Controversial crowd-funding site My Free Implants trials other types of surgery online
ONCE a month, 33-year-old Colorado man Tristan sits down at his computer to make a donation. But instead of UNICEF or Oxfam, the recipient will be listed on My Free Implants — a controversial crowd-funding site for plastic surgery.
“I don’t do Facebook or watch much TV. This is my guilty pleasure,” he told news.com.au about the site he joined in 2009 after a friend signed him up to contribute to her surgery for her birthday.
He now regularly gives around $100 a month to women online, something he budgets under “entertainment” and isn’t too much of a financial stretch for him. He said he’s become somewhat of a veteran in the community and it’s unlike any other he’s been a part of.
“Like anything in life there’s some bad apples on the site but I really have met some lovely and kind ladies. I only contribute to people I’ve gotten to know over some time so these are not strangers,” he said.
“Some guys want hot photos but I like to chat and get advice on my life and meet people from different countries. I expect the women to treat me with respect and be grateful for the donations I can contribute. Nothing more, nothing less.”
The site earns revenue from taking a percentage of donations and charging surgeons to advertise on there.Source:Supplied
‘THIS ISN’T A DATING SITE’
Tristan is one of 5000 active donors who can browse profiles of 3500 women typically in their late twenties wanting their pre-baby body back.
Co-founder Jay Moore, who came up with the idea in 2005 after a conversation with a waitress at a stag party in Las Vegas, said Australia is one of the largest markets for the site after the US and UK, with the number of donors and women up from last year to 282 and 147 respectively.
The success has prompted them to roll out a trial for successful users to experiment funding other types of surgery, from nose jobs to bum lifts.
“The response has been pretty good. We’ve funded dozens of campaigns already in just this one year trial. It’s quite successful already,” he said. “We’re looking to open that up to the rest of the world.”
It’s a controversial move for the site facing a crackdown after the UK’s General Medical Council recently introduced guidelines for doctors to ensure they’re not inappropriately marketing to patients.
It’s also been slammed as “appalling” and “degrading” by the UK’s former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, Rajiv Grover who the “wholly inappropriate and exploitative agreements” often do not make clear the need for follow up surgery or care.
The site, which bills itself as “just fun, friendships and free breast implants” has beencriticised online for allowing “sexual exploitation of girls with less brains than boobs”, due to the sexualised content and murky relationship between donors and recipients. Brisbane user Amber-Rose Bellette said requests often turn sleazy with those who upload sexual images and videos the most successful in attracting followers.
Mr Moore admits it’s a “sexually charged” atmosphere but is adamant the site fosters a “safe and controllable” environment with people suspended for giving out personal information.
“This isn’t an OK Cupid or even a Facebook, where you’re given someone’s home town or city or anything personal about them,” he said. “There’s a whole social aspect where you can message, communicate and chat with people before you’re making donations. So it’s not just like a complete stranger giving $5000.”
Mr Moore said the main myth is that it’s easy. Of the 147 Australian women online just 26 have reached their surgery goals with many underestimating the commitment involved. Money also goes direct to the surgeons to prevent people spending it on something else.
“You’re asking people for money and it does take work,” Mr Moore said. “Generally people find it’s harder than they thought to fundraise it really does require effort. Most people who sign up don’t succeed.”
Critics say the site is exploits women and masks the many dangers of surgery.Source:Supplied
‘I ASSUMED THE WORST’
FOR New South Wales woman Danika, 34, money she raised will allow her to get implants in the next few months. The mother of two said she initially “assumed the worst” but was quickly surprised by the quality of relationships.
“Sounds crazy I know, but the ladies and gents blogs are really personal and makes you feel very close to people you have never met,” she said. “I was quiet, kept to myself a bit at first, got to know the site and read men’s profiles and blogs well before contacting them. It made it easier for me to pick the friends that would suit me best.”
However Plastic Surgery Forum general manager Cassie McNeil said others have found it a less positive experience. She fears it can trivialise a major procedure for women who don’t realise the amount of follow up care required.
“It brings in a whole host of ethical issues that are beyond how the surgery is paid for,” she said.
“At the end of the day surgery is surgery and is very serious and we would always encourage people to do their research and think long and hard about it and saving up the money and making sure you can afford it. It’s not just for the initial surgery but later on down the track.”
The Australasian Society of Plastic Surgeons has been contacted for comment on the issue.
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