What is your relationship with your vagina? Are you on good terms? Is it a love-hate kind of thing? Or are you the best of friends?
People often have a difficult time talking about their genitals in any other manner than crudely or with blushing embarrassment. So naturally, if you have reservations about casually bringing up the subject of your nether regions – and your concerns relating to them – amongst friends or family, you’d think the best option would be to google whatever’s on your mind.
Unfortunately, though, the second you venture into the Internet’s wealth of information on vaginas, you are confronted with a barrage of bizarre and quite often very unhelpful websites ranging from the pornographic to the downright ridiculous. A massive proportion of these are dedicated to telling you how your vagina should or shouldn’t look, smell, taste, or function. Vaginal maintenance has become a colossal industry, cashing in on people’s insecurities about their muff. The very fact that a considerable amount of us believe that we have to ‘maintain’ our vaginas beyond showering daily is testament to our perceptions of what a vagina needs.
One very worrying example of this industry is the growing trend of people wanting ‘designer vaginas’. These can be obtained through a variety of procedures that alter the size and shape of the labia, or tighten the vagina after it has supposed ‘loosened’ over the years. The NHS has issued a report showing more than 300 labiaplasties were carried out on girls aged 14 or younger in the last six years. While this might appear extremely shocking, a spokesperson from the NHS did point out that there is no evidence that these procedures were carried out for solely aesthetic reasons, as it has been proven that, in some cases, larger or non-symmetrical labias can cause physical pain or discomfort.
However, the fact remains that the gigantic increase in demand for labiaplasties is indeed often due to the fact that people with seemingly abnormal or ‘misshapen’ vaginas suffer from severe confidence issues relating to them, damaging their sex lives and self-esteem as a result. A significant number of people who went through with these procedures have done so because the only reference point they had for what a vagina should look like were those in the media. And let’s face it, these are nearly always the Vitruvian Man of fannies; perfectly in proportion, completely symmetrical and not a pube in sight.
So, it’s no wonder that people are worried about their vaginas looking funny – all we have to compare them to are the wildly unrealistic images of phenomenally enhanced front bottoms. Naturally, we’re going to feel inferior. But where did these wonder-fannies come from? Shaving, nipping and tucking everything in between our thighs became popularised through mass media, but where did they get these ideas? The answer: the porn industry.
Nearly all trends regarding what we get up to in the bedroom originated in porn. When the porn industry started doing blowjobs and doggy style in the 80s, so did we. When it became more bondage orientated, sales of 50 Shades of Grey surged. So, when porn stars started shaving downstairs, people everywhere started booking themselves in for waxes in places that they never would have even dreamed of going near before. And so, this opened a vast market for products and procedures to help us get the dream vagina we only recently decided we wanted.
Having said that, it is not a sin to want to have an aesthetically pleasing or sweet smelling foo foo. However, a considerable number of the products designed for vaginas can actually alter its chemical balance or cause damage to the vagina or vulva, doing more harm than good. Body washes and deodorants are a normal part of a daily hygiene routine, so it doesn’t seem too ridiculous to presume that using specialised products of this type for your genitals is a good idea. In actual fact, these can alter the pH of a vagina, which is naturally slightly acidic to reduce the chance of infection. Therefore, by using these products you could put yourself at risk of a whole host of infections that vaginas are naturally predisposed to fight.
There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that we should be doing any more to care for our vaginas other than washing our vulvas with water and changing our underwear daily. So next time you hear the word ‘vajazzle’ and think it sounds like a great idea, spare a thought for your vagina, and what it might have to say on the matter.
[Aoife Maguire – @aoifeymaguire]
Image: Musicradar, Electro-Harmonix