Research

‘Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves: A Phenomenological Inquiry into the Experience of Labiaplasty’ (2013-2017) was an in-depth qualitative study of women’s experiences of labiaplasty, a newly emerged and increasingly sought after cosmetic surgery carried out on the external female genitalia. Labiaplasty is performed primarily to decrease the size of the inner labia and therefore to address genital appearance dissatisfaction and anxiety, as well as to potentially alleviate physical discomfort with clothing, exercise and sexual intercourse. The study utilized a time-oriented process inquiry to explore the motivations, experiences and reflections of adult women who underwent the surgery following a lengthy, complex and multi-layered deliberation. The research also investigated the psychological, functional and sexual outcomes postoperatively, including changes in women’s body image, physical functioning and sexual pleasure. The accounts of labiaplasty were situated in the wider socio-cultural environment that arguably reinforces women’s preoccupation with and investment in their physical appearance by rewarding it with social, economic and symbolic capital. In terms of methodology the project employed a creative application of feminist and social-psychological theories, as well as a qualitative and specifically phenomenological approach. The interview transcripts resulting from this study can be obtained via the Digital Repository of Ireland. Access to the transcripts is restricted to bona fide researchers and teachers, and to students that are currently registered at a third-level academic institution.