Home | Index of articles
Inside the world’s largest illegal ‘Viagra’ factory feeding randy Brits’ endless appetite for sex pills
POLICE in Poland have busted what is believed to be the the world’s largest illegal laboratory producing counterfeit Viagra pills.
Footage released today shows the inside of the huge operation which was manufacturing fake sex pills to feed the UK’s growing demand.
Fourteen people were arrested this week after Polish cops raided the plant which also specialises in body-building steroids .
“It was the world’s largest factory making anti-impotence drugs according to representatives of four companies whose products were counterfeited,” police spokeswoman Agnieszka Hamelusz revealed.
She said police had seized more than 100,000 fake pills for erectile dysfunction and 430,000 vials of steroids worth an estimated £3.5million during the raid near the northern city of Bydgoszcz.
Officers also arrested 14 suspects over the course of several months, Hamelusz confirmed.
Police allege the gang sold millions of euros worth of the counterfeit drugs via the internet, labelling them with popular brand names as well as their own branding.
A police swoop on a house turned up machines worth a million euros installed in secret rooms that could only be accessed through hidden passages.
Products for the manufacture of the drugs came from China via Greece, Britain and Romania.
The black market trade of Viagra has risen to historic heights, as drug regulators report a record seizure of fake Viagra.
MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) seized approximately £11million-worth of counterfeit Viagra in raids carried out across the UK in 2015.
This amounts to the largest volume of unlicensed erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs ever seized.
Fake impotency pills now account for 90 per cent of all counterfeit drugs seized in 2015.
The circulation of counterfeit Viagra has received a massive boost from internet sales, and it is estimated that up to 77 per cent of Viagra bought online is fake.
Fake Viagra pills can be bought online for as little as £2.
Many illegal sellers even pose as online pharmacists on their websites.
They are often fraudsters operating their trade out of a garden shed.
However, the scale of the problem goes far beyond Europe– the Viagra manufacturer Pfizer has already identified fake versions of the pill in 111 countries.
Interestingly, a significant amount of black market demand for Viagra comes from those who don’t even need it.
Whilst erectile dysfunction (ED) in young men is an issue – one in four patients newly diagnosed with ED are under 40 – it is believed the black market is mainly used by young men who want to use Viagra recreationally.
Many take it as a fail-safe, giving them a psychological boost to help them perform, even though they have no problems getting an erection.
International terrorism poses one of the greatest strategic challenges in the modern age as groups have become able to cross borders and carry out operations globally; and has gained a renewed focus since the events of September 11th 2001. It is possible that terrorists might attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction which could then be used anywhere in the world. The term ‘weapons of mass destruction’ itself is a relatively new term and normally encompasses chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons (CBRN). These are incredibly varied in their effects as well as their availability, and whilst terrorist groups might want to acquire such “weapons of terror”, the effectiveness of such weapons compared to conventional explosives may be disputed. Aum Shinrikyo for example is probably the most famous terrorist group to acquire and use weapons that would now be classified as WMDs, but was only able to do so due to its considerable financial resources, and even then “failed in all 10 of its biological weapons attacks” whilst the Sarin gas attack in 1995 caused roughly the same number of fatalities as “the average Palestinian suicide bomber attack.” In this essay I will examine the component parts of the term weapons of mass destruction (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) individually to assess the credibility of international terrorists using such weapons. I will show that although it is credible that terrorists would want to use such weapons and may attempt to do so in the future, conventional explosives have thus far proven more effective and in my opinion, it is far more likely that conventional terrorism will remain at the forefront of terrorist tactics.
Chemical terrorism is a potentially devastating form of WMD terrorism and certainly presents a credible threat to the international community. Toxic chemical agents such as chlorine and phosgene (which were first used as chemical weapons during the First World War) are found in many industry sectors and can easily be acquired and adapted for use in chemical weapons, although these devices will not be as effective as nerve agents, which are much more difficult to produce and require sophisticated laboratories to do so. Even so these weapons carry the potential to cause large amounts of casualties, although the vast majority of these would most likely be injuries rather than fatalities, and can be used effectively to create fear and encourage panic. Hamas is just one group that has pursued chemical weapons in the past, often lacing shrapnel used in suicide bombs with chemical agents, such as in December 2001 where “nails and bolts packed into explosives detonated…at the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall in Jerusalem were soaked in rat poison” in order to kill those survivors of the initial blast who were hit by shrapnel, and they have also attempted to acquire and use cyanide in attacks. So far however the effect of these chemical weapons seems limited and have been used in conjunction with conventional explosives rather than separately. Chemical weapons are also dependent on various factors including temperature and humidity, and when dispersed outside they become unpredictable due to wind conditions. In 1990 for example the Tamil Tigers attacked a Sri Lanka Air Force fortification using chlorine gas which was released to drift over the fort, and succeeded in injuring over 60 government soldiers and enabled the Tamil Tigers to take the fort, but then drifted back over their own positions. These chemical agents are rarely particularly effective, and it is noted that the Tamil Tigers used the chlorine gas simply because it was a weapon that they had to hand at the time and it suited a particular battlefield need. As a result terrorist organisations may try to utilise the potential of more deadly chemical weapons such as nerve agents, which I shall now discuss.
The cultivation of nerve agents such as Sarin or VX, is significantly more expensive than the procurement of other more basic agents, and requires considerable amount of expertise. Despite this it is still credible that terrorists could make use of such weapons as they have done in the past, most famously perhaps the Tokyo subway attack in 1995. Aum Shinrikyo had already carried out an attack using Sarin gas in 1994 in the city of Matsumoto, targeting three judges hearing “a lawsuit over a real-estate dispute in which Aum Shinrikyo was the defendant” and which they were likely to lose, subsequently killing 7 and wounding approximately 500. Following this, the Aum Shinrikyo cult group (now known as Aleph) carried out possibly the most successful chemical terrorist attack in 1995, releasing Sarin on the Tokyo subway system and causing 13 deaths and injuring approximately 6,300. In a subsequent raid on Satyan 7, a “supposed shrine to the Hindu god Shiva”, it was found that the building “housed a moderately large-scale chemical weapons production facility” which was designed to produce thousands of kilograms of Sarin a year, although at the time of the Tokyo subway attack it was no longer in service. This attack was the most devastating chemical attack by a terrorist group, and yet other attacks carried out using conventional explosives have been more effective, such as the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 where 301 people were killed and 5,000 were injured. It is unlikely that a chemical attack will occur again on such a large scale due to the amount of expense involved, as Aum Shinrikyo remains at this time “the only group that had the financing and the motivation to create or obtain a true military-grade CW agent”. It is also important to note that Aum Shinrikyo is an apocalyptic group, and it is relatively unlikely that a more politically motivated group, even one such as Al-Qaeda would carry out a mass casualty chemical attack. The threat of a small-scale chemical attack is very credible with the availability of resources but the effectiveness of such a weapon would be fairly limited, and would actually probably be less effective than a conventional attack.
Bioterrorism is a very real threat to the international community today as it can be both disruptive as well as destructive. There are many different forms of Biological weapons that could be used, “Some are contagious and can spread rapidly in a population, while others, including anthrax and ricin, infect and kill only those who are directly exposed.” This diversity in effects can enable a group to carry out either targeted or indiscriminate attacks depending on their goals but both types, if carried out correctly, have the capability to majorly disrupt the targeted state or region. A biological attack is a much more realistic threat than a nuclear attack largely because “Unlike nuclear arms, dangerous germs are cheap and easy to come by”, whilst their effects on people can potentially reach the same scale as a nuclear bomb. For a more disruptive but by no means less devastating attack, a group could potentially target crops and livestock, disrupting a state’s food supply and economy. Biological warfare itself has been in use for centuries; in the Siege of Caffa in 1346 for example the Tartar forces, who were suffering from an outbreak of plague, ordered the infected corpses loaded onto trebuchets and hurled into the city in an attempt to kill all its inhabitants. In the Second World War the British planned to drop 5 million linseed cakes contaminated with anthrax spores into Germany which would then be consumed first by cattle, and then by Germans who subsequently ate the infected animals, whilst simultaneously creating a food shortage for the surviving population through the death of the remaining cattle. This attack (known as Operation Vegetarian) was never put into action however Gruinard Island, the island on which the cakes were tested, was only cleared of contamination in 1990 which suggests the possible long-term effects such an attack could cause. I shall now examine different types of biological weapons as well as possible future threats.
Perhaps the most well-known biological agent that has been used as a weapon is anthrax, a disease caused by bacteria called Bacillus anthracis, largely because of the relative ease with which it can be cultivated and the various ways it can cause infection which each cause different symptoms (inhalation, contact with a break in the skin, or ingestion of anthrax-tainted meat). Causing infection on a large scale with anthrax is however incredibly difficult. This is perhaps best shown by Aum Shinrikyo’s failed anthrax attack in 1993, in which members of the group attempted to aerosolise a “liquid suspension of Bacillus anthracis in an attempt to cause an inhalational anthrax epidemic”, and in the process create the conditions for another world war. The attack caused a foul odour and some minor cases of appetite-loss; nausea and vomiting, but failed to infect a single person, and it was only discovered that it had been an attack using anthrax during an investigation following the Tokyo subway station attack in March 1995. The most successful attack using anthrax was perhaps the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States which occurred shortly after the events of September 11th. The attacks caused 22 cases of anthrax infection of which “Eleven of these were inhalational cases, of whom 5 died; [and] 11 were cutaneous cases (7 confirmed, 4 suspected).” Although the attack did not cause mass-casualties, it did cause major disruption and caused the temporary closure of the government mail service, as well as widespread fear of finding anthrax spores in the mail. There is also the threat of terrorists using the Botulinum toxin, one of the most deadly toxins known, which “poses a major bioweapon threat because of its extreme potency and lethality; its ease of production, transport, and misuse”. To cause more widespread damage terrorists could attempt to utilise contagious diseases such as the Ebola virus or even possibly avian influenza, and there is evidence to suggest that Aum Shinrikyo did at least contemplate the possibility of using the Ebola virus as a biological weapon. The use of contagious diseases in particular could become a major tactic for terrorist organisations in the future as it has the potential to cause widespread mass-casualties. The relative ease in the cultivation of agents such as anthrax and Botulinum, as well as the widespread and possibly transnational effects that contagious viruses could cause, makes bioterrorism a credible threat to the international community. However at this time it would appear that it would be extremely difficult to cause a crisis such as an epidemic and would probably therefore be limited to small scale attacks designed to cause more fear than casualties.
Radiological terrorism is perhaps one of the most credible threats to the international community, although arguably is also the least effective. The most credible use of radiological terrorism would probably be through the use of a radiological weapon, otherwise known as a ‘Dirty Bomb’ or a radiological dispersal device (RDD), which is designed to kill or injure “through the initial blast of the conventional explosive, and by airborne radiation and contamination (hence the term “dirty”).” They are realistically more weapons of mass disruption rather than destruction, but their capacity to create both large scale casualties and mass panic cannot be underestimated. A dirty bomb is a more realistic terrorist threat than a nuclear bomb largely because of the relative ease in its manufacture, as it is simply a conventional explosive with a radioactive isotope packed inside it; when the explosive detonates the isotope is dispersed over a large area thereby causing contamination over a wide area. There are a vast number of radioactive isotopes that could be used to make a dirty bomb and many of them are in the public domain, one example being caesium-137, a radioactive isotope that has widespread uses including certain cancer treatments. There have been two cases of terrorists attempting or threatening to use RDDs, though neither was successful in being carried out. The first occurred in 1995 in Moscow, when Chechen separatists buried a package containing Caesium-137 in Izmaylovsky Park, announcing it to the press in order to prove their ability to create and if necessary use a radiological weapon. The second instance of radiological terrorism was in December 1998, when the Chechen Secret Service discovered a dirty bomb “consisting of a land mine combined with radioactive materials”, which was quickly disarmed.
The relative ease in which a dirty bomb could be manufactured makes it far more likely than a nuclear bomb, however there are other possible forms of radiological terrorism that are perhaps less likely but potentially more dangerous, although there are no actual records of them occurring, including distribution in ventilation systems or the use of aircraft to powdered or aerosol forms of radioactive material. It is also theoretically possible that a terrorist organisation may attempt to attack a nuclear power station, following which a large enough explosion may allow the mass dispersion of a large amount of nuclear material, although safeguards and security arrangements should be able to deal with this threat. Although a successful radiological terrorist attack has not yet occurred, there are examples of the effects that radioactive materials have on humans, leading to increased fear about the possibility of attack. In September 1999 as just one example two thieves attempted to steal a container of radioactive materials from a chemical factory in Chechnya, but after half an hour one of the suspects died and the other collapsed, “even though each held the container for only a few minutes.” The threat to the international community from radiological terrorism is fairly credible given the relative ease in procurement and manufacture, and there is speculation that Al-Qaeda may have succeeded in creating a dirty bomb due to evidence found by British Intelligence agents and weapons researchers in 2003, although the device itself has not been found.
Nuclear terrorism is perhaps the most feared, and most unlikely, form of WMD Terrorism facing the world today. It has been argued that with increased amounts of uranium and particularly plutonium in circulation, due to more emphasis being placed on nuclear power, it is becoming far more likely that terrorists could acquire and build a nuclear weapon with relative ease. This argument follows that it is not only likely that terrorist organisations will attempt to acquire nuclear weapons, but they will also use them as a first resort weapon as a means of advancing their aims. In the context of Al-Qaeda, Busch notes that “bin Laden has declared obtaining nuclear weapons to be a religious duty” and that Al-Qaeda has been researching into this technology. This conflicts with bin Laden’s own statement made in November 2001 in which he said that he was already in possession of nuclear and chemical weapons, but that they would only be used as a deterrent, although perhaps the integrity of this statement can be debated in both its claim of ownership and professed intent. Governments and media seem to have a tendency to create worst-case scenarios regarding WMDs, most of which are relatively unrealistic. Albert Mauroni, a senior policy analyst with Northrop Grumman, notes as an example that the “US government fixates on scenarios that envision terrorist use of ten-kiloton nuclear weapons…worst-case scenarios that have little basis in reality” and this in itself can lead to the fear of the attack overshadowing the credibility or otherwise of a real attack. The intent for terrorist organisations to acquire nuclear weapons is certainly real, as is the possibility that they would use them as a first resort weapon, however I shall now examine the credibility of such groups being able to actually obtain them.
There are two main areas that governments are particularly concerned about regarding the acquisition of nuclear weapons or the technology to build them by terrorists: the theft, sale, or capture of warheads; and the theft of civilian nuclear material. In the first instance there is the threat that terrorists could attempt to “Steal, buy or otherwise acquire a ready-made nuclear weapon; or take over a nuclear-armed submarine, plane or base.” The most likely victim of such an attack in the modern world at the moment is Pakistan, which at this time is faced with “a greater threat from Islamic extremists seeking nuclear weapons than any other nuclear stockpile on earth”. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons facilities have come under attack at least three times in the period 2007-2008 by terrorist groups, and with both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda having relocated to the country from Afghanistan there is a significant danger of such facilities being taken over and used against a wide range of targets, including Coalition forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. To counter this threat the United States has opted for a quick reaction strategy, creating a specialist force to “seal off and snatch back Pakistani nuclear weapons” in the event of terrorist groups or other militant forces manage to acquire a weapon or the materials to build one. The likelihood of terrorists buying nuclear weapons is fairly low as such weapons could be traced on use to the manufacturer, providing incontrovertible evidence against the guilty party, which would usually be a state.
The other method that could be used to attempt to acquire a nuclear weapon is that of the theft of civilian nuclear material from nuclear power stations or reprocessing plants. However, these isotopes cannot effectively be used as a nuclear weapon in the state they are used in nuclear power facilities. Uranium is typically only enriched to 4% in a nuclear power station whereas it needs to achieve 85% enrichment to be used as a nuclear weapon, and to “obtain weapon-grade plutonium, nuclear-weapon states have reprocessed spent uranium fuel from special production reactors.” International safeguards should be able to prevent illegal enrichment of uranium from occurring, and it seems unlikely that a non-state actor would be able to build the necessary facilities to achieve sufficient enrichment of uranium themselves or create weapons-grade plutonium without the nations like the United States noticing, at which point they would in all likelihood be able to destroy or capture such a facility. The possibility of terrorist organisations creating nuclear fusion weapons is even more unrealistic as again such an act could not go unnoticed (due to the need to test a fission bomb first) and could easily be disrupted. The threat of international terrorist organisations acquiring nuclear fission weapons is theoretically credible, although with the safeguards that are rapidly being put into place to prevent both nuclear material and weaponry from falling into the hands of terrorists; I would argue that it is simply much easier and cheaper to use more conventional weapons and at the time of writing no nuclear terrorist attack has taken place.
Weapons of mass destruction could potentially cause devastation on a scale that no other weapon at this time can achieve. A well planned chemical or biological attack could theoretically kill thousands or even millions of people, whilst a radiological weapon would cause the necessary evacuation of an area and again could possibly cause large-scale casualties. The issue with these weapons is that they only have the potential to cause such damage, and historical precedents would suggest that it is a very complicated and difficult task to achieve such devastation, even if a group is able to procure such a weapon. A nuclear weapon would have a much larger and more destructive effect, as it is the only weapon of mass destruction that also destroys buildings, but the likelihood of a terrorist group acquiring or building one is fairly low at the moment. Conventional explosives have proven to be more effective than attacks involving WMDs at this point, and though it is theoretically possible that international terrorist groups might acquire weapons of mass destruction and use them upon acquisition, I believe that the use of conventional explosives will continue to dominate terrorist attacks.
A South Korean diplomat in Chile accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls was summoned home, Tuesday, to face questioning by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to diplomatic sources. “The diplomat returned home early this morning in accordance with the ministry’s summons,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
The diplomat, named Park Jeong-hak, was in charge of promoting K-pop at the Korean Embassy to Chile. He was accused of making improper physical contact with a 14-year-old Chilean girl in September while teaching Korean.
Park’s inappropriate actions were made public after a Chilean broadcaster aired, Sunday (local time), film of him sexually abusing an actress disguised as a teenage girl captured by a hidden camera. The broadcaster planned the program, in which it had the actress deliberately lure him, after receiving a tip-off from the parents of a victim.
After the airing of the program called “En Su Propia Trampa” (In Your Own Trap), which sparked public fury in the Latin American country, Yoon Seo-ho, a Korean immigrant who has lived in Chile for 12 years, told a CBS radio program, Tuesday, that the diplomat had been notorious for his sexual offenses even before the program was aired.
The diplomat was also accused of raping a 12-year-old girl as well as sexually harassing the Chilean wife of a Korean immigrant, Yoon said.
Britain is being flooded with dangerous fake Viagra pills as criminal gangs exploit a growing market for cheap online drugs.
Officials seized more than £11 million of counterfeit and unlicensed erectile dysfunction treatments in the past 12 months – three times the value seized the year before.
Some pills are imitations of Viagra, which costs up to £6 a tablet, while fakes are £2 to £3.
Many others are illegal, unlicensed generic erectile drugs from India, where they have been made in unhygienic labs that would not meet British safety standards.
More than 90 per cent of illegal unlicensed medication seized last year was for erectile problems, according to officials.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warned last night that drugs bought over the internet can be fatal.
Danny Lee-Frost, MHRA head of operations, said: ‘Medicines are not ordinary consumer products – they are potent substances.
'They have the potential to cause harm and consequently their sale and supply is tightly controlled.’
Dr Tommy Dolan, of Viagra manufacturers Pfizer, said it is hard to tell fake pills from the genuine item, as they are often branded with the firm’s logo and made with the same blue diamond shape.
He said fake versions of 82 Pfizer medicines have been found in 111 countries, with Viagra targeted most.
Dr Hamed Khan, a London GP, told the BBC some of his patients had suffered side effects such as vision problems from fake pills.
‘I’ve had a number of people who’ve had very serious side effects like visual problems, people could potentially faint, you could have dangerous reductions in blood pressure or even potentially heart problems,’ he said.
‘Increasingly younger people have been trying to obtain Viagra as they see it as a sort of recreational drug almost and it boosts them psychologically, which it absolutely doesn’t, it’s a drug that only has physical effects and that misconception is leading to younger people trying it even if they don’t need it.’
It is also believed people who could obtain Viagra on prescription are turning to the black market due to embarrassment or because they are only provided with a limited number of pills on the NHS - four at a time.
Drugs regulators warned last year that gangs are abandoning narcotics and instead moving into the world of unlicensed medicines.
One in five surgeries takes place in Germany, according to data released by plastic surgeons. Find out what other aesthetic operations are popular worldwide
It seems that spam emails inviting men to try increasing the size of their member would be best targeted to addresses ending in .de.
According to the latest data release by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), there were 2,786 operations estimated to have taken place in Europe’s biggest country - which is more than in any other nation.
The organisation estimates that there were 15,414 of these operations performed worldwide so almost one in five of those seeking to add centimetres to their member were in Germany.
It is not a huge amount of men deciding to have an intimate nip and tuck in Germany - it’s roughly eight out of every 100,000 adult males usually resident in the country. However, only Venezuela, where four out of every 100,000 adult males have a penis enlargement operation, comes anywhere near close to the German rate.
It’s worth pointing out here that the figures are not broken down by the nationality of the patient so it’s not necessarily German men or people that live there going for the procedure.
The German Centre for Urology and Phalloplasty Surgery claims to have performed over 6,000 penis enlargements (be warned there are graphic pictures available on the site). They claim to be able to enhance the length of the member by 3-6cm and the girth by 2-3cm. The cost of the operation? €9,600 (including materials and ancillary costs).
The growing trend for penis enlargement was noticed back in 2011 by English language site The Local. They reported the president of the German Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery as saying that the surgery was now the seventh most popular type of aesthetic operation for men in the country.
The ISAPS data is not broken down by gender for each nation so the relative popularity of penile enlargement is not quite clear.
Breast augmentation the most popular surgery worldwide Taking a broader look at the data, there were more breast enhancement operations than any other surgical procedure worldwide last year. 18% of these took place in the United States.
The other procedures that are thought to have taken place over a million times were:
Liposuction (1.6m) - where fat is removed from the body Eyelid surgery (1.4m) - the removal of fat or skin from around the eye area Lipostructure/lipofilling (1m) - where parts of fat from the rest of the body are used to reshape the patients body (the count includes stem enhanced lipofilling) In total, there were an estimated 11.6m aesthetic surgical procedures that took place worldwide in 2013.
South American countries the most likely to have plastic surgery ISAPS collected the data using survey responses from 1,567 plastic surgeons. They were able to get counts for 96% of the total number of practitioners using national societies worldwide, which allowed them to project total worldwide numbers using these survey responses.
However, 1,567 is still a small sample size and they were only able to provide data breakdowns for the ten countries performing the most plastic surgery.
If you take the total number of procedures and adjust it by the country’s population in 2013 then Venezuela was the place where people were most likely to have had plastic surgery.
If you take a random sample of 1,000 Venezuelans, eight are likely to have had a surgical operation in 2013. Fellow South American countries Brazil and Colombia came second and third respectively for popularity per capita.
In terms of raw numbers, the most operations worldwide took place in this year’s World Cup host Brazil. The largest South American country had 1.5m operations in 2013, which is more than one in ten of all procedures worldwide.
However, when you factor in non-surgical operations such as botox then the US regains the top spot with almost 4m non-surgical and surgical procedures combined compared to 2.1m in runner up Brazil.
Update: 13.30pm The piece was rectified to make clear that it was not necessarily German men having the procedure but the operations took place in Germany.
Try as you might, you can’t ignore the procedure...or the controversy which surrounds it.
Interest in ‘labiaplasty’ has never been greater here in the UK, as more and more women seek out the most personal of all aesthetic treatments.
And let’s make one thing clear from the start - bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
There’s really no such thing as normal, and it’s my duty as a surgeon to inform people of that fact. There’s no ‘right’ way for a vagina to look.
That message is particularly important when I’m talking to young women, whose bodies are likely to be still be developing and who may be prone to bouts of insecurity.
But while labiaplasty has vociferous critics, I’m here to defend it.
Because I’ve seen at first hand the vital medical, functional and psychological benefits it can bring to those who truly and genuinely need it.
The recent surge in labiaplasty has been unprecedented.
According to figures from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery almost 100,000 women across the world underwent labiaplasty surgery in 2015.
At my clinic alone, I’ve seen a sevenfold rise in enquiries and operations over the past three years.
And, yes, I’ve seen a marked increase in the number of teenagers who want to undergo this operation too - but appear to have no medical need to do so.
Those young people - around 50 women in the past 12 months - are promptly turned away. It would be inherently wrong for me to treat them.
But the others simply are deserving of help, and very often surgery is entirely justified.
What’s fuelling this apparent obsession with naval-gazing...and beyond?
Some would have you believe that readily-accessible internet pornography is to blame, as women compare their bodies to those of the adult actresses they see on screen.
But I’d question whether that argument is actually a nonsense.
It’s much more complicated than that.
A big factor in the trend is our increasing openness as a society. Women are now talking more frankly about the appearance of their genitalia, breaking down taboos and becoming more aware of the options they have.
There are genuine reasons why women over the age of 18 should be free to make informed decisions about their own bodies.
And it’s got nothing to do with ‘vanity’.
Reasons for the surgery can vary from difficulties during sexual intercourse to not being able to exercise because their labia is too large.
Some patients are unable to wear tight clothing, and some don’t have intimate relationships at all because they are too embarrassed of their own appearance.
That can lead to very real physical and emotional issues.
Why discourage a procedure that can have benefits for these women who often suffer in silence?
If you’re one of the many females in Britain affected, do your research. Think about the risks. Ask yourself, ‘Am I embarking on this journey for the right reasons?’
After all, no surgery should be undertaken on a whim.
The treatment itself, which can cost between £2,500 and £4,000, sees excess tissue removed from the labia - the areas skin either side of the opening of the vagina - with either a scalpel or laser.
Patients are advised to avoid sexual intercourse for around three weeks following surgery and to wear loose underwear and clothing.
But if labiaplasty can empower women, putting them back in control of their own bodies, it’s my view that a ‘designer vagina’ can often be a very good thing indeed.
This post from Natalie Engelbrecht, psychotherapist, naturopathic doctor, and researcher, originally appeared on Quora as an answer to the question, "Why do we kiss?"
The scientific study of kissing is called “philematology” (philos in ancient Greek = earthly love). During a kiss, couples exchange 9 mg of water, 0.7 mg of protein, 0.18 mg of organic compounds, 0.71 mg of fats, and 0.45 mg of sodium chloride, along with 10 million to 1 billion bacteria according to one estimate
Kisses use as little as two muscles, burning only 2 to 3 calories, while passionate kissing involves up to 34 facial muscles along with 112 postural muscles and burns around 26 calories per minute.
The original theory was that primate mothers chewed their food for their babies. However, as evolution continued the kiss began to be used to pass on information regarding biological compatibility of a mate via pheromone chemical signals as well as promote social bonding and expressing love, with the ultimate goal of procreation.
With the kiss, partners are able to get close enough to each other to assess essential characteristics about each other, none of which are consciously processed. Although the vomeronasal organs—which are responsible for pheromone detection and brain function in animals—are thought to be vestigial and inactive in humans. Research indicates we do communicate with chemicals.
One study found that when women were asked to smell T-shirts of different men and choose their favourite, the choice was not made randomly but was based on the man whose major histo-compatibility complex (MHC)—a series of genes involved in the males immune system—was different from their own. The importance of this is that different MHCs mean less immune overlap which indicates more healthy offspring.
While men are not selective in terms of kissing, women are very choosy. This is because on an evolutionary level women were looking for a mate to raise their offspring with, and kissing could be an unconscious but accurate way for women to assess the immune compatibility of a mate, before she invests too much time and energy in him.
While males will have sex with women without kissing them beforehand as well as have sex with a woman who is not a good kisser, most women will never have sex without kissing first. Men tend to initiate French kissing and research suggests this is because saliva contains testosterone and this increases the sex drive of their mate. Furthermore, men are able to sense a woman’s level of estrogen which is a predictor of her fertility.
“There is evidence that saliva has testosterone in it,” said Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, “and testosterone increases sex drive. And there is evidence that men like sloppier kisses with more open mouth. That suggests they are unconsciously trying to transfer testosterone to stimulate sex drive in women.”
Hormone levels change after kissing. Specifically cortisol (stress) levels decreased in men and women after kissing, and the longer a couple is together the lower their stress hormones get. Interestingly oxytocin levels increase in men, however women’s levels decreased.
One theory is that women need more than a kiss to stimulate attachment and bonding. Kissing raises testosterone which increases sex drive, and also increases dopamine promoting romantic love, and oxytocin (men only) which promotes bonding.
Other benefits includes a modest increase in blood pressure and heart rate which helps our cardiac health, increased saliva produced during active kissing which helps to prevent tooth decay, and men who kiss their wives in the morning live 5 years longer on average and also make more money.
Home | Index of articles