Yes, many people seek plastic surgery to alter their appearance for non-medical reasons too, but there are three key differences between FGM and plastic surgery such as a boob job.

The first difference is age: FGM is nearly always carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15. While there is no official age limit for plastic surgery, 17 or 18 is usually the minimum age that most plastic surgeons will consider. As with any surgery, parental consent is required for all plastic surgery procedures performed on teens younger than 18 years old.

The second difference is voluntary versus involuntary personal choice. Women voluntarily choose to undergo plastic surgery for non-medical reasons, while young girls are almost always coerced to undergo FGM either through lies or intimations by adults such as their parents.

In a recent Michigan case, where two doctors and a clinic manager in Michigan were charged with cutting the genitals of two seven-year-old girls, one girl was told she was just getting a shot while the pain made her scream; the other girl was told she was in the clinic for a “special girls’ trip” for a procedure “to get the germs out.”

A third difference is the purpose of the procedures. Women choose plastic surgery to boost their confidence or sexual appeal. Girls who undergo FGM are too young to even understand what sex and sexual appeal is.

The cultures that practice FGM use it as a way to control women’s sexuality, to ensure virginity before marriage and fidelity afterward, and to increase male sexual pleasure. These cultures also believe girls who undergo FGMs will find a better marriage offer. It’s worth pointing out that actually few men in these cultures demand for girls to go through FGMs. Rather, it’s older women who push for it.