much and often has people crossing their legs in embarrassment. Not to fear. We are the new media generation, we have the freedom to spread our legs (so to speak), clamp our inhibitions firmly on the operating table and nip and tuck our taboos into neat little stories.

Unfortunately, with every milestone reached, there is a price. Reporting on designer vaginas may have broken through another outdated modesty barrier, but now women have one more body part to obsess about, our imperfect vaginas. Not that I'm sure mine is imperfect. I actually haven't worked very hard to cultivate a personal relationship with it, although I have dubbed it my GGA (general girl area). But, according to the latest trend sweeping through the plastic culture of altered perfection, I could probably do with some improvement.

The concept of designer vaginas grew out of successfully repaired episiotomies, where the entrance to the vagina would be tightened after a woman gave birth. Overly strenuous or repeated childbirth can leave many women with little or no control over their vaginal opening and as a result their sex lives are often affected. Some women also have excessively large labia, which can hang down to resemble a small penis. In Japan, the condition is called the “winged butterfly” and is considered a sexual delicacy. But for many women it can cause chaffing, painful intercourse and extreme psychological inhibitions.

According to Dr. Robert Stubbs in Toronto, who has been performing such surgeries for the last 15 years, this type of work has been around since the 50s, when doctors discretely referred to it as “improving a woman's well-being.” Although it is a topic just recently tackled by the media, the desire for “designer vaginas” is, in fact, a growing area of plastic surgery in Canada. The nip and tuck part of the surgery has even been dubbed the “Toronto Trim.”

Women often go to Dr. Stubbs because they are unable to reach orgasm, or are genuinely distressed about their appearance. The surgeries available include; adding fat to small, dried out labia to give them a more rounded and youthful appearance, vaginal tightening, wrinkle removal of the labia (dismissed as a gimmick by Dr. Stubbs), clitoral repositioning, or pubic liposuction of oversized lips. Bigger, smaller, Armani or Gucci, the possibilities are endless. Eyebrows may raise over this trend of experimenting with needles and female genitalia, but Dr Stubbs dismisses the ethical concerns that might surround such surgery. If an intelligent and informed woman comes to him with valid concerns about her vaginal appearance or sexual discomfort, he sees no reason why he should not help them. “There are only a few things in life that stimulate people” he says. “Hunger is one, sex is the other.”

Personally, I think the medical priority should be focused on making the clitoris easier to find. Maybe they could start etching road maps onto woman's stomachs to help men along on their journey. “The quickest way to my G-spot – next left.” Since men are always so concerned with finding the fastest route from A to B, and since they hate to stop and ask for directions, this might be the most effective way to increase a woman's sexual satisfaction. However, for some women, simply turning off the light to disguise a tired looking vagina or handing their partner a user's manual is not a desirable solution.

Vaginal surgery is often dismissed as nothing but hype, mired as it is in the myth that it increases female sexual gratification. But, there are many out there who believe female sexual gratification is a myth anyway, so what's the harm in a little elective surgery? Since female sexuality is shrouded in mystery, it has not received any in depth clinical research, perhaps because of the fear that the results could be faked.

This medical oversight, which has delayed the development of a female Viagra pill, is also responsible for the lack of recognition for “designer vaginas.” The road to female liberation and equality may seem to have veered a bit and some may debate that a woman's self esteem should not lie between her legs. Yet, if advances in medical science can aid a man's sexual life, why not a woman's? Is this not what the fight for equality is all about?

The good news is, the fight looks like it's heading towards a climax. Dr. Stubbs' practice is thriving and he boasts a high percentage rate of satisfied women – a brave claim for any man.

All self-congratulation aside, it just might be that 1999 is the year of the designer vagina. Spreads in American newspapers advertise the glory of revamped genitalia; a Dr. David Murdoch in the States has even claimed the title “The Picasso of Vaginas.” Canadians, of course, are much more conservative and realistic, and while I don't see the National Post or the Globe freeing space for “before and after” endorsements, Dr. Stubbs' work has been receiving greater recognition by the medical establishment.

Times have certainly changed. Gone is the modest innocence of the “Beaver Cleaver” days when sexual frustration was passively accepted. Women can now publicly declare their frustration and pay for the right to be fully orgasmic. As Dr. Stubbs says: “Nothing is new. It depends on whether the timing is right.” And you can bet the media will be there to report on it.

Note: There are of course risks with this type of medical tinkering, as there are with every surgery. Women should not hold unrealistic expectations of mind-blowing orgasms once surgery has been completed. Plastic surgery, like sex, can often disappoint.

Got a story idea? We've got lots. Formerly taboo topics like exploring corruption in native band councils, unfair federal transfer payments to Quebec, or even sex in the NHL. These are all open game in today's uninhibited journalism. Tell us what you want to read.

Back to PSURG Home Page