Though Kim Kardashian said she’d break the internet with her Paper Magazine cover, we think she did one better when she posted a nude selfie. Various celebs flocked to support her, other women recreated her selfie in the name of empowerment, Kim penned a liberating essay on the topic, and she even mentioned it in her Webby Awards speech last night, stating, “Nude selfies until I die.”
However, it turns out that nude celeb selfies such as Kim’s may not be as body positive as we originally thought.
When speaking to Femail, gynecologist and fertility consultant Dr. Ahmed Ismail stated, “In my many years of experience as a gynaecologist, I have seen a direct correlation between this and the rising number of perfectly normal women worrying about the ‘normality of their vaginas.‘” In other words, all the nude celeb selfies we’ve been seeing these days have been taking a toll on women’s self-esteem.
There’s actually a name for the above insecurity. It’s called Genital Phobia and it refers to an uncontrollable fear that one’s genitalia isn’t good enough and won’t successfully please a partner (or society as a whole). Dr. Ismail divulged that this way of thinking seems to be especially popular in western countries like America and the United Kingdom – especially since these cultures tend to consume more sexualized media.
Essentially, Genital Phobia has to do with comparing. “The main cause of Genital Phobia is society’s increasing social openness of sex through visual content or discussions and comparisons with friends about one’s sex life and sexual anatomy,” Dr. Ismail explained. “In the past, all of this information remained private, leaving little room for women to compare their genitalia to that of other females, or to become insecure.”
The Aesthetic Plastic Surgery group’s statistics on labiaplasty – a surgery that involves the trimming of the labia – confirm this. In 2013, 5,070 women underwent this procedure and, one year later, there was a 49% increase. A whooping 7,535 individuals decided to experience a labiaplasty. ABC reveals that, in 2015 alone, these rates went up by 15%. “It’s one more body part that we as women are being told to be insecure about,” Dr. Barbara Levy – the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist’s vice president for health policy – told NBC.
Plus, a recent survey conducted by You Gov found that only 56% of women age 18-29 think their pubic hair should be removed, but 72% of them do it anyway. This means that many women are spending the time (and money) to remove their pubic hair even though they don’t feel they should. According to The Guardian, this has caused an increase in people heading to the emergency room because they injured themselves while trying to groom their genitalia.
What’s perhaps most interesting is that the people posting the nude selfies can be just as insecure as those who are viewing them. Dr. Ismail revealed that those posting these photos may be looking for validation in the form of likes, re-tweets, and positive comments.
Dr. Ismail concluded, “Without realizing it, they are inflicting their own insecurities on their fans and thus Genital Phobia. If it is not stopped soon, it will become a vicious circle with one fuelling the other and so on.”