Guest post by Marley P with Melanie K.
Jennifer Love Hewitt recently appeared on “Lopez Tonight” promoting her new dating book and simultaneously bragging about how her vagina looks like a “pink disco ball”. Vajazzling has become not only one of the most searched terms on google but the newest below the belt “beautification” procedure in which the vagina is waxed bare and then embellished with Swarovski crystals. According to Love, she vajazzled her “precious lady” for the first time after a painful breakup and is now a proud advocate of a shiny, blinged-out crotch.
I initially heard about vajazzling from a girlfriend of mine who works at a medical spa who recently tried out the product as a way to see what all the buzz is about. The jewels supposedly stay in tact for two weeks and are a simple way to bling out and embellish your otherwise boring lower region– just like a celebrity. She is going strong on day five and reports feeling “accessorized”.
Personally, I don’t understand the interest in bedazzling your “lady parts”. In fact, the cons seem to outweigh the pros in my book. I guess I could understand the appeal if the jewels somehow improved the quality of the sexual experience but the possibility of condoms tearing, the possibility of irritation or a misplaced crystal seem like an uncomfortable (not to mention unnecessary) burden to have to think about when engaging in sex. Vajazzling poses as a seemingly benign procedure, that works to promote sexual empowerment but I can’t help but think that it is really promoting quite the opposite. It is just the icing on the cake of “pink think” consumerism, isn’t it? The beauty industry runs on selling women an innate insecurity and notion that self worth is implicitly tied to what we look like and simultaneously co-opts feminist ideals of empowerment as a way to sell a product. We are not being sold empowerment; in fact, we are being dooped into believing that empowerment and liberated sexuality can be bought at a medical spa (that is, if you can afford it).
Though vajazzling is a somewhat recent fad, the concept of female up-keep and maintenance however, is nothing new. Shaving, trimming, waxing, and douching have become normal routines for women to counter the notion that their bodies are unattractive naturally and therefore need to be modified. I am not arguing whether women should or should not shave, that is personal preference of course, but I think it is necessary to deconstruct the constant barrage of judgmental messages towards women based first and foremost on how they look (and which inevitably lead to a norm of body bashing and cultural body snarking). There is an exponential rise in procedures such as labiaplasty and vaginal rejuvenation which according to the South Coast Urogynechology center, “resurfaces and tightens the tissues to reclaim the youthful appearance and function of the vulvar and vaginal area”. This is not only baffling to me but it completely supports the idea that a woman is only beautiful if she conforms to a specific aesthetic. Most women who elect to pay for vaginal reconstruction are in search of a “prettier pussy,” meaning a “younger looking” vagina, one that is usually shaved and resembles that of a porn star.
Our fixation on youth has reached new lows. Thanks to Brazilian waxes, everything is exposed and scrutinized. Back in the ’70s, liberated women used to squat over hand mirrors and have a look at their nether regions; these days they bring photos of porn stars to their plastic surgeons and say, “Make me look like this.”
How is imitating a stripper or porn star- a woman whose job is to imitate arousal in the first place- going to render us sexually liberated?
The simple answer is that it’s not. Feminism is about making conscious choices and having an abundance of knowledge as the foundation to make those choices, but the truth is that the constant cultural emphasis on beauty and male satisfaction skews our ability to make good decisions. As a culture, we are obsessed with “perfecting” women’s bodies (and reaping mega profits) that a never-ending array of endless products and/or procedures are touted as a way to feel wanted, beautiful, loved, valued, etc. In the process, we have lost the most important connection to our bodies and the recognition that we are beautiful sans procedures and products. We have forgotten that true empowerment and validation can only come from within oneself. Then again, feeling good on our terms does not help with the corporate bottom line.
If vajazzlng is indeed a way to make the vagina look more appealing (which is quite the ridiculous notion all in itself) and provide a sense of empowerment, then I’ve got to ask, where the hell did we go wrong in thinking that the most beautiful, life-giving and pleasure giving part of a woman’s body needs crystals to be sexy? And why aren’t there vajazzling equivalents for men to make their dicks more appealing? The willie warmer doesn’t count. We need more Georgia O’Keefe representations of the vagina in which the innate beauty and diversity is glorified and celebrated.
Not only do we need to stop believing the lie that our bodies are not desirable unless we modify every inch, conforming to a homogeneous beauty norm that leaves more and more women looking the same (same face, same breasts, and now same vagina), we need to stop being sold the idea that female empowerment results from our nether regions. That sort of misguided “do-me feminism,” along with the “rise of raunch culture” has not liberated women from opressive patriarchal forces, defining women’s worth in bodily terms. In fact, as Zeisler states, in her discussion of Levy’s 2005 book:
women themselves were turning to self-objectification in shocking numbers, noting that the signifiers of what she called “raunch culture” — strip aerobics classes, T-shirts printed with the words porn star, Girls Gone Wild, and more — had been adopted by women themselves. But rather than leading to real freedom, women’s adoption of “raunch culture” simply duplicated patterns of disdain for and objectification of women.
Is empowerment found in a waxed vagina that looks like a pink disco ball? Come on, we can do better than that.