Down Under

March 14, 2006

Hearsay: A friend of a friend is an OB/GYN in Los Angeles. His upper-crust clientele overwhelmingly requests c-sections on demand so their tight little coochies remain tight.

The real deal: vulvar and vaginal nipping and tucking is one of the fastest growing areas of plastic surgery. Women come in with pictures of centerfolds ripped from their mates’ girly mags. Plastic surgeons specializing in these surgical techniques “acknowledge the standards women hope to achieve are set mostly by adult film actresses, strippers and nude denizens of the Internet.”

As for the claim that vaginal tightening can enhance sexual gratification, Stovall insists “there is no scientific basis” to support it. “It might make it better for her partners,” says Stovall, but the female patient is taking a risk without much prospect of personal benefit.

The mom featured in the article says, “I consider myself a feminist, and I feel this is so empowering. It was a way to take charge of my own sexuality” after giving birth naturally to three strapping babies. Apparently, her marriage fell apart due to her lack of vaginal fitness.

Flashback: In 1943, my grandma was giving birth in the local hospital of the small town where she lived, aided by Dr. Taylor, the family physician. Once she emerged from the fog of anesthesia, she discovered that the dear doctor had sewed her up tight, minimizing her opening. “It will be better for your husband,” he told her.  From that point on, sex was painful for her, but she never questioned the doctor’s judgement.

A friend of a co-worker works in a women’s clinic. She claims that she hardly ever sees a woman under 30 with pubic hair. And that a third of the women who come in thinking they have STDs simply have infected hair follicles as a result of shaving and waxing their yonis.

The real deal: The trend of removing every bit of hair from the waist down became widespread (pun intended) in the late 1990s. The Valentine’s Day issue of the SF Chronicle included an article on fancy Brazilian waxes with rhinestones or pink-dyed pubic fur plucked into a heart shape.

Thus, a service once associated primarily with strippers, models and playmates has gone mainstream – including corporate women and even those in their 60s.

I exclaimed to nobody in particular: “I can’t imagine caring about this. I can’t imagine spending the time and money, feeling the burn, enduring the itch!”

Both the genital plastic surgery and complete pubic depilation are spun as procedures that “enhance women’s self-esteem.” So, conforming to beauty norms that are set by sex workers and porn stars is “empowering to women.” The implicit alternative is the genitals of an adult woman who has given birth, which are deemed “unfeminine.” Funny, that.

It is interesting to me how influential the image of the stripper is in the culture right now, affecting fashion and vanity rituals and teen idols and even toys (Barbie’s dressing more like a ho than ever!) While at the same time, the country is going through some Evangelical Christian power surge.

I recently came across a new strain of feminism that I hadn’t heard of before: “fuck-me feminism.” Ms. Saucebox’s riff is pertinent to this topic. Check it out.