vaginas

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Well, with summer’s start tomorrow I know we’re all freaking out about getting ready for bathing suit season right? What, no? Ok, you’re right: bathing suit season is low on the list of things competing for space in my mind right now. This is the time of year, however, when the mainstream media like to post helpful tips and tricks for getting ready for the aforementioned “season” – and for women, that usually involves some kind of well-intentioned piece about how to whisk away “unwanted” hair.

That’s why I was amused (and sort of pleased) to see an article in the Toronto Star called “My First Brazilian Wax“. Written by Victoria Ptashnick, the article charts her first foray to the salon for a full Brazilian – ie. a wax after which very little is left to the imagination. Victoria doesn’t break any ground with her tale – it’s charming and funny and pretty much exactly what you would expect – but I did think it was refreshing to see a young woman opting out of what appears to be the dominant pubic-grooming practice of her age. In a video added to the site yesterday, Victoria answers reader questions about her article and experience. She is very clear about one thing: her future will not include intimate waxing.

Speaking of intimate procedures, I recently learned about “ball ironing”, sometimes known as “tightening the tackle” (apparently) in a brief article on an offshoot of the NY Magazine’s website called ‘The Cut’. According to the article, the thin testicular skin gets wrinkly and discoloured with age, so men can now pay good money (and lots of it) for a procedure that “involves using lasers to remove hair, erase wrinkles, and correct discoloration on the scrotum.” Will we ever run out of things to worry about?

 

 

 

 

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Yes, that’s right: when you spend your spare time thinking about the political significance of public hair, you never run out of fodder for party small talk. Nor do you ever run out of things to make you mad. Here’s the latest thing — send to me by a number of friends/readers/allies.

Seems besides having intimate bits that are too hairy, it’s also possible to have genitals that are “too brown.” At least that’s what the people who produce a new product aimed at Indian woman. Evidently, the product is some kind of intimate wash that also helps to make your vulva “many shades fairer”. Curious? Here’s the television ad:

http://youtu.be/9Tx9vVVMWw0

Predictably, our protagonist is sad with her ordinary vagina, but is radiantly happy once she’s doused it in chemicals. I’ve written before about the notion of the vagina as being “dirty” until all its protective hair is whisked away. This is a product that actually exactly embodies “your vagina is dirty” mentality. That graphic, with the product lightening an animated groin seems to say it all. Sigh.

Huffington Post’s got a good article on the top. Have a read here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/12/vagina-brightener-indian-feminine-hygiene-product-promises-to-make-genitals-many-shades-fairer_n_1420052.html?ref=canada-living&ir=Canada+Living

And as I’ve written before, I love it when readers get in touch. I had a nice little note from Emily recently, who got in touch to tell me about a recent experience she had reading Cosmopolitan magazine.

Here’s what she wrote:

I was at a friend’s house the other day and found something in a magazine that seemed relevant to The Last Triangle. 

Looking at Cosmo is like looking at a car crash. I know I’m going to be horrified by what I see, but if there is one there, I still look. The image I attatched is a snap of “99 sex questions answered”. I know not to expect much from Cosmo, but it was still upsetting to see that when one’s lover has a preference for pubes, this publication is encouraging her to leave him the bare minimum. Oh, the implications. 

She also sent along this snapshot:

As Emily points out, the problem with this is, of course, that at no point is the poor woman told that her boyfriend would probably be just fine with nothing more than a little trim. But the only option this mainstream mag can offer up is the landing strip: a (probably) salon-driven grooming practice requiring pain, money, time, effort.

As I’ve said a million times: I believe women should be allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, as long as they know what the options are. Magazines like this would have all young women believe there are only a few ways of being in the world.

 

 

 

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Vulvapalooza!

Well… I have become a very bad blogger, indeed. Sorry about that. You give the girl a Master’s degree, and then bam.. she gives up on you and stops posting regularly. You, my readers, have been on my mind, but my mind has also been pulled in a million other directions lately. I’ve started a new job in a new city, I’m moving, I’m trying to sort out the “what’s next?” questions… you know. Life – it’s busy.

But I haven’t forgotten about pubic hair! Every day, things pop up, crying for attention on the blog. And every day slides past without me getting to posting. So – here we got again! Though I can’t promise daily posting, I will do my best to keep the conversation alive here at The Last Triangle.

Today seems like a good day for me to direct you to a site a new Danish friend of mine sent me. The project, called ‘Kussomaten’ was initiated by a feminist group in Denmark. Women basically sat in a booth and had their genitalia photographed. The goal of the project (and this is crucial to note), was not pornographic – it wasn’t about taking under-skirt photos for arousal purposes. Instead, the goal was to highlight the diversity among female bodies — something I know I’ve written about in this blog before (especially whenever the issue of labiaplasty rears its sanitized head).

So: if you’re reading this at work, or are in a room with a bunch of people you’d rather not see you look at a screen full of vulvas — don’t click on this link now. If you aren’t, or you’re fine with opening a discussion around labial diversity, here’s the link:

http://kvindekenddinkrop.dk/kkdkpix.html#

It’s a fascinating site — the diversity really is amazing.

Looking forward to your comments!

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Never Gets Old

Nope, pubic hair continues to thrive as a topic for debate in online forums everywhere. Today, I will direct your attention to an article on Salon.com called “Is Everyone Manscaping?” which mostly goes on about the same old stuff. This little tidbit did pique my interest, however:

“Last year a study out of the Kinsey Institute found that there is “no one dominant pubic hair style” among women. Young ladies are far more likely to have experimented with different degrees of deforestation but most women have “at least some pubic hair on the genitals.”

Agree?  (The article is mostly about men, however).

And more man-stuff: you can follow one man’s (very detailed) recounting of the experience of getting a Brazilian wax at RVA News. Nathan Cushing tells his story in three parts, the second of which is here:

http://rvanews.com/entertainment/going-south-deep-into-the-danger-zone-part-ii-of-a-brazilian-wax-story/52358

And finally –

If you haven’t read it yet, I would strongly recommend you cast your eyes over this fascinating and disturbing article by Marie Myung-Ok Lee that ran recently in The Guardian. The article explores cosmetic gynaecology – the demand for which (at least according to the article) has “never been higher – taking us behind the scenes at a disturbing little convention where women’s vulvas really do become straight up commodities.

I’d love to hear what you think about anything you’ve read.

 

 

 

 

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According to this article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, “the vagina is becoming big business on American TV”. That’s right, people: turns out there is money to be made in yonder genitalia.

Apparently, those of us who grew up with “more graphic language and sexual images in the media” can talk openly about vaginas, rather than skirting around the issue with cute euphemisms (perhaps like generations past?). We are (apparently) also more relaxed about our bodies, so we’re less embarrassed about talking bodily-functions, etc.

But it’s the numbers that are most interesting. According to the article, “ad spending for feminine hygiene products, including tampons, panty liners and cleansers, was up nearly 30 percent to $218.9 million in 2010 from two years ago.”

That’s a lot of money.

I’m fascinated by that increase: what, exactly, has changed? Are we really that much more open about our bodies, or does one or two racy, boundary-pushing ads pave the way for a whole bunch more? (and now it’s been totally normalized. Or have we merely run out of ways to ‘shock’ audiences?).

Interestingly, the article (which explores pubic hair dye and Vajazzling) doesn’t mention the impact that the normalizing of pubic hair removal has had on women (nor the pot loads of money to be had in making them feel insecure about their untended, ‘natural’ bodies).

And at the end of the day, it’s kind of more of the same old thing. The last quote in the article is from Rhonda Zahnen, a principal at The Richards Group (the company responsible for this horrible TV ad), who says predictable things about how excited this is about the fact that people are now “talking about feminine hygiene”. “We just wanted to be sure that the conversation is focused on celebrating and empowering women,” she adds.

(I, personally, feel empowered to hate Zahnen’s ads).

To me it makes perfect sense that the vagina would be having its day: as we all know, the giant money-making machine is always looking for new targets.

The whole vag-spectacle is only empowering, however, if we use the attention for good — choosing to love our lady-bits, rather than feeling ‘empowered’ to subject them to hot wax, labiaplasty, or generalized body-hate.

 

 

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I have to thank Betty, a reader in France, for sending me today’s link. She wrote to let me know about a French artist who has been making plush vaginas (or “doudouchattes”) complete with real fur (she also makes meat-shaped plush things, along with voodoo dolls):

http://ledoudouduboucher.ultra-book.com/portefolio

And nope- not one of these fuzzy little cuties is hairless. That could be because, as Betty points out, “here in France we are not so much victims of the pubic hair related depreciation of the woman, but soon without doubt we will be.”

Trust the French to bring us stylish little vaginas we can actually cuddle up to.

 

 

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The internet never ceases to amaze me.

Here, for your amusement/interest is an online discussion about pubic hair. It’s called “Your Opinion on Pubic Hair” and it includes the voices of people pro and anti-hair on both men and women.

Some of the highlights include

No hair on a girl whatsoever!!! I dont allow it! I wouldnt hesitate to get a can of deodorant and a lighter to flame off a hairy gash! Urgh! I dont want a welcome mat laid out for me!!!!

and

I personally like pubic hair. I prefer it, as it helps the wetness of a girl to be spread a bit better so when I go down, it’s not like “look at all of these clumps of my white stuff.” Not to mention, having hair down there actually helps to keep out bacteria from entering your vagina ime. Moreover, whenever I’ve shaved or trimmed thin, I feel wet… all… the… time. Your clit rubs on your pants, making it very uncomfortable in public. I have hair and prefer hair. Looks more natural that way.

I’m always just a little amazed that people take the time to post their opinions on these kinds of forums.. but then, I guess I do write a WHOLE BLOG on the topic. There’s certainly lots to consider here.

 

 

 

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Vagina Love/Hate

embroidered vagina

Two interesting articles for consideration today. This one, that appeared it yesterday’s Globe and Mail, is about how women are pursuing labiaplasty even when they are ‘normal’ “down there”. I’ve written about labiaplasty before: that’s when women have (unnecessary) cosmetic surgery to make their inner labia smaller (ie. more child/barbie doll-like). The article suggests that most women are seeking out the surgery to “improve their appearance” (sorry for all the quotation marks, but I find it hard to write those words without pointing out how silly they are), though some women argue it’s also due to physical discomfort.

I know I’ve said it before, but if we weren’t all so caught up in banishing our pubic hair, our labia would get to hang out and do its thing in true comfort, rather than being stripped bare for scrutiny.

(ahrg!)

And after all that body-hate, some vag-love:

Today’s London Evening Standard includes this story about “a new frankness about vaginas” in which the writer goes on about a movement geared towards celebrating all things vaginal (while also drawing my attention to a disturbing new word for female genitalia – “clunge”).

The author suggests that the trend towards vaginally themed crafts, drawing classes and pop-cultural frankness on the subject is “a reaction against the tyranny of waxing and vajazzling – porn chic culture where young men surfing the internet see only hairless models and are therefore surprised to discover that young women have pubic hair.”

Lots to consider. I can’t wait for your comments.

 

 

 

 

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Whew – so it’s been quite something being the main voice of opposition to the ‘Julyna’ campaign. Hilariously, the story was picked up yesterday by the Huffington Post. Here’s a link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/01/julyna-canadian-cervical-_n_888554.html

I’m doing a spot on CKNW radio in Vancouver tonight – hopefully it all goes smoothly. You can listen live here: http://www.cknw.com/ I’ll be on at 5:45pm Pacific/8:45pm Eastern.

I was also interested to note that the Globe and Mail’s clever columnist Katrina Onstad has opted to write about the politics of body hair removal today. Her essay asks questions about why pubic hair removal is becoming normalized among young women (my favourite question!). She writes:

“But for women, waxing seems to have shifted from choice to routine necessity, less pedicure than toothbrushing.”

She questions why we feel so compelled to whisk away everything when it comes to body hair, along with why we so readily buy into the kind of body-hatred that seems so intimately tied to normalized waxing.

A few more well-expressed thoughts:

“If waxing is just one page of the sex playbook, then okay. But when a beauty treatment goes from playful to imperative, when the real, hairy body no longer has a place in the masculine (or feminine, if we’re headed that way) imagination, when pain and money become the standard – then sexy is dead. The salons and spas become part of what psychoanalyst Susie Orbach calls “the merchants of body hatred,” peddling an endless bodily discontent.”

You can read the whole article here:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/news-and-views/katrina-onstad/yes-women-have-body-hair-why-has-removing-it-become-a-beauty-norm/article2080049/

I noticed that her column generated a few hateful comments on the Globe and Mail website, so if you like what Onstad has to say, do consider giving her a thumbs-up online.

Oh- and if you’re interested, I’m going to be talking about ‘Julyna’ on the radio tonight, along with the event’s founder, Vanessa Willson. We’ll be live on CKNW in Vancouver — you can listen live by going here: http://www.cknw.com/

 

 

 

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I spent part of yesterday interviewing two young, bright, beautiful women about their pubic hair practices. Both in their late teens (and friends for years) each young woman had a very different take on how she chose to maintain her pubic hair — one preferred full (waxed) removal, the other was more critical of such practices, and (save a little trimming) tended to stick to au-natural. They both had such interesting things to say – I’ll try and get some of that conversation up here in the next few days.

In the meantime, I just came across an interesting journal article on pubic hair removal in the SIECCAN Newsletter (which is part of the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality) by Lenore Riddell, Hannah Varton and Zoë G. Hodgson. Called “Smooth Talking: The phenomenon of pubic hair removal in women,” the article explores the “motivations and practices” behind pubic hair removal in women. As part of their study, the authors (who tend to come at the issue as nurse-practioners and authorities on women’s health, rather than cultural theorists) had 660 women (aged 16-50) answer surveys and then tallied the results.

In the introduction to their article, the authors point out that “it is now unusual for clinicians in the authors’ urban setting (Vancouver, Canada) to examine any woman under the age of 30 who still has all of her pubic hair.” They go on to explain that “anecdotally, clinicians report more pubic area rashes, razor burn, wax burns, and generally irritated pubic skin than ever before.”

eek.

While the entire article is interesting, I was particularly interested in the points these authors make around women’s health and healthy body practices.

As I’ve discussed before, this article also points to the fact that a great number of women remove their pubic hair because of belief that somehow their bodies are “cleaner” if they do. “This is an interesting finding considering the lack of evidence to support pubic hair being dirty or unhygienic,” they write.

They suggest that pursuit of cleanliness may be tied to the good old pursuit of the “American dream” of wealth and success. “After all,” they write, “the removal of body hair requires the resources of access to water, products, and times,” all (when you come right down to it) global luxuries.

The article cites a study (produced by an American laser company) which indicates that “American women spend more than $10,000 over a lifestime and greater than 58.4 days in their lives using shaving products in managing unwanted hair.” (Figures which don’t include time and effort getting waxed or otherwise maintained).

I’d like to quote Joshua (who commented on one of my recent blog entries) on this  issue. He wrote to me with his reasons (off the top of his head, he noted) to avoid body hair removal (and “arbitrary beauty standards in general):

One reason is that throughout the course of our lives it is a monumental waste of time. I don’t know how much time the average women spends shaving, applying makeup, painting their fake nails, etc, but with life being all too short as it is, can’t we find something more meaningful to do with our time?

Second, it is a waste of limited resources that could be put to better use, or just simply left unused. How many oil spills, mined out mountains, and deforested rain-forests are acceptable to trade for social conformity? Because, unlike we are taught to believe, our decisions – purchasing and otherwise – have ramifications larger than ourselves.

Good points, I think.

And now, just going back to cleanliness with some final thoughts:

Because while many seem to view pubic hair removal as a ‘cleanliness’ issue,  the authors of “Smooth Talking” suggest otherwise. Instead, they write that “several studies on preoperative genital shaving as compared to other methods of hair removal have consistently found increased bacterial infection rates related to shaving.”

“Microabrasions, contact dermatitis, and skin disruption due to methods of pubic hair removal may also increase the potential for the transmission of viruses (including HIV, hepatitis, herpes simplex and human papilloma).”

(I also keep thinking back to Roger Friedland’s smart article wherein he draws a connection between an increasingly always-sexually-ready ‘hook-up’ culture with a hairless “purified” vulva. Thinking about it in this context, I can’t help but note that the young women who are partaking in no-strings sex — and thus already more vulnerable to STIs — may in fact be made extra susceptible due to their grooming practices).

To top things off, Riddell, Varto and Hodgson write that salons and esthetician services in Canada remain largely unregulated — meaning that there’s no guarantee that the pot of hot wax your esthetician is using to do away with your pubic hair hasn’t been double-dipped into, etc etc.

Lots to think about next time you wield a razor in the general direction of your nether regions or lie back with your legs spread at the ol’ salon.

 

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