An increase in the number of women going under the knife for vaginal reconstruction surgery has sparked one researcher to begin the first qualitative study into the link between genital perception, self-esteem and sexual functioning.

A survey looking at how women feel about their genitals will help end the silence and lead to wider sexual education reforms, hopes University of Sydney PhD candidate Frances D’Arcy-Tehan.

The genital image issue has been bubbling around feminist dialogue for a while and has increased recently, I’ve noticed, especially around the issue of cosmetic intimate surgery.

It’s a no-brainer really, that the more comfort one has with their body and their genitals, the more comfort they’re going to have in the bedroom, but what this document will hopefully do is increase the dialogue around the issue,

D’Arcy-Tehan said before expressing a desire to see genital anxiety addressed further by both sex therapists and general counsellors as a part of the wider discussion on body image.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that women, who are under incredible pressure to look a certain way, are presenting to plastic surgeons, and saying -˜I want my vagina to look like this’.

I want to raise some awareness about that and hopefully extend the range of body image issues so that it’s not just about tummies and bums, she said while expressing interest in hearing more from the lesbian community to see if there are any differences in self-esteem levels.

It will be interesting to see what the perceptions are from the lesbian community and particularly, whether any differences in their porn industry will have an effect.

What I would expect is that there might be a wider variety in the type of genitalia people are seeing, so there might be a greater sense of comfort, but that still remains to be seen.

The survey will run until around June 2009 before the information is collated.

info: To take part in the survey, go to http://www.fhs.usyd.edu.au/sexualhealth/research/current_research/frances_darcy_tehan.shtml.

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