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Vagina Dialogues: Thoughts on ‘revirginization’

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By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

She said: “He’s so small I could hardly feel him.”

He said: “Even a 747 will feel small inside the Grand Canyon.”

This was part of divorced Hollywood couple Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold scathing word war when asked to comment on their divorce.

More recently, a photo of actress Chloe Moretz and politician Hillary Clinton each holding up a doughnut during the National Donut Day celebration (held every first Friday of June) became an instant meme when netizens photoshopped the hole sizes of their respective doughnuts to suggest something other than pastry.

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A loose vagina, unfortunately, has become a matter for ridicule and seemingly a deciding factor on why some couples end their relationships or why one party cheats.

Into this conversation enter discussions on “floral arrangement” or “landscaping.” But this has nothing to do with gardening.

“It’s like a face-lift for your… vagina face,” the Kardashian’s dermatologist Harold Lancer was quoted as saying by Cosmopolitan and Elle magazines. He was referring to a medical craze in Hollywood: vagina rejuvenation, which is supposed to make the vagina feel and look smoother and tighter. Women undergo the treatment for many reasons including better self-esteem and more satisfying sexual pleasure for both their partner and themselves.

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SURGERY, LASERS, AND RADIOFREQUENCY
The procedure is available in the Philippines, most notably at the Belo Medical Group. The cosmetic surgery center best known for its celebrity clients, introduced FemiLift in 2014, with comedienne AiAi delas Alas as its ambassador. The procedure uses an Alma CO2 laser which is inserted into the vaginal canal to stimulate the increase of collagen in vaginal wall and tighten the floor of the pelvic area.

Belo now has another treatment with the same aim in mind, ThermiVa, which uses “radiofrequency energy to gently heat tissue to rejuvenate collagen,” says the Web site of Thermi, the company that created the system.

“It improves and makes the appearance of the feminine area beautiful: smoother, tighter, more youthful looking,” Belo Medical Group desk officer Darling de Vera told BusinessWorld in an e-mail correspondence.

Before the advent of laser and radiofrequency treatments, there was “anterior and posterior repair” or simply “vagina repair,” popular as early as the 1980s, said Dr. Bernabe Marinduque, Ob-Gyn at St. Luke’s Medical Center BGC and UP Philippine General Hospital, in a phone interview. The surgical procedure trims the vagina wall to tighten it and it can take weeks to heal from the procedure.

By the early 2000s, technological advancements led to “laser surgery,” which is “less bloody and messy” than the surgery, said Dr. Marinduque.

“While all women begin life firm and tight down under, events in our life like childbirth, aging, and being overweight can cause the stretching and looseness of the muscles of the vagina,” said Belo’s Ms. De Vera.

The procedures cater to women who have had babies, are obese, and are older. Dr. Marinduqe advises obese patients to lose weight first before undergoing a vaginal rejuvenation, “because the sag will always come back if you are overweight.”

The laser surgery was marketed primarily to fulfill and heighten a man’s orgasm, he said.

“Almost all of them (the women) have it done for the same reason: a decrease in sexual pleasure secondary to lack of traction. The truth is, many more women want to make their ‘womanhood’ as good as new but are hesitant because they are scared to undergo surgery,” said Ms. De Vera.

Surgery, said Dr. Marinduque, sometimes causes complications such as infection and dyspareunia — painful sexual intercourse. Lasers, on the other hand, have no complications, he said. However, their results do not last a lifetime. “[A] non-invasive laser procedure lasts for two to three years, and then you have to do it again.”

Besides cosmetic purposes, vagina repair also helps those with urinary incontinence, or the inability to hold urine in the bladder.

At Belo, FemiLift treatments cost at least P35,000 per session (a three-session package is P85,000), while ThermiVa costs P50,000 per session (a three-sessions package: P120,000). The cost of vagina repair surgery depends on the hospital, but Dr. Marinduque estimates it is at least P90,000.

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BODY IMAGE AND WOMEN COMMODIFICATION
While vagina rejuvenation targets wives and older women around 30 and above, Dr. Marinduque said that he has had a patient who was only 25 years old.

He added: “The laser treatment is controversial in the US because the teens are doing it, too.”

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 400 girls aged 18 and below had vagina rejuvenation done last year to make their genitals look prettier and perfect.

“I am against it among the youth,” said Dr. Marinduque, “But I foresee in the coming years that the Filipino teens will do it,” he predicted.

Experts blame the influence of the media and the pornography industry which pressure young women to look their best and prettiest, including down there.

Regardless of a woman’s age, the Gabriela Women’s Party thinks that vagina repair presents a messed up view of sexuality and is part of the objectification of women.

“It’s a commodification of women. It’s the desire to ‘maintain the image of virginity’ for sexual pleasure — but mostly that of the men. One of the possible reasons is to keep the family. The women do it to maintain their family intact as well as their youthfulness, which, if you come to think of it, is in relation with the economic and political system that treat women as an object and thus, the weaker sex,” said Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general, in a phone interview.

Personally, she said she understands why some women do things to “keep their self-image,” but she thinks it is unnecessary because “if your husband or partner loves you, he’ll accept you no matter what” — including having a loosened vagina (vagina literally translates as “sword-holder” in Latin).

But there are women who do it chiefly for their own sexual pleasure.

“I have a friend who did it for her own pleasure because she finds it more satisfying,” said comedienne Mae Paner, more popularly known as “Juana Change,” a social activist and cultural worker who is also a psychology graduate.

“I see no wrong if you want to satisfy your partner, too. Ang saya din na iniisip mo ang magpapaligaya sa partner mo ’di ba? Pero iba ’yun kung imposed sa iyo ng partner mo. Sana, ultimately, desisyon ng babae, kung gusto niya itong gawin o hindi. Dahil katawan niya ’yun,” she said in an e-mail interview. (“It is also good to think about what will make your partner happy, right? But it’s a different thing if it was imposed on you by your partner. Hopefully, ultimately, it should be the woman’s decision on whether to do it or not. It is her body.”)

Isip-isip lang muna kung bakit ito gagawin,” she said. (Think carefully on why you are doing it.)

In the end, Juana Change blames no person, but leaves us with this remark: “Medical practitioners like to create a need so that people have reason to spend and consume more. Matagal na ang raket na ’yan. (It is an old racket.)

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