The skin on many people’s genitals is darker than the skin on the rest of their bodies because of sex hormones that darken them during puberty. But if this bothers you, you can go to Thailand and pay $650 for penis whitening laser surgery. It’s basically the front-side equivalent of anal bleaching, and it has many folks scratching their heads.
In a video that has since (sadly) been removed from Facebook, the Thailand-based Lelux Hospital promoted its penis whitening services.
Bunthita Wattanasiri, a manager for the skin and laser department at Lelax Hospital, said, “These days a lot of people are asking about it. We get around 100 clients a month, three to four clients a day.” She added that most of the men seeking treatment are gay Thai men, aged 22–55.
Skin whitening laser treatments have been around for a long time, but were first primarily used to reduce the appearance of blemishes like lesions and moles or to reduce the appearance of vitiligo, a disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches.
But this skin whitening laser surgery has become a popular procedure in Asian and African countries amidst a line of other bleaching creams and chemical peels promising to lighten one’s skin tone.
The BBC explains, “The trend is largely attributed to the lingering traditional perception that having fair skin means not being part of the working class, and not having to work in the fields.”
In short, these cosmetic products and services perpetuate a form of colorism, that is, “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.” Critics say that colorism allows lighter-skinned black actors to get roles over darker-skinned actors. In fact, in one Thai skin lightening commercial, an Asian actress attributes her success to having lighter skin.
One penis whitening patient said that he had the procedure so that he’d feel more confident in his “swim briefs,” but Thailand’s Public Health Ministry warns that the procedure could result in pain, inflammation, scars, sexual dysfunction and “nasty-looking spots,” calling it “a waste of money.”
The Lelux Hospital also offers vagina whitening services, in case you’re interested.