Anyone remember “What Cheeses Me Off” on Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday?
Hrm. Nevermind. (This homophobic crapola was about the usual level of it. Largely linked here for the spunky 80s fashion choices of Daryl Somers.)
Anyhow. What cheeses me off today is this advertising for the Essure tubal occlusion system, an alternative to laparoscopic tubal ligation for female sterilisation. The Essure procedure is performed via hysteroscopy, meaning that it can be done without the health risks of a general anaesthetic and laparoscopy.
Click on the “For Healthcare Professionals” tab, and you see a Flash intro with what Conceptus thinks is the hot way to sell their product to surgeons:
The headline reads, “What mark will you leave on female sterilization?”
An image appears at the leftmost side: a thin, taut, young, light-skinned, hairless woman’s abdomen is pictured, from lower ribcage to groins, with a dotted line across her pubic area (representing the “bikini” incision that might be use in an open tubal ligation).
An image appears in the middle: a thin, taut, young, light-skinned, hairless woman’s abdomen from lower ribcage to groins, with two smaller dotted lines just above the pubis and below the umbilicus: the types of incisions that might be used at a laparoscopic sterilisation.
A third abdomen appears, perhaps thinner and tauter and still smooth, bald and pale, this time with no dotted lines. A caption reads, “None.”
It’s all about aesthetics. The risks of general anaesthesia, the risks of laparoscopy (intestinal perforation, bladder injury, burns, deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, postoperative shoulder pain, intraperitoneal or wound infection, haemorrhage) – these are relegated to the fine print. Effectiveness is an afterthought. Because the women are invisible. They are headless, faceless abdomens, not whole people.
What Conceptus wants to stick in these surgeons’ minds is the fact that they will not leave a mark.
Because the worst possible thing you could do to that hypothetical svelte, waxed abdomen would not be to damage the person behind it, but to make it no longer acceptable for mainstream lingerie advertising duty.
And, because there’s always a twist: most of the surgeons in the target group would probably refuse Essure to any woman who looked like this advertisements. “Because you’re too young to make such a big decision, dear.”
 There are downsides, too: like the fact that a followup hysterosalpingogram (X-ray dye test) must be done three months later to confirm tubal occlusion before contraception is considered in force; the spring-like implants contain nickel; some women get persistent pelvic pain, or pelvic infection; there is no way to remove them once they have grown into place, short of quite major surgery; and there is no knowledge of what happens if an accidental pregnancy occurs after the procedure. Essure is a useful expansion of the available tools and is suitable for some women, but isn’t the magical perfect contraception we’ve all been waiting for.