A Macquarie University researcher is hoping to discover why women undergo genital cosmetic surgery.

Anthropology PhD student Lindy McDougall is conducting an Australia-wide study and is looking specifically at the experience and motivations of lesbian or bisexual women.

“What I want to look at is the experience of women and why they make the decisions they do,” McDougall told the Star Observer.

“I want to hear their stories rather than what the media or doctors have to say.

“I think that’s where the gap in research is — it’s always other people speaking for women, rather than women speaking for themselves.”

McDougall is urging both lesbian and straight women who have had, or are contemplating, genital cosmetic surgery — particularly labiaplasty and vaginal tightening — to complete a confidential online survey.

“I’m interested in the effect of medicine and culture on women’s bodies and how new possibilities in medicine and pressures from what we consider to be an ideal body image, often generated through the media, impact on the number of women getting surgery.

“There’s more choice about what we can do with our bodies. It’s worth questioning whether those possibilities are good or bad for us.”

McDougall said she wants to hear from lesbian and bisexual women to ensure her research involves different perspectives.

“The only feedback I’ve had from doctors is when lesbians have [surgery] usually both girls go together, so there’s support, whereas often hetero women seem to do it on their own.

“I think it would be interesting to see what the difference in opinions might be and although all the doctors say they’ll never operate on women who’ve been persuaded to have an operation because of their partners, when I speak to women they’ll often say they have been teased by men.

“Equally, we do a lot of things to please our partner, whether it’s a male partner or female partner, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think we ever make a decision that’s just for us. I think it’s much more complex.”

McDougall said she’s not making a value judgment about women who have surgery, but she is interested in the reasons why women undergo surgical procedures.

“More people wax, more people look at pornography which is being digitally altered, so there are a lot of factors, which means perhaps people are concerned about different areas of their bodies than they once were.

“It’s a complex issue and the more opinions we can get, the more balanced the whole view of these sort of things will be.”

To take part in the research or for more information, contact Lindy on 0409 521 481 or lindy.mcdougall@mq.edu.au

info: Visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/genitalcosmeticsurgery to complete the questionnaire.

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