The Perfect Vagina

Cosmetic Surgery in the Twenty-First Century

by Lindy McDougall

Published by: Indiana University Press

288 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 9 b&w illus., 3 b&w tables

  • Paperback
  • 9780253056139
  • Published: May 2021


  • eBook
  • 9780253056146
  • Published: May 2021


  • Hardcover
  • 9780253056115
  • Published: May 2021


In the West, a specific ideal for female genitalia has emerged: a "clean slit," obtained through the removal of pubic hair and, increasingly, through female genital cosmetic surgery, known as FGCS.

In The Perfect Vagina, Lindy McDougall provides an ethnographic account of women who choose FGCS in Australia and the physicians who perform these procedures, while also examining the environment in which these surgeons and women come together. Such physicians have a vested interest in establishing the surgery as valid medical intervention, despite the fact that majority medical opinion explicitly acknowledges that a wide range of variation is normal. McDougall offers a nuanced picture of why and how these procedures are performed and draws parallels between FGCS and the anthropological discussions of female genital circumcision. Using the neologism biomagical, she argues that cosmetic surgery functions as both ritual and sacrifice due to its promise of transformation while simultaneously submitting the body to the risks and pain of surgery, thus exposing it as an increasingly cultural and commercial pursuit.

The Perfect Vagina highlights the complexities involved in FGCS, its role in Western beauty culture, and the creation and control of body image in capitalist countries, where medicine is increasingly harnessed for enhancement rather than health.