An article published in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics is calling on surgeons to use responsible practices when defining “normal” anatomy.

In the past few years, Snapchat has allowed plastic surgeons to showcase labiaplasty surgical procedures to a large audience. Although some surgeons claim these videos can serve as an educational tool, often the subject matter veers into unethical territories.

“Although these surgeons receive consent from their patients to use the patients’ images on Snapchat, the way the surgeons speak about and handle their female patients’ bodies on Snapchat is often vulgar, sexist, and gender normative,” the article authors wrote.

“Practices the authors have observed on Snapchat such as dunking excess fat into basketball hoops, pretending to wear a woman’s skin, or groping newly reconstructed body parts while commenting on their sex appeal must be avoided,” they added.

Although the women haven given consent to appear in these videos, they are usually unconscious, so they have no control over how the video is handled. During the video, the surgeon defines what is considered “abnormal” about the woman and how it will be fixed during the procedure.

“By pathologizing certain characteristics of female genitalia,” the authors wrote, “surgeons contribute to the notion that women’s bodies need ‘fixing’ which can be damaging to women’s identities.”

Surgeons have an important responsibility to help define the many varieties of “normal” anatomy, which should be more valuable than going viral.

Reference

Stahl D, Vercler CJ. What should be the surgeon’s role in defining “normal” genital appearance? AMA J Ethics. 2018;20(4):384-391.