This article was originally published on NYPost.com. (Post image via flickr creative commons.)
The perfect vagina is pink, plump and hairless.
There is nothing major about its labia majora, curled primly to frame the entrance of the vagina and a clitoris with a hood so dainty that it might even be called cute. Projected on a screen in front of us in a slick, dark boardroom in Midtown Manhattan, the perfect vagina in the photograph is surrounded by the trademark sky blue of a surgical gown, a slash of orangey disinfectant Betadine on one splayed thigh.
That’s because the perfect vagina was created on an operating table, during a cosmetic surgery by Dr. Amir Marashi.
There’s a similarly petal pink and perfect vagina sitting on the table in front of us, life-size and molded out of silicone. It’s a surgical practice dummy, surprisingly heavy and complex. It’s about the length of my forearm, with two little anatomically correct tunnels built in. When I picked it up and dropped it on the table, it jiggled convincingly. I stare at it. The abyss gazes back.
No matter how comfortable with yourself and your body you think you are, there is always something new that you can hate. I learned this at this presentation, hailed as the “first-ever vagina showcase” and timed to run alongside New York Fashion Week.
I’d always thought that vaginas looked like, well, vaginas. One vagina wasn’t necessarily prettier or uglier than another any more than one was more fabulous or funnier or wiser or more stoic than another. The same goes for penises: variations on a genital theme, to be enjoyed at one’s own tempo and in one’s own style.
Marashi, an Iranian surgeon who specializes in vaginal cosmetic surgery and has performed more than 400 procedures in the largely mysterious field (there’s no formal certification or medical specialty, merely gynecological surgeons who perform surgeries to prettify genitalia), can shorten your labia, tighten your vagina, amplify your G-spot and even tighten the strings on your clitoral hood, so to speak. He can take into account preferences for shape and color, he explains, and boost your self-confidence and physicality to give you the best sex you’ve ever had with more orgasms than you’ve ever dreamed of.
Marashi wears a fitted suit with a dark deep-V T-shirt underneath, a hot-pink pocket square peeking out of his jacket. He takes his work seriously and seems friendly and knowledgeable, even after you think about the likely contents of his phone’s camera roll. He texts with his patients regularly, checking up on them post-op. He’s been doing this work for a long time and believes he’s making women’s lives more comfortable, happier. One reason a woman might choose to get her labia shortened, he says, is to make riding a bicycle less harrowing.
Around the office, co-workers and patients have nicknamed him “VW,” I’m told. It’s short for “Vagina Whisperer.”
His slideshow, presented in this boardroom with several bouquets of pink flowers, a tray of mini cupcakes and two life-size vagina models sitting on the table, refers to his practice as the “house of designer vaginas.” There is also apparently a fog machine built into this room’s ceiling, as well as green lasers that shoot from the ceiling to reflect on the shiny black table, for some light ambiance.
Before the presentation, a man shifts the silicone vagina away from the path of a laser, worrying aloud that it might burn through the rubber.
There are a handful of female members of the media, including myself, seated at the table, as well as a mishmash of PR people, colleagues of Marashi’s, three women who I later learn are former patients there to deliver testimonials (I rode the elevator up with one, who asked me if I knew the doctor and called the topic of vaginal surgery “amazing” before I knew her vagina had seen thousands of dollars worth of work), and two women in lab coats. One of them wears a tight red spaghetti-strap dress under her coat, the hem of the jacket hitting about the same spot on her thigh as the dress. Underneath her lab coat, the other woman wears a lacy black push-up bra and underwear.
Both are wearing spike heels. Neither, it turns out, serves a purpose. They just stand to either side of the presentation, being attractive and wearing lab coats.
The invite to the event had made mention of models, and I hadn’t known what to expect. Pictures? A full stirrups-and-table show-and-tell? The tension of wondering whether anyone in the room is going to drop trou at any moment to show off their surgically modified nether regions keeps me almost as tense as the kegels that I — and, I’m fairly certain, every other woman in the room — am frantically performing on an almost involuntary level. It’s like seeing a Jillian Michaels commercial on TV and doing two sit-ups before giving up.
The presentation began a few minutes before it was slated to, after all RSVPs had been accounted for and a meet-and-greet fizzled out. In a hall as bright white as the boardroom was dark, we had all mingled around a few platters of sushi and soy sauce and bottles of sparkling rose presumably meant to break the ice before the presentation, since, as a rep warned, “it’s gonna get pretty graphic in there.” One of the bottles is empty, while five more stand intact and at attention, nobody bold or motivated enough to pop a cork in the mostly quiet lobby.
Here are some facts about Marashi that I learned at the presentation:
- He was in his first operating room at age 10, observing his father’s work in Europe.
- He is going to Dubai in a matter of days to present about cosmetic vaginal surgery.
- He says he performs 80 to 100 such procedures a year now, and is seeing an anecdotal growth in demand (the field is largely unstudied, so hard statistics are difficult to come by).
- He sometimes rests his hand lightly on an upright plastic mold of a vagina while he speaks, one finger absently tapping above the clitoris.
- He doesn’t always use the word “vagina” when he means vagina, at one point saying that “80 percent of people do some kind of grooming around the” — a pause — “private parts.”
- He has built stand-in hymens for women to prove their virginity at marriage overseas, and has performed two clitoral reconstructions for victims of genital mutilation.
- He has a “measure twice, cut once” rule for his surgeries, and says that anesthesiologists regularly scold him for spending 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of the surgery planning before doing any work. With a straight face he says, “They tell me I’m really anal about it.” (I laughed.)
In the age of narcissism and self-creation, it shouldn’t necessarily surprise me as much as it does that there’s a demand for surgical vaginal beautification. Marashi cites “basketball wives and singers, not singers you would know like Shakira and Beyoncé, but backup singers,” as being among his clientele, as well as everyday New Yorkers. A 46-year-old mother of three, dressed nicely in a blazer and slacks, says she’s had “numerous procedures” with Marashi, “almost everything,” and calls it “the best decision we ever made.” She loops her arm through Marashi’s as she speaks, sounding heartfelt: “He’s like family.” Behind her, four close-up before-and-after shots of surgically altered vaginas loom, forgotten.
She asks us to excuse her if she’s being vulgar, but that she’s now told that “I have a double p: a pretty p—y.” Another thing she has: a child who was born weighing 9 pounds 11 ounces, and, recently, orgasms during intercourse, for the first time. “Thanks,” she says, turning to Marashi with a smile.
We also hear from a 27-year-old patient of Marashi’s, the one I rode the elevator with. She’s wearing black slacks and a black corset-type top, and says she turned to Marashi for help upgrading her nether regions after another surgeon’s work failed to live up to her expectations. Twice.
She had her first vaginoplasty at age 20, and went back for a second go at 24 or 25. She felt like her labia were so big that she didn’t want to wear a bikini in front of other people at her apartment’s rooftop pool, and would stand sideways if she was wearing tight pants, afraid that what she viewed as outsize labia would be visible through her clothes. The third time, last year with Marashi, was a charm: “I wish it was summer … I’m going to go to all the nude beaches possible.” She returned to Marashi last week for a FemiLift treatment, a technique that uses a laser wand to tighten the vagina without invasive surgery, but says she hasn’t “tested it yet.”
As the assembled group claps, she curtsies, lightly grabs her crotch through her pants, and laughs.
These aren’t medically necessary surgeries. They can help with incontinence or riding bikes, but for the most part, they’re about making a woman feel self-confident and sexy. They’re a surgical excision of any and all worries about camel toe. It would be easy to judge those who spend unspecified thousands to nip and tuck their nethers, but I’ve also spent untold thousands over the years on medically unnecessary tattoos, hair dye, body piercings, makeup and more. This is no different, just more taboo.
A little under two hours after I was enlightened about the perfect vagina, the whole world of classifications and standards of vaginal beauty and function that I’d never even known existed, I step out of vaginaland, back onto the freezing Midtown street. I left the proffered goody bag, containing a certificate good for a complimentary full-face Botox treatment, on the table. Genital loveliness standards or no, I’m fine the way I am.