Science & Tech 23 November 2012 Sexual consumerism is a conspiracy against young women Capital will never stop exploiting new terrain, even if that means colonising our children's innocence. Print HTML Sitting on my commuter train on Thursday, I glanced at my fellow travelers Metro and an article headlined “‘Pornstar chic’ sees nine-year-old girls ask for designer vaginas on the NHS”. Now I see a conspiracy of consumerisation where others might see Free Masons. But just because I’m paranoid it doesn’t mean they are not out to commodify you, me and everything. I Googled the headline on my smart phone to get the facts, which proves two things. First, Google like Hoover has become a verb and therefore my commodification of everything theory holds true. Second, I’m very careless about what I type into my browser. Luckily the search was specific enough that nothing too embarrassing emerged. But it was a stupid risk, one I repeated that evening during the Liverpool UEFA cup game when I foolishly decided I needed to know more about their opponents - the Young Boys of Bern. It's all just research you understand. Anyway back to young girls’ vaginas. One designer vagina would be horrendous. How can one possibly happen? What could be going through her mind, her parents’ minds or the surgeons that validated such an act? But a report in the British Medical Journal reveals that 343 labiaplasties were performed on girls aged 14 or younger over the last six years. That’s three hundred and forty three on girls aged fourteen or younger!! According to the Metro – the morning free sheet paid for by advertisers to sell you things you didn’t know you needed, using money you probably don’t have, which I remind you of just in case you were still in any doubt about my consumerisation conspiracy theory: The Department of Health says it only carries out the procedure for clinical reasons, such as on those with vaginal injuries.But researchers from University College Hospital, London, suggest the number of operations is far higher than those needed for medical reasons only. ‘Labial anomalies requiring surgical interventions are extremely rare,’ the report said. Cosmetic labiaplasty, which reduces the size of labia, has boomed – and cosmetic surgeons have reported a rise in requests for ‘designer vaginas’ that look like those of Playboy models. Apparently there is no age limit on when children can have plastic surgery. That’s like saying there is no age limit on when you can become a Nazi. A civilized society shouldn’t have age limits for everything because it is (a) a society and (b) civilized. So how did we get here? I’m afraid, and obviously this is just my paranoia again, it is the searing and irrefutable logic of the free market that has no morality or scruples, that doesn’t recognise notions of right or wrong just pounds, shillings and pence. Competition means that if you don’t offer services and products that are simply grotesque then someone else will. Share price, profits and bonuses depend on a dog-eat-dog spirit in which its just the ‘economy stupid’. So a mum or a dad can design and sell a product, like sexualized underwear for girls as young as nine, they would never let their daughter have, because it’s their job and it pays for things they not just want but need and must have. And if they didn’t win the race to the ethical bottom then someone else will. It’s then up to individuals to decide what they want to buy and what they don’t – we are all free to choose. After all we live in a free society. But what sort of freedom is it for the young women of 14 or younger who are having insecurities provoked about the shape of their vaginas? Why do they even know about porn star chic? What pressure or ridicule is heaped on them by the young men in their schools and on their streets? What abuse is handed out if they are not nipped and tucked? A context is being created in which this is the new norm. It tells us about the pornification of our culture – in which internet access to hard core porn is now available to all. And before you tell me parents should monitor it – the proliferation of smart phones, tablets and PCs makes this virtually impossible. And are they meant to avert their eyes from billboards or never watch TV? Sex sells and commercialisation goes hand in hand with sexualisation. A wider popular culture is now rampant in which individual beauty and the search for perfection is as endless as it is soulless. And not just for adults but for children. Look at the adverts for the likes of Armani Junior. Small children are dressed up in adult clothes, in adult poses at prices most adults can’t afford. Make up is worn at an ever younger age along with cropped tops and thongs. And as sex sells, it doesn’t matter who is sold to or the misery it causes as young women become objects for male gratification as the figures on sexual abuse and rape are now showing. Love, respect, care and dignity cannot be priced and are therefore valueless. Compassion and consumerism cannot go together. Over 100 years ago Rosa Luxemburg the Marxist revolutionary wrote brilliantly about the ever-expanding nature of capital in her theory of empire. Capitalism would expand to new territories where natural resources were abundant and regulations were non-existent so that places and people could be exploited to the full, and profit maximized. She called them virgin lands. Luxemburg could only see the geographical expansion of capital. What we are experiencing today is the emotional and cultural expansion of capital into every aspect of lives and our society. And yes into ‘virgin’ lands in a way that is stomach-churning. The new abundance is us, the people, or our children if necessary. And there are still no regulations to stop it happening. Today in Britain some children go hungry while others have plastic surgery performed on their genitals. It's a sick world. › Who's offended by Victoria's Secret? Freedom to shop. Source: Getty Images Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass and author of the book All Consuming. 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