Join 3,430 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Law of Unintended Consequences
March 4, 2010 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Prime time, free-to-air documentary on Australia's government owned TV station causes a bit of a flap. Censorship of the labia minora in "lads mags" blamed for negative body image issues in young ladies and the significant increase in labiaplasties. [links contain NSFW words, and a NSFW link to the program]
posted by uncanny hengeman (47 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is a vagina segment like an orange segment?

as for this:

“The vaginas have lead to some uncomfortable silences,” one viewer said.

well, I've been there....
posted by chavenet at 7:09 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also: upon clicking the link to the TV bit I discovered that you have to be "Down Under" to see, er, down under.
posted by chavenet at 7:12 AM on March 4, 2010


Dude. Bit of a flap? SRSLY
posted by Mister_A at 7:14 AM on March 4, 2010 [12 favorites]


I don't think they are "censoring" the labia minora, they are airbrushing and photoshopping them.

But as for the article itself: OMG REAL VAJAYJAYS NOOOOO THINK OF THE CHILDREN THAT MIGHT DISCOVER THAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE BODY PARTS AND BE SCARRED FOR LIFE!!!!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:21 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Lad's mags." How quaint.

From the comments:

The focus of the story was clearly how Australia's Classification Guidelines essentially force the magazines to airbrush out the labia minora from vaginas and deem one particular body type to be 'too rude' to be shown, and consequently is leading to a distorted public understanding of what female genitalia can look like. It's extremely disappointing that you fail to mention these key points in this article.

Worse than silent, the article is misleading, blaming the porn industry for government regulation:

Kirsten Drysdale used the segment to explore the porn industry’s airbrushing of female genitalia, which gave an unrealistic image of what was “normal”.
posted by three blind mice at 7:27 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The vaginas have lead to some uncomfortable silences"

.. although still substantially more preferable than the vagina monologues.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:28 AM on March 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


I tried to watch the video, to be shocked into silence myself, but it's only viewable within Australia (I'm in the US). Nothing immediately shows up on youtube. Anyone have a link so I can see labias being trimmed (I guess?) to the ideal with my own eyes?
posted by dammitjim at 7:40 AM on March 4, 2010


Ah, whoops, with a little more searching, I found it on Vimeo. Enjoy everyone!

Bonus: page title says "Designer Vaginas on Vimeo
posted by dammitjim at 7:42 AM on March 4, 2010


Also: upon clicking the link to the TV bit I discovered that you have to be "Down Under" to see, er, down under.

Hotspot Shield seems like the perfect name for a product that will let you view genitalia.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:42 AM on March 4, 2010


Can't watch the segment because I'm not in Australia. But I am seriously curious what these airbrushed pictures look like. Are the labia minora just missing?
posted by Mavri at 7:42 AM on March 4, 2010


Interesting; the second link of the FPP is blocked at my place of work, but this one isn't, nor this one, and of course there are many YouTube videos. [all, of course, may be NSFyourW]
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:47 AM on March 4, 2010


Do guys really look at a real-life labia and think "eww"? I can't imagine any guy I've ever known that would refuse sex based on the appearance of someone's labia (unless there was something drastically wrong, I guess). This whole concept of labiaplasty is just completely mystifying to me; it's not like I whip out a mirror and look at the thing every day.
posted by desjardins at 7:48 AM on March 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


and of course there are many YouTube videos.

I'm astounded those videos are available on YouTube. Screaming fantods.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:55 AM on March 4, 2010


Humanity is doomed, I think.
posted by verb at 7:56 AM on March 4, 2010


I can't imagine any guy I've ever known that would refuse sex based on the appearance of someone's labia

I think for most straight men, the "ideal" labia are the ones that are available.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:59 AM on March 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's really a good point that they're making, besides the shocking snatches. I've talked about this with my female friends - they have all these insane (to my mind) warped body images that they enforce on each other, ostensibly to be more attractive, but men couldn't care less about the vast majority of the crap they do to themselves. Seriously, labiaplasty? Anal bleaching? Man, as long as you're vaguely lady-shaped and interested we don't much care what things look like down there. But they can't just totally reject this crap, even if they try, it's nearly impossible. I think it sucks.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:02 AM on March 4, 2010


How does censorship work in Australia? I know in Canada when I was a 13-year-old sneaking glances at Playboy and Penthouse, it was okay to portray genitalia, but actual sex acts were blacked out (my friend claimed you could buy a special pair of glasses to view the censored bits).

What about Australia? And will Australia's plans to monitor internet activity prevent Aussies from looking at online porn?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:03 AM on March 4, 2010


I don't understand why people can't fucking understand that their bodies are bad things. It's not that hard, people! look, I'll spell it out for you:

vaginas = bad.
penises = bad.

if you have one or both of these things, you should be ashamed of it. That's why we don't let you see them, because they're terrible, horrible things and you should feel dirty for having one. Also breasts, ladies.

god. it's like people want to be okay with their bodies or something, which... eugh.
posted by shmegegge at 8:06 AM on March 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


You can't criticize labia and own testicles at the same time. You just can't.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 8:07 AM on March 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


ALL human genitalia is funny looking. The sooner we stop crying about it and start laughing, the happier we'll all be.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:11 AM on March 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


Do guys really look at a real-life labia and think "eww"?

I doubt it's the guys. It's young women looking at the "Lads' mags" to see what's "normal", comparing themselves to those images, and deciding they must be deformed because they have bits the airbrushed depictions of women in the mags "don't" have.
posted by orthogonality at 8:22 AM on March 4, 2010


How does censorship work in Australia? I know in Canada when I was a 13-year-old sneaking glances at Playboy and Penthouse, it was okay to portray genitalia, but actual sex acts were blacked out (my friend claimed you could buy a special pair of glasses to view the censored bits).

I was possibly being misleading by using the term "lads mag." Lads mags AFAICT are more your famous / semi famous / above average looking girls in bikinis. Ralph and Zoo magazine. There's no in-your-face nudity.

There's another genre and I don't know what to call it. Working class. Lots of stories about tats and motorbikes and drinking and readers send in terrible jokes and HEAPS OF PIX OF NEKKID WOMEN. A lot of that reader generated in the form of "girl next door", "homegirls" type competitions. Picture and People magazines are the two most famous in Australia, I suppose.

They're quite accessible on the magazine racks in delicatessens milk bars and petrol gas stations... and erect penises and labia minoras are banned! The girls are only allowed to have "innies" as I've heard them described.

The more accessible the mag, the more censorship needed. I think to get anything particularly racy eg. penetration or male erections you need to subscribe or go to a specialty adult shop. Laws vary between states. The ACT – the small territory where our Federal Government sits – has the most lax laws when it comes to porn.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:24 AM on March 4, 2010


The sooner we stop crying about it and start laughing, the happier we'll all be.

I'm going to start telling myself every time a date points and laughs at my manhood, "how refreshingly liberated she is."
posted by Pollomacho at 8:28 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do guys really look at a real-life labia and think "eww"?

I doubt it's the guys. It's young women looking at the "Lads' mags" to see what's "normal", comparing themselves to those images, and deciding they must be deformed because they have bits the airbrushed depictions of women in the mags "don't" have.


[I can't believe I 'm adding labia commentary to my posting history but here goes]

Enlarged labia have been associated with having had "too much" (likely of "the wrong kind") sexual activity, being old and unattractive, lower class, etc. Google "hanging meat curtains" or any number of "roast beef sandwich" har har jokes if you're in any doubt.

So a natural human variation (there are 2 year olds with hanging labia, dudes) has become something that puts women in the category of "disgusting slutty dirty other-object of contempt and ridicule" instead of "desirable respectable human being like everybody else."

For women, it's always something (especially if someone can press those primal anxiety buttons to get you to buy something, or do something that would otherwise seem insane)--it's just labia now.
posted by availablelight at 8:36 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, as long as you're vaguely lady-shaped and interested we don't much care what things look like down there. But they can't just totally reject this crap, even if they try, it's nearly impossible.

Men are not women's peers. Why should they care what men think? After all, we only care if they're "vaguely lady-shaped and interested." The bar is simply too low.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:53 AM on March 4, 2010


Australia's also the country which bans images of small-breasted women, in case they act as a gateway drug to paedophilia.
posted by acb at 9:12 AM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Google "hanging meat curtains" or any number of "roast beef sandwich" har har jokes if you're in any doubt.
You know... I think I'm just going to take your word for it. I believe you. No Googling necessary.
posted by verb at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Men are not women's peers. Why should they care what men think?

I didn't realize that straight women had the sort of relationships with their peers that they just drop trou' and compare. Women are from Venus indeed!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:30 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Do guys really look at a real-life labia and think 'eww'? I can't imagine any guy I've ever known that would refuse sex based on the appearance of someone's labia (unless there was something drastically wrong, I guess). This whole concept of labiaplasty is just completely mystifying to me; it's not like I whip out a mirror and look at the thing every day."

The shallow end of the human pool is exactly this shallow. And it goes both ways, there are plenty of women who'll say they won't sleep with an uncut guy for example (And rule 34 being what it is I'd bet the other way around though I haven't noticed that much).
posted by Mitheral at 9:43 AM on March 4, 2010



Do guys really look at a real-life labia and think "eww"? I can't imagine any guy I've ever known that would refuse sex based on the appearance of someone's labia


yea, I don't think so, but if they do object, they're perfectly placed for a quick kick to the head.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:12 AM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you knew Labia like I knew Labia, oh, OH, oh what a flap!
posted by davejay at 10:37 AM on March 4, 2010


Men are not women's peers. Why should they care what men think? After all, we only care if they're "vaguely lady-shaped and interested." The bar is simply too low.

Yeah, but the purpose of being attractive is to attract sexual partners, right? For heterosexual women, that would be men. I understand that they enforce it on each other, and that's the whole thing I think is so ridiculous, because most men couldn't give a crap how other men look. I mean, there's body image pressure for men too, especially if you're the rounder type, but not nearly as intense as women get.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:06 AM on March 4, 2010


This is all speaking from a hetero point of view, obviously, of course gay men care how other men look, etc.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:07 AM on March 4, 2010


Enlarged labia have been associated with having had "too much" (likely of "the wrong kind") sexual activity, being old and unattractive, lower class, etc. Google "hanging meat curtains" or any number of "roast beef sandwich" har har jokes if you're in any doubt.

So a natural human variation (there are 2 year olds with hanging labia, dudes) has become something that puts women in the category of "disgusting slutty dirty other-object of contempt and ridicule" instead of "desirable respectable human being like everybody else."


I've spoken with physicians who perform corrective vaginoplasties and labiaplasties about the procedures. (By corrective, I mean that they perform secondary surgeries that correct surgical screw-ups made by other physicians.) According to them, many women also look to have the procedures post-pregnancy, both for comfort, sexual self-esteem and body image issues. Both surgeries may have a valid medical purpose -- it is possible that they can restore or improve sexual and/or urinary function, usually after tissues are damaged during childbirth. Or they may simply decrease discomfort.

The jury's still out in both the British and American medical communities as to whether either labiaplasties or vaginoplasties are medically necessary except in cases where a physical defect is present, although opinion seems to be leaning against it. The problem is that more cosmetic surgeons who perform labiaplasties and vaginoplasties are promoting the procedures as "rejuvenative," in an apparent effort to encourage women to have them done for aesthetic reasons. Downplaying the 'correction of function' aspect of the surgeries in their advertising limits their prospective patient base. So you wind up with under-informed patients who may be undergoing surgical procedures for the wrong reasons.
posted by zarq at 12:04 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why people can't fucking understand that their bodies are bad things. It's not that hard, people! look, I'll spell it out for you:

Well, it would help if the government weren't actively censoring more 'explicit' vaginas(!)

I doubt it's the guys. It's young women looking at the "Lads' mags" to see what's "normal", comparing themselves to those images, and deciding they must be deformed because they have bits the airbrushed depictions of women in the mags "don't" have.

Yeah, that's the thing. If they are censoring certain types of vaginas, which is causing certain women to be more insecure. It's pretty ridiculous.

But the censorship laws in Australia are way over the top compared to the U.S, and I think the U.K.
posted by delmoi at 2:00 PM on March 4, 2010


Do guys really look at a real-life labia and think "eww"?
John Ruskin never consummated his marriage of six years because he found his wife's parts unattractive -- "unable to excite passion" or words to that effect. Some have suggested that he was turned off by pubic hair, others by the fact that his knowledge of female anatomy was derived from sculpture where, as Kenneth Clark said, female pudenda are represented as "imperforate lumps". So it is possible for people to be misled by representations of the subject in question.

And state censorship of genitalia? Eww! As someone once said, "The government has no place in the pudenda of the nation." (Or words to that effect.)
posted by CCBC at 3:41 PM on March 4, 2010


John Ruskin never consummated his marriage of six years because he found his wife's parts unattractive

This may be a stretch, but maybe he was gay?
posted by desjardins at 3:49 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


This just pisses me off SOO MUCH!

Ladies, please listen for a second. Ahem...

I've seen THOUSANDS of live, naked labia in my life, mostly onstage strippers, but more than a handful (ahem) in more personal settings.

I have NEVER seen unattractive labia.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:01 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Linking to the Herald Sun makes baby Jesus cry.

But not as much as this endless kerfuffle. I love it when fellow Aussies try to tell me we're not a conservative nation. As if.
posted by smoke at 4:13 PM on March 4, 2010


desjardins: Probably not gay. He also had an unconsummated Lewis Carroll-type love for young girls and enjoyed nude drawings of them. Perhaps a case of arrested sexuality? Personally, I think he was just another heterosexual creep.
posted by CCBC at 4:15 PM on March 4, 2010


So you wind up with under-informed patients who may be undergoing surgical procedures for the wrong reasons female genital mutilation which is somehow held to be OK because it's not being done by brown people who don't speak English.
posted by flabdablet at 4:41 PM on March 4, 2010


I have NEVER seen unattractive labia.

Amen brother! Preach it. Preach it!
posted by Splunge at 4:51 PM on March 4, 2010


I have NEVER seen unattractive labia.

Or to put it another way - if I'm in a situation where I'm looking at labia, the last thing I'm thinking about is if they're too floppy.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:45 PM on March 4, 2010


So you wind up with under-informed patients who may be undergoing surgical procedures for the wrong reasons female genital mutilation which is somehow held to be OK because it's not being done by brown people who don't speak English.

No, it's somehow held to be ok because it's being performed on consenting adults and not children. FGM and FGC are almost exclusively performed upon minors.
posted by zarq at 10:08 PM on March 4, 2010


Well, in that sense it is OK, zarq.

Michael Jackson had the right to disfigure himself to the point of losing his nose cartilage entirely. Amanda Lepore can make her face into a freakshow if she so wishes (not referring to her TG status, of course). Ditto the tiger-faced guy, and the lizard guy.

But when these people are doing it to chase some ideal of human beauty (which leaves the latter two out), it's sick. And it pisses me off that some creep is selling that lie, and profiting from it.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2010


IAmBroom, we agree, although I tend to believe that the ultimate responsibility must lie with the patient as well as the physician in some cases. (Neither should be excused in any way.) It seems obvious that Michael Jackson and Jocelyn Wildenstein (to use two examples,) should have been denied surgery by their doctors. Both had surgeons that never should have consented to operate. They should have demanded their prospective patients underwent psychiatric consults, and then refused to disfigure them. And I wish their patients had sued them and run them out of business.

My point was simply that the comparison Flabdablet was making wasn't a valid one. An adult who volunteers to undergo plastic surgery, does so willingly, no matter their motivations. A child who is subject to FGM / FGC does not. And as far as I can see, that has nothing to do with the color of their skin, either.
posted by zarq at 2:08 PM on March 8, 2010


FGM is FGM, and from where I sit, the factors that make it acceptable to culture A are no more valid than those that make it acceptable to culture B. It's a stupid, sad waste.

I feel every bit as much sadness about FGM being voluntarily taken on by adult or near-adult women in the advertising-saturated affluent English-speaking culture I occupy as I do about it being inflicted by women of other cultures on their children. In both cases, a practice that I consider insanely barbaric and harmful - a practice whose alleged intent is to make its victims more desirable to men - is seen as culturally acceptable, and that makes me sad.

Speaking as a man, the idea that anybody ought to have sensitive bits of their beautiful bodies sliced off in order to be more attractive to me is both demeaning to them and insulting to me.

The fact that we in the affluent world generally use techniques less crude than brute physical coercion to manufacture consent to our cultural insanities doesn't make those insanities any less insane.
posted by flabdablet at 11:52 PM on March 8, 2010


« Older Need some light reading? Popular Science has put ...  |  How Locavores Could Save the W... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments