The Skinny on LASIK, Botox, and Butt Lifts
Why we sanction some body modifications and not others
The headlines don’t get much stranger: “Two Charged With Murder in Illegal Butt Lift Operation.” The story broke September 16, with a mother and daughter arrested for injecting liquefied silicon into a woman’s buttocks. They had promised a cheap means of replicating the “Brazilian butt lift,” a cosmetic procedure that involves the transfer of fat to help create more fullness in your backside for a fraction of the usual $15,000 price tag.
After three treatments, however, the patient — 26-year-old Karissa Rajpau — was dead. There is, understandably, a lot to unpack here. What is a butt lift? Why did she want one, and how did she die?
Some suggest celebrities like Kim Kardashian or Beyoncé inaugurated the trend for voluptuous curves. Matthew Schulman, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon, says it’s just about increasing size and shape — similar to breast augmentation. And yet, there are considerable risks. Most complications to Brazilian butt lifts (BBL) have to do with accidental injection of fat into blood vessels, where it can travel to heart or lungs.
Harper’s Bazaar reports that studies show that from 2011 to 2016, there were 25 Brazilian butt lift-related deaths, higher than other kinds of cosmetic surgeries. Unsurprisingly, Rajpau’s tragic death has put the spotlight on this trend and the result has been considerable backlash.
On Twitter, many of the comments relate to problems of body positivity and media pressure. A woman who lost her aunt called for others to “learn to love yourself before social media makes you feel like you aren’t enough.” Dara Greenwood, PhD, on Psychology Today agrees that social media pressure fuels body modification, with new beauty ideals “ricocheting from celebrities and influencers to regular people” and back again — specifically targeting women.
But for a moment, let’s take a step back and consider body modifications in general. Why do we sanction some kinds of surgical changes over others? What role does gender play not just in the risks, but also in our perception and judgement of them?