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Buying and selling breasts: cosmetic surgery, beauty treatments and risk



This paper is concerned with the ways in which women are sold cosmetic surgery, and how they ‘make sense of’ their own participation in this market. It draws on ongoing ethnographic research to explore how a group of young women who have paid for breast augmentation surgery narrate their decision to undergo surgery, the choices they make as consumers of cosmetic surgery, and their experience of having surgery. These narratives are compared with the ways in which breast augmentation surgery is sold to them by the companies and medical professionals involved in the rapidly expanding market for breast augmentation surgery. The paper shows how this particular group of young white working-class women shift between imagining the breast augmentation operation as a simple beauty treatment and recognizing it as medical surgery, and explores how this shapes their perceptions of the risks and benefits of buying new breasts. It also shows how those who market such procedures manage and manipulate perceptions of the process of breast augmentation surgery and the risks that attend on it in an effort to encourage this form of consumption.