Body parts have come in and out of fashion depending on the mainstream obsessions of the moment, from the lean boyish chests of flappers in the 1920s, signifying liberation from corsetry, through 30s bosoms and 40s legs, to the sexualised femininity of Marilyn Monroe’s hourglass figure, and on eventually to 80s muscles (Power! Strength!), and 90s, well, bones. Extreme slenderness was maintained beyond the millennium, but with added breasts, a modified Monroe, minus the tummy.
As more and more women go under the knife in pursuit of curves, it’s clear they are paying with their health.
While fatalities are the most headline-grabbing result of Britain’s new pursuit of the bigger bottom, the implications of a changing obsession are less shocking, and more depressing. A realisation. Women will never be comfortable in their bodies, because the goal posts of what is acceptable keep shifting.
The Guardian reports that bottoms are big business in 2018. For a generation whose mothers spent mornings trying to shrink their thighs in front of Jane Fonda videos, today there is no such thing as a bum that’s too big. The perfect body has changed every decade over the past century, stretching and curving over time like a time-lapse sand dune. “Big bums are now associated with women with attitude and a sway who are non-white, which is desired,” says Susie Orbach, the psychotherapist who has been analysing women’s relationships to their bodies for more than 40 years.
In 2014, the focus turned to the bottom. Butt lift injections and buttock implants were the fastest-growing plastic surgery in the US, up 58% from 2012. The French sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann cited economic reasons. “In uncertain times, people look for security,” he said. “Men are attracted to women’s hips and the buttocks for security and reassurance. Women respond to this. It’s deeply psychological.” Or, from Jennifer Lopez: “The bigger your butt is the more attention you get.” In 2015, the American Society of Plastic Surgery dubbed 2015 another “year of the rear”.
And then came the deaths, 33 of them in the US following complications from BBLs in the last five years.
At a recent Expo’s press briefing, the BAAPS doctors discussed a study analysing one London hospital where, since 2013, they’d seen a six-fold rise in cases needing urgent follow-up care from procedures done abroad. Complications from BBLs ranged from severe bacterial infections to tissue dying, scarring, wound ruptures and abscesses. One patient had a “flesh-eating” infection. BBLs have the highest death rate (conservatively, 1 in 3,000 operations) of all cosmetic surgery procedures, due to the risk of injecting fat into large veins that can travel to the heart or brain. In August, a celebrity Brazilian cosmetic surgeon, Instagram name Dr Bumbum, was charged with murdering one of his patients. Dr Denis Furtado had performed an operation on Lilian Calixto to enlarge her buttocks in his own flat. He had nearly 650,000 followers.
You can read the full report about the costs, risks and significant rise of the Brazilian Butt Lift on the Guardian.