There is little doubt that today’s digital age is changing the way we acquire information and communicate. As a result, people are influenced by information and digitally-modified images found on the internet. Despite access to these images and the plethora of internet-based pornography, there is little firm knowledge regarding female genital structure, function and vocabulary within the community.33 Pornography mostly depicts digitally-modified images that portray women’s genitals with no labia minora protrusion, thus potentially skewing young women’s (and men’s) perceptions of what is considered normal.32,34,35,36
Australian censorship laws prohibit the publication of illustrations of the labia minora and the clitoris.32,35
Vulvas are invariably made to resemble that of prepubescent girls, with pubic hair removed and a single crease placed between the labia majora,29–32
which contributes to the general lack of knowledge and understanding about female genital diversity.
A recent study from South Australia’s Flinders University revealed that women who had greater exposure to images of female genitals were more likely to consider labiaplasty. Of the 351 women aged 18–69 who were surveyed as part of the study, 17% were interested in having labiaplasty.27
Most women who are contemplating any form of FGCS are likely to seek information from provider websites. These sites often describe aesthetically pleasing or desirable genitalia as the neat single slit. The quality and quantity of clinical information in FGCS provider sites is poor, providing erroneous information in some instances.14,28,29,34
Health professionals are influenced by similar sociocultural forces that skew preferences for desirable versus normal.10,37,38 It is important to be mindful of this when addressing women who present requesting FGCS or have concerns regarding their own appearance (also refer to Appendix 1 for information on the Australian media code of conduct on body image).