Breasts implants and other plastic surgeries

by Maxime Durocher, April 21, 2013

In this article, I’ll try to go through all the layers of the different cosmetic options to the modern human in an effort to rationalize the debate, because I don’t understand why some people think it’s morally wrong (or simply objectionable) to have plastic surgery for purely esthetic reasons.

It’s understood that if it’s for a “medical” reason, it’s acceptable. Why do I put quotes there? Because the medical reason still comes down to esthetic. In the end, if you ask any good doctor, they’ll say the medical reason is to make the patient feel better about their appearance. The patient wants to be like he or she was before.

Furthermore, you find that in most instances, the patients are not above asking for some improvements. For the same price, why wouldn’t they? And in such case, socially, the improvements are considered acceptable. They get a free pass. Why do they?

Deconstructing social responses to breast implants

I’ll work through this by examples.

My first one is the easiest one of them all. Imagine a woman, a breast cancer survivor who had a full mastectomy. Here, if she chose to have plastic surgery done and implants inserted, only very few people would view that in a negative light.

Taking into consideration such a situation, where the whole procedure is considered socially acceptable, we can safely conclude that the unnaturalness of the implants is also acceptable. It cannot be the foundation for any critique of breast surgery.

Now, let’s go one step further. What if she chose to enlarge her breasts, one cup size higher than they were previous to the mastectomy? She probably wouldn’t mention, in fear of judgement. She might tell a few of her closest relations, those she felt safe with. Most of the others wouldn’t even notice. However, how would the people who found out react? Most of them would think the enlargement is acceptable.

What if she chose to go two cup size higher than she was? She would probably keep it a complete secret. To those who noticed, she’d probably say she only went one size higher. She would be embarrassed if she ever had to explain her need for any further augmentation.

What if she went even higher, to a size we associate with porn stars. No way to hide it. She would be judged and stared at. What would be the reason people would invoke for their disapprobation? “It’s not natural, it’s too big.” However, this is a disingenuous response, because we’ve stipulated that in the case of a breast cancer survivor, the unnatural implants are acceptable. Moreover, society accepts women with large natural breasts, so it cannot be the size.

What if someone was to point that out those very facts to the people frowning down on such large augmentation? What would be the response? Beyond childish denial, most answers would be a variation of: “I don’t like fake breasts” or “I don’t like large breasts” or “They’re not proportionate to the rest of her body”. Basically, all would be statement of preferences. Judging somebody on your preferences is immature at best.

Now, imagine a woman who lost a lot of weight because she wanted to be healthier and finds herself with small flappy breasts. She’s unhappy with herself and won’t get undressed in front of a lover. She wants to be back like she was before. Why couldn’t she opts for plastic surgery? Because she should accept her body as it is? Why then was the cancer survivor given the option of not accepting her body? Why would one be judged and the other not? They both want to be like they were. They both changed for medical reasons, both life threatening reasons. Why? There’s no good reason. They both should be able to.

This time, imagine a woman who has small breast and large hips. She’s also unhappy with her body and would like more proportionate curves. Why should her unhappiness about her body be less important? Because she hasn’t been sick? Does happiness needs to be born of sickness?

What about a woman who just would like to have bigger breasts? What if she wants really big breasts? If that makes her happy, why judge her? It can’t be because it’s unnatural, because we proved that implants are acceptable and simply depends on taste. Because she wants to do it strictly based on cosmetic reasons? Because you can live your life without such change? By that logic, cosmetics such as makeup and beautiful clothes are unacceptable.

What about art? Visual art is nothing but cosmetic, and you can live without it. Plastic surgery naysayers would say that the value of art lies in self-expression. I agree, self-expression as value. Clothes are a form of self-expression. Even if you do not try to express yourself with your clothes, they will tell a story about who you are. If you don’t care about them, they will shout that you don’t care. In much the same way, makeup is self-expression.

All of those form of self-expression are acceptable. Why couldn’t somebody express his or her inner self by fitting their body to their inner state? Because it’s permanent?

Then you certainly mustn’t like tattoos, piercings, or other body modifications!

Let me pause here.

Last year, I saw the documentary “Flesh & Blood” (you can see it here on YouTube: — Not for weak stomachs), and it opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know anything about. I certainly won’t do any of the things showed in that movie, but now, I understand why they do it. It truly is self-expression, a projection of their inner self on their bodies. It’s an attempt at modifying their body to fit their mental image, to fit what they consider beautiful.

That being said, if you don’t like tattoos, piercings, or breast implants, fine. Just don’t judge. Those people are just being themselves, but it’s not with clothes, a canva or any other usual medium, it’s with their body.

Beyond breast implants

I might have convinced you not to judge breast implants, but what about the other types of plastic surgery? Let me give some more examples, and you’ll see that it’s exactly the same.

In 2001, I was attacked late on a Saturday night. My nose got brutally smashed. It resulted in an ambulance ride and a night at the hospital. It healed, but it looked squashed and I couldn’t breathe through it. A few months later, I went into surgery. They broke it again to straighten it up. It healed. I got to breathe again through my nose, but its profile looked like a saddle back, in one word: ugly. A year later, I went back to surgery. It took another year and a half of healing before I was able to breathe normally again, this time with a good looking nose.

Those surgeries were mostly for medical reasons, and I didn’t opt for a change of look, but it definitely was to make me feel better about my appearance. I didn’t really look in a mirror for a bit over two years. Though I’m happy with the repairs, they are not perfect. Where the profile of my nose was straight as a line, now it has a kink.

However, I will not go through surgery just to correct that little break, but what if wanted to? Why should I be judged for doing so? Because what I have is good enough? That’s silly. Why couldn’t have I the straight nose I had before?

What if somebody was born with the same kink as I have? Why couldn’t that person have that changed? Why should I have the right to a straight nose just because I was born with one, and not that person? That’s even sillier.

A woman’s petals

The following topic is a much more sensitive subject. When I saw the documentary “Petals - The Vagina Dialogs” I was struck by how they vilified labiaplasty. I understand the angle they’re attacking it from, the whole film is about empowering women, giving them confidence. So, in that sense, cutting your vagina is tantamount to not accepting it.

I’m a strong advocate of pussy power, and I try to stimulate that in my work (no pun intended — but it’s still funny). However, a woman wanting her inner vaginal lips a little shorter or differently shaped shouldn’t be judged for her choice. The pussy is a great symbol of womanhood, but it shouldn’t be enshrined into immutability. A pussy is fun, it’s not a dogma.

To alleviate the storm that might descend upon me, I’ll give another personal example. As the pussy is a great symbol of womanhood, the cock is a great symbol of manhood. I had to have an operation on mine, my frenum (where the foreskin is attached) was too short for comfort. Young, it wasn’t a problem, but with time it became one. I had to have it cut.

I can tell you that the operation is not without pain. The injection of the local anesthetic is actually extremely painful. Needles in a cock, however small they are, are a sure path to excruciating pain. The healing was also a mess of pain with added nausea. The final result was much relished, and I swear I didn’t lose any of my masculinity because I got cut there, just as circumcised men are as manly as any other men. So, why would a woman be any less because she decided to have labia cut? Outrage should be reserved for the horrors of excision and infibulation. Those are the real crime and still performed around the globe.

Let me take an even more different perspective. Let say labiaplasty is like cutting a part of yourself, that you are less as a result. Then by that logic, a person who has lost a finger or an arm is a lesser person. That’s a ridiculous and pernicious way of thinking. You’re not your body. There are some handicapped climbers that climb much tougher routes than I do. There’s plenty of such happy people, just take look at one of my favorite TED talk:

A silly outrage

Let me make the whole condescending outrage about plastic surgery even sillier.

Have you ever considered hair removal? If you think about it, that’s a cosmetic procedure situated somewhere between makeup and plastic surgery. Nobody even think twice about performing this procedure anymore. It’s normal. You can do it or not, it’s your choice, you won’t be judged (or at least shouldn’t be).

Why is there such an outrage?

It can be caused by a few number of things.

1) Envy or jealousy. These apply only to a certain type of person. It also fails to address the visceral response most people have. That response is fear, but fear of what?

2) Our most basic fear is our fear of what’s different. Any mammal (and a number of other animals) has a deep mistrust of anything it doesn’t know. It’s a reaction mechanism that exists for survival reason. Better be skittish when it comes to unknown shadows then be eaten by a predator because we didn’t pay attention. However, we’re getting more and more accustomed to plastic surgery, so it’s not the only answer.

3) Most people who seriously thought about the issue are really fearful the precedent it sets. If large breasts come to be the societal norm, then anybody who doesn’t have large breasts or can’t afford to have implants will be stigmatized. A good example of this lies in a habit I previously talked about. Today it is common practice for a woman to take care of her body hair, anyone who doesn’t do so can face ridicule from others. Society can exert pressure.

Being trapped by society

This fear of being forced by society to adhere to standards we disagree with, or can’t measure up to, is quite normal. Who, in school, hasn’t felt the wrath of trend setters, been forced to take their side to avoid repercussions, or even has sat on the throne of judgement themselves? Everyone can relate to that.

This issue is easy to understand. Maslow's hierarchy of needs (read about it here on Wikipedia) list the need for esteem. Within that basic need clashes two somewhat apparently immiscible notions: self-esteem and esteem of others. Both are important. We human beings are individuals, but we are also a gregarious specie. We need to be accepted. That leads some persons to define their self-esteem by what others think of them. By that mechanism you can destroy yourself.

To avoid that, you must build self-confidence and define who you are first, then work on "social acceptance". Granted, that's a tough thing to do. I can relate. When I was young I fell into that trap of wanting to be accepted, like most of us. In my later years, however, I decided not to seek social acceptance anymore, and only acceptance from those I loved and trusted. Basically, social acceptance is better defined as acceptance from your close social group, not from society at large.

So, that fear of being trapped by social acceptance is understandable, but we cannot pass judgement on plastic surgery based on our fears. The same way we cannot abolish freedom of speech because we fear racist propaganda.

Final thoughts

Plastic surgery is not a magical answer to low self-esteem. Too many people look for instant fixes, and those persons will make mistakes even worse than ineffective surgery.

A weapon is not evil, it’s the person who use it to hurt that is evil. Plastic surgery is the same, it will only lead to tears if you do it for the wrong reasons.

You’re not your body, you don’t need plastic surgery to increase your self-esteem. That’s true, but what if you want to? What if it makes you feel better?

Express yourself, let those who judge be miserable.