No More Cutting: Meet The Artist Making Paper Vaginas To Fight FGM

Body dissatisfaction in teenage girls is as involuntary as boners are for teenage boys: inevitable and unfortunate. But while there’s a simple solution to getting rid of a rogue hard-on, being unhappy with your appearance isn't as fun, and it's leading young women to seek out surgical interventions.

So many teens want to prune and shape their lady garden that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued guidance from its Committee on Adolescent Health Care about what to do when teenage girls ask for cosmetic genital surgery, so doctors can reassure patients that what you have between your legs is 100% normal.

In the last year alone there has been an 80% increase in the number of girls that requested labiaplasty since 2014 (from 222 girls to 400 girls) and a 2013 British report found the number of labial reductions on girls and women done by the National Health Service had increased fivefold over 10 years.

But while young women might want to cut and trim their vulvas out of dissatisfaction, there are almost 200 million women and girls around the world that have been unwillingly subjected to FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), according to the United Nations Population Fund.

(Image: No More Cutting)

(Photo: No More Cutting)

Seeing a disturbing parallel between labiaplasty and FGM, British artist and director of Papersmith studio Mandy Smith created "No More Cutting": a project to raise awareness of FGM with the aim of ending the practice within a generation, but also empowering women to love their bodies (genitals included).

The UN recognises FGM as a human rights violation and was outlawed in the UK in 1985, and yet it still happens behind closed doors. Between January and March in 2016 alone, more than 1,200 cases of FGM were newly recorded in England.

Despite common belief, FGM is not always rooted in religious beliefs. The practice, which involves cutting (or completely removing) the labia and clitoris, stems from traditional notions of modesty and purity, and a desire to control women’s sexuality - in the most extreme cases, it's designed to make sex painful so that women are less promiscuous.

(Image: No More Cutting)

(Photo: No More Cutting)

"With female genitals being a taboo subject of sorts I also wanted to educate people on the sheer volume of how unique the female genitals are and how they should be celebrated and kept as nature intended," Smith tells Konbini. "Both topics had been in my head for a while and things just came together last year with the idea on how I could create a platform to celebrate the female form."

Together with paper artist Oksana Valentelis, photographer Kyla Elaine and interactive production company Random Studio, Smith used anonymously submitted photos of real women’s vulvas to curate a collection of 81 paper vaginas of all shapes and sizes, to highlight the diversity and uniqueness of the natural female body.

Smith chose paper not only because it's the material she's used to working with, but because she thinks it perfectly represents the vulvas. "It seemed like the perfect material to create strong looking forms," she says, "but also is a material that clearly captures the fragility of the different labia." As well as being a tongue-in-cheek way of alluding to cutting genitals.

(Photo: No More Cutting)

(Photo: No More Cutting)

(Photo: No More Cutting)

(Photo: No More Cutting)

Although Smith recognises the difference between FGM and labiaplasty (mainly that one is consensual and the other is not), she finds genital plastic surgery equally disturbing. She says:

 

"The over sexualisation of younger people has made it so they feel their body is more of an object to look a certain way for a certain audience, instead of realising they are completely normal - and having the inner peace and confidence of knowing that."

 

Without easily available, accurate sex education, girls don't have much to turn to, ultimately getting their sexual education from porn. In a bid to champion healthy self-image and body confidence, Smith ultimately wants to bring No More Cutting into schools to learn about healthy body image in a non-school, non-porn context.

 

"The project really shows how diverse the female form is and it’ll only keep doing so the more it grows.

If we could educate young ladies and young men in schools on this topic and encourage more confidence in girls with their bodies hopefully we could help lower reduce the trend on labiaplasties."

 

Smith hopes to organise an exhibition in London in early 2017, "Bringing the work to a physical space really helps show the fragility of the artwork and it’s also super powerful to see them all in one go." But it's vital the project stays online as well to make “normality” easy to access "to counteract the designer vaginas present in the pornographic industry."

In the meantime, supporters of the project can purchase artwork from the website (proceeds go to Equality Now) and submit anonymous photos of their own vulvas. To learn more visit the No More Cutting website

(Photo: No More Cutting)

(Photo: No More Cutting)

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