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Evaluations of Black & White Labia

Evaluations of Black and White Female Genitalia by Labiaplasty Status: A Pre-Registered Contextualization, Replication, and Extension of Findings on Labial Perceptions - Flora Oswald, Kari A. Walton, Devinder Khera, Amanda Champion, & Cory L. Pedersen


Labiaplasty is an increasingly common form of cosmetic surgery involving the removal of portions of the labia minora to achieve a smaller, more symmetrical labial appearance. Labiaplasty is inextricably linked to the colonial medicalization of Black women’s labia, necessitating examination of labiaplasty and race in concert. Participants (N = 4351, Mage = 26.58; SDage = 8.89) were shown 12 randomized images of White and Black female genitalia – unaware that they were “before and after” images of labiaplasty procedures – and evaluated them on their alignment with societal ideals, personal ideals, perceived normalcy, and disgustingness. As hypothesized, postoperative labia were rated as more normal, more societally ideal, and more personally ideal than their preoperative counterparts; preoperative labia were rated as more disgusting than postoperative labia. Preoperative Black labia were perceived as more normal, more societally ideal, and more personally ideal, as well as less disgusting, than preoperative White labia. Postoperative White labia were perceived as more normal, more societally and personally ideal, and less disgusting than postoperative Black labia. Gender trends were inconclusive. Our findings point to the need for greater examination of how White bodily ideals shape evaluations of bodies, and for greater historical contextualization in research on labiaplasty.

Article published in The Journal of Sex Research

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