Women see their vaginas for the first time.

Passed along by Lal (thanks!):

I ran into a video that could be interesting for the blog! It’s about a YouTuber who posted a Craigslist ad seeking for women who had never taken a look at their genitals before. He makes a “Vagina Booth” so that the women can check themselves out for the first time. Even though we covered related material a couple weeks back, I enjoyed the video a lot because of its positive vibe.

The YouTuber is DaveyWavey, who has made a slew of hilarious and informative videos, almost exclusively related to sex.

Kitty Carpet.

kittycarpet

From Fashion First Aid:

Botched brazilian?
Misbehaved shave?
Unveiled va-jay-jay?

thesolution is Kitty Carpet: reusable downstairs toupee

For the prodigal hippie, the French-web-footed-prostitute-in-another-life, and the woman who wants to bring some spice into the bedroom, the wait is over! Long gone are the days of picking up hairs from the bathroom floor and saving them to make your own merkin. Now you can buy a rug for Mrs. Downstairs in the color you want, cut it to the shape you need, and experience life to the fullest. Each Kitty Carpet measures 3.5″ wide on top and is 4.5″ long. Infinitely reusable, it comes with one sheet of Quick Fix Sticks (medical grade double-sided tape) with 16-24 pieces of tape to start you out. And don’t fret, no actual kitties were harmed in making this product, as Kitty Carpet is 100% polyester faux fur.

Choose between the following 3 colors:

Michael Jackson’s Hair
The Carpet Matches the Drapes
Natural Pink
Using Kitty Carpet is easy as:

1) Trim your Kitty Carpet to the desired shape. (Stencils available at solutionsthatstick.com/downstairscarpet)
2) Peel off at least one included Quick Fix Stick and stick it to the non-fuzzy side of Kitty Carpet.
3) Adhere your Kitty Carpet exactly where yo uthink it should go.
Contains: 1 carpet with 16-24 pieces of Quick Fix Sticks
Measures: 4 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ x 1/5″ (11.5 x 9 x 0.5 cm)

Check it out here.

Designer vulvas and vaginas.

vaginal rejuvination

From the Atlantic:

Designer Parts: Inside the Strange, Fascinating World of Vaginoplasty

Why are some women spending upwards of $10,000 for complete “vaginal rejuvenation”? A visit to one plastic surgeon for a evaluation and sizing.

Dr. Ronald Blatt squats on the stool between the fuzzy pink stirrups propping up my legs. As I brace for the gynecologist to start poking around with his lubricated, latex encased paws, my eyes dart from a garage sale castaway of a seascape painting to an anatomy chart then back to the sole odd aspect of this setup: a mirror positioned so I can see my lady parts alongside Blatt’s pink necktie-adorned head. Thank goodness I remembered to trim.

But the doctor I’m straddling isn’t about to inspect my ovaries or administer a routine pap smear test. Blatt runs the Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery, and he’s preparing to assess my vaginal tightness and to demonstrate how he might alter my labia.

I scheduled this complimentary consultation under the guise of wanting “to understand my options.” Secretly, I want to explore why a growing number of women are modifying a body part so few can see by undergoing the elective surgeries in which Blatt specializes: vaginoplasty (removal of excess lining and tightening of surrounding tissue and muscles) and labiaplasty (reshaping of the labia minora, and sometimes the labia majora and/or clitoral hood). The former is often pursued by women who believe their capacity to enjoy sex is compromised by a loose vagina, which can be the result of a congenital condition — as it was for Lucy Mancini in a Godfather plot point neglected by Francis Ford Coppola for the screen — or childbirth. I’m especially interested in the latter, which is typically endured for purely cosmetic reasons. Although statistics on these operations are difficult to come by since most are performed by OB/GYN’s rather than plastic surgeons, it is believed that the number of women having them is increasing rapidly — some estimate by fivefold over the last decade. Perhaps most interestingly, an August 2011 study in the British Journal of Medicine showed that 40 percent of women who inquired about genital reconstruction reported the desire to go through with it even after being informed that their labia were normal.

[...]

Moments later, a middle-aged lady with a black bob in a white lab coat bounces toward me wielding pamphlets. She hugs me then steps back.

“You like my doctor? I love this man,” she begins, eyes hypnotizingly wide.

“Have you had it done?”

She confesses that she hasn’t, but not before reassuring, “I don’t have one dissatisfied lady.” Continuing, “This is a life changing surgery. You’re saying boyfriend now? After this he’s going to marry you. I’m telling you, my love. I’m telling you.”

Blatt’s hype woman escorts me on a tour of the facilities before wishing me well.

[...]

Luckily, the very World Wide Web that hosts all that porn also bestows us with Show Your Vagina, a Tumblr I chance upon while researching. Launched in September 2010, the site encourages women to post anonymous photos of their vaginas. Though shocking at first, the disparities are fixating, and I feel a whiff of empowerment for every female participant while browsing. It seems wrong not to upload my own spread eagle portrait.

Show Your Vagina is an overwhelmingly simple concept that highlights the importance of sharing and openness in combating body-related shame. Unfortunately, we can’t rely upon our frighteningly remedial sex-ed programs. Nor can we rely upon popular women’s magazines. When I naively pitched this piece to one such glossy, I was told: “Our EIC probably wouldn’t take well to an idea that so prominently involves the word ‘vagina.’” Exactly.

Read the whole thing here.

Vulva/labia blogs.

As mentioned in class, genital shame is a growing problem. The data from the iClicker question about female students’ perceptions of their vulva reflected this (more than half the women in class reported some sort of dissatisfaction). This, in part, is due to the fact that most people don’t get the opportunity to see a wide variety of genitals, and therefore presume that there is one specific way in which they should look (i.e., symmetrical, tucked in labia minora, etc. – many have accused mainstream porn of creating this problem). Several user-content blogs have popped up, intended to showcase the massive diversity in appearance of the vulva. Presumably, the hope is that by publishing these sorts of images, that women who see them will feel less dissatisfaction/shame about their genitals. I posted one of these blogs previously: link (NSFW).

Naiomi from class a few terms ago passed along another (thanks!):

largelabia

Click here to go to the site (NSFW). And click here to learn about the blog’s owner.

The questions, comments and replies are all interesting to read, too.

Art: The Great Wall of Vagina (vulva?).

I’d be interested what you, as students, have to say about all this.

It isn’t entirely clear what is driving the increased anxiety many women are now experiencing about their vulva. One theory, supported by substantial anecdotal evidence, is that pornography is driving this trend, and that there is some sort of ideal vulva represented in porn. But as Stoya, a prominent porn star, has noted, pornography, in general, may not unequivocally be the culprit (post here – not that she’s claiming that pornography doesn’t have an effect on preferences). She also notes that men don’t really seem to care about the size of their partners’ labia.

Another theory suggests that the increase in labiaplasties is the result of marketing by plastic surgeons. So, for example, a woman visits a plastic surgeon’s website for some other procedure, and sees marketing for labiaplasty, which presumably indicates that larger or asymmetrical labia are problematic. This is potentially internalized, leading to a desire to seek out labiaplasty.

Assuming pornography is responsible, however, it isn’t clear if women are feeling down on their vulva because they’re watching pornography and comparing themselves (specifically to those actresses with small inner labia – most actresses have average or larger labia), or if men’s consumption of pornography is affecting male preferences, leading to demands about their partners’ vulva (perhaps the more likely explanation?). If average and smaller labia are supposedly more desirable, then why are there very popular web sites out there dedicated to the worship of large labia (e.g., here – very NSFW)? It’s also possible that the vulva is simply another part of the body that can cause anxiety, and that the more media exposure vulva dissatisfaction gets, the more anxiety that is created.

There’s very little good data addressing this issue. Here is one of the few studies:

Miklos, J. R., & Moore R. D. (2008). Labiaplasty of the labia minora: Patients’ indications for pursuing surgery. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 1492–5.

They found that 37% of women who underwent labiaplasty did so only for cosmetic reasons. Another 31% went through the procedure for both functional and cosmetic reasons. The other 32% had labiaplasty only for functional reasons. Overall, 6.9% stated that they were influenced by their partners (in 2 of 9 cases, by female partners!).

The paper can be found here.

Anyway, another project about labiaplasty and women’s relationships with their vulva, despite the misleading name (vagina?):

From the artist’s (Jamie McCartney) statement:

For this, my latest major sculpture, I cast, over the course of 5 years, the vaginas (well the vulva area in fact) of hundreds of volunteers. The Great Wall of Vagina is an exploration of women’s relationships with their genitals. When I assembled the first panel of 40 casts in summer 2008, I stepped back disappointed. I realised the sculpture would need to be much bigger to have the impact I wanted. From this original piece (called Design A Vagina) has grown an epic sculpture. The final piece now has 400 casts arranged in 10 panels of 40.

“Why did I do it and what’s it all about?” I hear you ask. Well, it became clear to me whilst working on a not dissimilar piece for a sex museum that many women have anxiety about their genital appearance. It appalled me that our society has created yet one more way to make women feel bad about themselves. I decided that I was uniquely placed to do something about it.

The sculpture comments on the trend for surgery to create the ‘perfect’ vagina. This modern day equivalent of female genital mutilation is a bizarre practice which suggests that one is better than another. Taste in nothing is universal and any desire for ‘homogyny’ could be very misguided. 400 casts arranged in this manner is in no way pornographic, as it might have been if photographs had been used. One is able to stare without shame but in wonder and amazement at this exposé of human variety. For the first time for many women they will be able to see their own genitals in relation to other women’s. In doing so they may dispel many misconceptions they may have been carrying about what women look like ‘down there’. The sculpture is serene and intricate and it works on many levels.

His website is here.

And a clip about him and his project (NSFW):

Stoya on vulva.

stoya_9

From her blog:

Stoya vs. Lady Porn Day

I am a porn star.

I am a lady that makes porn.

I hear a lot from women about how they are uncomfortable with their vaginas. They wonder if it looks right, smells right, is the right color, shape, size, proportionate, if their labia stick out too much (or even not enough).

I hear that they appreciate my comfort with my own protruding labia and take it as validation that they don’t need a hairless “coin slot” vulva where everything is all tucked in in order to be attractive.

It’s nice to hear that ladies like my body and like that I run around with no clothing on sometimes, but seriously, you need to understand something.

Dudes do not give a fuck.

I’m focusing on female/male sexual interaction here because men that only have sex with men have reasons for not wanting to touch your pretty lap flower that have nothing to do with its scent or aesthetic value, and I really hope that women who have sex with women are already openly down with the fact that pussies come in a wide and beautiful array of looks, feels and smells.

But seriously, dudes that are into chicks don’t give a fuck.

Read the rest of the entry here.

Ethnocentrism and female circumcision (FGM).

As discussed in class this week, there are two main types of female circumcision: clitoridectomy and infibulation. Clitoridectomy is the removal of the clitoris, while infibulation is the removal of the entire vulva and the suturing of the vaginal opening. The procedures are predominant and culturally important in parts of Africa and the Middle East. Both are considered genital mutilation by the World Health Organization (WHO). More information from the WHO can be found here.

As Westerners, we are typically horrified by this tradition. The vulva, especially the clitoris, are considered essential anatomy for experiencing sexual pleasure. The procedures seem cruel and misogynistic, and it’s impossible for us to imagine how female circumcision could be a good thing, from any perspective.

But, is this a case of ethnocentrism, and should we mind our own business?

In these videos, women talk about the importance of female circumcision, as both a ritual and in terms of women’s worth as future brides.

*Disclaimer* I have no idea how accurate the translations are.

A group of Italian researchers who examined the effects of female circumcision on sexual functioning cautiously reported some surprisingly and remarkably positive results:

The group of 137 women, affected by different types of FGM/C, reported orgasm in almost 86%, always 69.23%; 58 mutilated young women reported orgasm in 91.43%, always 8.57%; after defibulation 14 out of 15 infibulated women reported orgasm; the group of 57 infibulated women investigated with the FSFI questionnaire showed significant differences between group of study and an equivalent group of control in desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction with mean scores higher in the group of mutilated women. No significant differences were observed between the two groups in lubrication and pain.

The entire article can be downloaded here: Catania et al., 2007.

Their results are hard to believe, as the circumcised women reported better sexual functioning than what you’d find in a typical Western population.

The study has been criticized for several reasons, including: poor control group; measures normed for Western cultures; and bias associated with self-reports. However, similar findings have been reported before. In these cultures, it’s likely that female circumcision is a key part of women’s identities as sexual beings. And perhaps that strengthened identity is associated with better sexual functioning.

Some have suggested that a possible compromise might be genital nicking. Rather than removing the vulva, the vulva are nicked instead. A description and background can be found in this New York Times article.

The New York Times has reported extensively on female circumcision. All the articles can be found here.

EDIT: I’ve left the comments from last term for those of you who interested in reading them.

Adults label genitals.

Passed along by Sean (thanks). From Buzzfeed:

Here’s What Happens When You Ask A Bunch Of Adults To Label Male And Female Reproductive Systems
I guess you could say there’s a “vas deferens” between ladyparts and manjunk.

We asked a bunch of grown adults to label diagrams of male and female reproductive systems. This is fifth-grade science, so it should’ve been easy, right?

genitals1

genitals2

genitals3

genitals4

genitals5

See all the rest here.

Results of the Ubyssey Sex Survey.

For those of you who haven’t seen this yet, I thought it might be of interest. You’ll notice that their results are very similar to those we’ve seen in class from the iClicker questions. You can check out all the results here. Here are some samples (click to make larger):

sexsurvey2sexsurvey3
 
 
 
 
sexsurvey1

Increase in pubic hair grooming injuries.

brazilian-wax

From the New Republic:

Pubic Hair Grooming Injuries Have Quintupled

The Brazilian wax has been on its way out for a while. But what may be its final death throe comes, according to the Atlantic Wire, in the form of unshaved mannequins on display at American Apparel.

Feminists and women who don’t like pain have reason to celebrate, but here’s another group that should embrace the natural trend: doctors. American society’s aestheticization of hairless female genitalia apparently came at the cost of a veritable epidemic of grooming-related injuries. And while the Brazilian trend got lots of attention, the attendant carnage did not. Luckily, a team of doctors led by Allison Glass of the University of California, San Francisco, was on the case. For a 2012 paper in the journal Urology, they analyzed Emergency Room data on relevant injuries caused by pubic hair grooming related injuries and found:

  • “Between 2002 and 2010, the number of injuries increased fivefold.
  • Of the cohort, 56.7 percent were women. The most at-risk group was women aged 19 to 28.
  • Shaving razors were implicated in 83% of the injuries.
  • Laceration was the most common type of injury (36.6 percent).
  • The most common site of injury was the external female genitalia (36 percent).

grooming injuries

 

More vajazzling by artist Frances Goodman.

vajazzled

From Killing Birds With Stones:

Johannesburg, South Africa – Frances Goodman is a visual artist whose work is presented as installation and sculpture.

“Her art focuses on the subject of middle class experience and prejudices; looking at everyday obsessions and superficial behavior, she explores the way individuals respond to our contemporary, highly materialistic society and their idiosyncratic coping mechanisms they develop. Her works reflect a morbid ambiguity of excess and loss, a dislocation between appearance and truth.”

See the rest of the photos here (NSFW).

And the artist’s website here.

Embarrassed Bodies: Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery.

Passed along by Wes (thanks!). The choice of language this clip is worth noting:

There’s nothing wrong with you…you developed normally.

Clare had a very valid reason for having this operation.” as if there are valid reasons, and invalid reasons. The doctor then goes on to mention it was affecting her physically and psychologically (i.e., her confidence).

Psychologically you seem much more happy and confident with your body.

This is a great example of the struggle between body acceptance and acknowledgment of massive individual variation in terms of how anatomy looks, and the psychological discomfort and shame that can come from expectations about how one should look.

The video (NSFW):

How much does having a vagina cost?

vagina money

Thanks Julia for passing this along!

In an article from 2012, Jezebel broke down how much it costs to have a vagina. Of course, costs will vary widely depending on a woman’s preferences and needs. Also, we’re lucky in Canada that some of this stuff is covered by our medical plans.

This Is How Much It Costs to Own a Vagina: An Itemized List
by Tracie Egan Morrissey

Given the national debate regarding birth control coverage, it’s increasingly clear that many people have no idea how much it costs it to own a vagina — folks are getting up in arms about the idea that the pill could set uninsured women back about $1000 a year, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing. Do you even know just how much you’re shelling out for your clam? Were you aware of the fact that in your 20s alone, you will spend over $26,000 on vaginal maintenance? Herewith, we do the math on just how much that cooter is costing you.

Note: Annual quantities of drugstore-type purchases and personal grooming treatments are estimates based on Jezebel staffers’ personal experiences.

[…]

Tampons & Maxipads

Yes, there are reusable devices, like the Diva Cup (which has its own cult-like following), but about 70 percent of American women use tampons. And on average, a woman will, in her lifetime, use more than 11,000 tampons or pads. That’s a lot of disposable cotton. And it’s a necessity. Could you imagine if we just free-flowed? The entire world would look like a murder scene.

$6.79 per box at Drugstore.com, at 9 boxes of tampons per year: $61.11
$7.99 per package of maxi pads at Drugstore.com, at 7 packages a year: $59.43

[…]

Pubic Hair Removal

Recent studies indicate that most women, aged 18 – 39, engage in pubic hair removal—whether partial or total—through various methods (waxing, shaving, laser removal). A 2009 survey released by the American Laser Centers claimed that the average woman shaves 12 times a month, spending about $15.95. Women who are committed to waxing do so every 6 weeks.

$35 per waxing at 9 times per year: $315
$15.95 for shaving products per month at 12 times per year: $191.40

See the rest of the list, and the total, here.

Artificial hymen kits.

artifical hymen kit

As mentioned in class. There are several online sources for artificial hymen kits. From the Hymen Shop (photo above):

Restore your virginity in five minutes with this new technologically advanced product. Kiss your deep dark secret goodbye and marry in confidence for only $29.95 … no surgery … no needles … no medication … no side effects …

[…]

An artificial hymen also known as artificial virginity kit (and popularly referred to as a “chinese hymen” or “fake hymen”) is a type of prosthetic membrane created for the purpose of simulating an intact human hymen.

Since hymens can be broken via physical activity or even by the use of a tampon, many women are concerned about restoring their virginity. Hymen repair, hymen reconstruction, hymen surgery or revirgination are all terms that refer to Hymenoplasty – cosmetic surgery that restores the female hymen. While the Hymenoplasty procedure requires admission to a clinic and can cost thousands of dollars, the artificial hymen provides much cheaper and convenient way to become a virgin again!

How it Works

Insert the Artificial Hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrates, it will ooze out a liquid that appears like blood, not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans and you will pass through undetectable! It’s easy to use, clinically proven non-toxic to human and has no side effects, no pain to use and no allergic reaction. Here is close up photo of the Artificial Hymen:
artificial-hymen-closeup

Check out more here.

And a really poor-quality video of how they work:

More, from a classmate, on women’s relationships with their vulva.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Baking and photo by the London Feminist.

Sent to me by Pallavi (thanks!!) this past Tuesday:

In regards to today’s lecture, It made me sort of sad when we saw the results for the iClicker questions asking the girls in class how they feel about their vulva/genitals. It is really unfortunate that that many girls are self-conscious about their genitals!

I can’t say I understand how they feel because I love my body and my genitals and have learned that confidence & acceptance is key. Hence, (like you mentioned in class) I have great sex since I am comfortable with my body. I wish girls weren’t so hard on themselves! A few months ago, I had a girlfriend tell me her boyfriend has never gone down on her and it absolutely AMAZED me! She said it was because she’s self conscious “down there.” I told her to stop being silly and let her boyfriend please her because she is missing out big time. After all, a girl should probably NOT be with a guy if she’s scared he won’t like her genitals. A week later, she told me she’s so glad she finally allowed her boyfriend to give her oral sex because she was able to orgasm like never before. Furthermore, I’ve talked to a few girls who don’t masturbate because they think it’s “weird” or can’t seem to make themselves orgasm (which is very unfortunate), but in reality I think they may just be anxious about exploring their bodies.

Anyway, I stumbled upon these two articles called How to Start Loving your Vagina and Our Vulvas, Ourselves. I found them to be a good read and thought I’d send it to you incase you want to share for the ladies to read.

How to Start Loving Your Vagina

Our Vulvas, Ourselves

I’d just like to add that it isn’t a moral failure to not be comfortable with your body and in particular, your genitals. This is something that is engrained in most people from a very young age.

Genitals most searched human anatomy on Wikipedia.

From Slate:

The incredibly popular, highly contentious Wikipedia pages for penis and vagina. Plus: Meet a guy who uploaded one of the penis photos.
By Ben Blatt

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has described his vision for the free encyclopedia as “the sum of all human knowledge.” It’s a noble goal, but it turns out that many Wikipedia users—readers and editors alike—are less interested in the sum than the parts. Two parts, in particular: the human penis and vagina.

Wikipedia keeps detailed records of page views and edit history so it’s easy to measure how often readers visit each article and how much work editors have put into each page. You might guess the entries for brain and human brain would be the most popular anatomy pages, given the brain’s importance and complexity. But together they average a total of only 215,000 views a month—considerably less than one-half the monthly page views either the penis or vagina page receive. The penis page is so popular it receives four times as many views as head, shoulders, knees, and toes—combined.

Here’s a graphic that shows the popularity of different anatomy related pages on Wikipedia:

Wikipedia Genitals

Read the rest here.