— #WOMENSART (@womensart1) February 27, 2018
My interview republished in The Citizen
“So, in case you haven’t had the pleasure, allow me to introduce you to the labia.”
I sat down recently with journalist Danielle O’Neal to talk labia!
More and more young women are seeking genital cosmetic surgery because they don’t feel “normal” — Is the vagina taboo to blame?
You can listen to me talk about female genital cosmetic surgery with the Tuesday Breakfast team at 3CR Community Radio rebroadcast on Women on the Line Monday 9 October (interview begins at 11:06)
“Women are lucky, they get to have the only organ in the human body dedicated exclusively for pleasure: the clitoris! In this humorous and instructive animated documentary, find out its unrecognized anatomy and its unknown herstory.”
A short animated documentary, very well-worth watching by Canadian film maker Lori Malépart-Traversy.
I have been attempting to write about this for a while now, but every time I go to start, I come across yet another article either extolling or decrying the latest dubious product available to buy and put inside your vagina.
In the last week or so, I have seen a stack of articles about a product called Passion Dust.
These “intimacy capsules” are filled with glitter and designed to be placed inside the vagina.
Essentially, as Canadian gynaecologist Dr. Jen Gunter observes in her blog post (linked above) there are two main concerns with regard to the glitter capsules. Firstly, the ingredients used to make both the capsule and the glitter are untested, and there is no way to verify whether they are safe and sterile. This is despite the claims made by the manufacturer. Secondly, if the glitter contains sugar, then there is a risk of it upsetting the balance of natural yeast in the vagina and therefore could lead to or exacerbate a yeast infection.
I have been thinking a lot about these products over the last while, trying to work out exactly what it is that bothers me about them. Aside from the potential health risks outlined above, I find something unsettling about the commercial aspect of selling vaginal “enhancement”, and why people think it’s ok to flog it for cash (I’m looking at you Goopy Paltrow).
Recently gizmodo published an article about how, despite having a policy prohibiting the sale of items that make medical claims, Etsy as a selling platform regularly violates it’s terms of service by selling products like the wasp nests (although the original product listing for “medicinal” wasp nests has now been removed).
It is also a problem of culture. Many such products are marketed to women for their “wellness” properties together with a capacity to enhance men’s pleasure, even though they carry potential health risks for women who use them. The glitter capsules here are a case in point, as are the wasp nests which are said to help “tighten” the vagina.
However, I don’t think that dubious products on their own, nor the people nor places that sell them are the only issues here. I started thinking about in what kind of universe I could be convinced that using ground wasp nests to treat (hypothetical) gynaecological issues would be a good idea?
And then it hit me.
Would I think that ground wasp nests were a good idea if I didn’t know much about my own anatomy? Or about how it worked?
Again, this made me think about how young people in particular learn about sexual and reproductive health matters (and about relationship and sexuality education). I thought about my own experiences. Where did I learn this stuff? Home (specifically from my mother), school, and friends (this was pre-internet, so I won’t count Google).
Realistically, none of these sources guarantee the provision of good information.
Researchers in Australia, the UK, and South Africa (among other countries) articulate the need for all young people to have access to modern, scientifically sound, and inclusive sex education. While I don’t remember anything I learned in school sex ed being particularly bad, I also don’t remember anything particularly good about it either – and there certainly wasn’t anything about detox pearls nor wasp nests (nor was there anything about what genitals could look like or should look like, but that’s a post for another time).
In sum, vaginal glitter bombing IS probably 2017’s stupidest genital-related trend.
So please don’t glitter bomb your vagina. Or your eyeballs.