Leigh Martyn Thomas's husband of 15 years has never seen her naked due to her physical self loathing. "I often joke it's not plastic surgery I need, but therapy". Of course plastic surgery (or cosmetic surgery if you're pernickety about such things, as I am) isn't required, Leigh is not a burns victim or suffering from some physicality that ruins her quality of life. Meaning that if the situation is making her unhappy, therapy is perhaps required.
The other three women featured all describe how a change in their bodies caused them to stop allowing their husbands to see them nude. Menopause, pregnancy, weight gain and loss. Bodies change. No doubt the husbands featured have gained weight, lost hair and sagged over time - they no doubt will and their wives will hopefully accept that.
Media images are not cited as a cause of low self-esteem so much as an innate conviction that they are somehow 'wrong'.
In a recent study, What's normal? Influencing women's perceptions of normal genitalia: an experiment involving exposure to modified and non-modified images was published in an obstetrics and gynaecology journal which asked 97 women aged between 18 and 30 years old to view a series of vulva and blank images. Some of the vulvae were surgically modified. Using a four-point Likert scale ('strongly agree' to 'strongly disagree') to rate each image for âlooks normalâ and ârepresents society's idealâ the women were given two summary scores showing the extent to which she rated the unmodified vulvae as more 'normal' and more 'society's ideal' than the modified vulvae.
Women who had first viewed the modified images rated the modified target vulvae as more normal than the non-modified vulvae. Whereas the control group rated the modified vulvae as less normal. All three groups (shown the vulvae images in different order) rated society's ideal as the modified vulvae. The study concluded that "Exposure to images of modified vulvas may change women's perceptions of what is normal and desirable. This may explain why some healthy women seek labiaplasty."
The lead researcher of the study, Claire Moran commented that: "These findings further heighten concerns that unrealistic concepts of what is considered normal may lead to genital dissatisfaction among women, encouraging women to seek unnecessary surgery...This research is the first to document the extent to which exposure may impact women's genital dissatisfaction and more needs to be done to promote awareness and education around genital diversity in our society."
We might need to crack out the communal changing rooms again people, because we need to see more physical diversity here, there and everywhere if we are to get in our (diverse) heads that bodies differ - as do people's preferences.