Porn is the likely culprit in the alarming increase in surgeries
When Maya Bernstein, 18, first became sexually active in high school, she was nervous. How would she know what to do? “But my friends were like, ‘Oh just watch porn and you’ll learn how to do everything,” the New York City high school senior recalls.
By college, a third of women and 90% of men have viewed porn, which some experts say has become a main source of sex ed for millions of American teens. “A lot of girls watch porn to learn how to have sex,” Bernstein said. “What they see there influences the way things should go, and how they think things should look.”
Especially, it seems, how things should look. Between 2014 and 2015, there was an 80% increase in the number of girls 18 and younger receiving genital plastic surgery, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The numbers shot up so quickly that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued new guidelines this month for doctors who perform labial and breast surgery. Among the recommendations: physicians are now encouraged to screen girls for body dysmorphic disorder, an obsession with an imagined or slight defect in appearance. the pressure to be a “good girl” doesn’t evaporate when a girl lies down. The same unwritten rules are in play on the horizontal: put others’ needs before yours, be liked, be nice, and don’t make people mad. “They worry about doing it well, doing it right, and doing it in a way that’s pleasing for the other person,” Tolman says. That’s why, as Orenstein reports in her new book, Girls and Sex, one in three girls ages 15-18 have given oral sex to avoid having intercourse, and as many as 70% of girls fake orgasms.
As if girls didn’t have enough to be self-critical about— a study last year found that 80% of girls have dieted by age 8— they can now add female genitals to the list. “It used to be there were parts of girls’ bodies that were not exposed to public opinion,” Nagoski says. “There’s hardly any body part left that girls are allowed to be not critical of.”
Rachel Simmons is co-founder of Girls Leadership, the author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence, and a leadership specialist at Smith College.