Women’s bodies are under constant surveillance of the media. From a visible panty line to a bit of armpit fluff, there is almost no part of the female body that is off-limits. Deriving from this idea, Rosalind Gill, British sociologist, and feminist cultural theorist, explains that there also comes the notion of self-surveillance, self-monitoring, and self-discipline. Practically every aspect of a woman’s life is put under the scope of normativity and is required to be worked on, even their vaginas.
“From the sending of a brief text message to the ordering of the drink, no area of a woman's life is immune from the requirement to self surveil and work on the self. And more and more aspects of the body come under surveillance: you thought you were comfortable with your body? Well, think again! When was the last time you checked your ‘upper arm definition’? Have you been neglecting your armpits or the soles of your feet? Do you sometimes have (ahem) unpleasant odours?” (Gill, 2007).
Vagina trends range from adding sugary glitter to get a sparkly flavored orgasm, to inserting a type of wasp nest that supposedly tightens your muscles.
Some others questions could follow the ones Gill made. Is your vagina tight enough? Does your vagina sparkle? How soft is the skin, is there any ingrown pubic hair? Is it clean on the inside? Is it too dry? Is the skin exfoliated? Does it smell nice? It might come as a surprise to find out that there are, indeed, solutions for each and every one of these ‘problems’. Vagina trends range from adding sugary glitter to get a sparkly flavored orgasm, to inserting a type of wasp nest that supposedly tightens your muscles.
Celebrities are big endorsers of these trends. Khloe Kardashian, for example, has publicly spoken about the wonders of the ‘vajacial’, a ‘facial’ for your vagina. According to her, it exfoliates your skin and removes all the junk out of your pores. Gwyneth Paltrow, who had already suggested vagina steaming, also came up with the idea that women should put jade eggs inside their vaginas. It supposedly helps boost your libido and get rid of negative energies. Penis trends, however, are quite scarce. Leaving aside the false promises of male enhancement, there is only one trend I could find, penis whitening, in Thailand.
However, the mere fact that these trends exist and that they are being actively endorsed and advertised by celebrities is already somewhat problematic.
Some of these vaginal trends can obviously be detrimental to a woman’s health, and gynecologists are quick to dismiss their efficacy and warn about their dangers. However, the mere fact that these trends exist and that they are being actively endorsed and advertised by celebrities is already somewhat problematic.
Bodies in society and the market
In our society, small features of our bodies represent a lot more than what they are. Foucault explained that the bodies are seen as the vessel of our instincts and therefore, must be controlled and organized in a way that is socially acceptable, otherwise, we risk being taken over by our desires, which could lead to a number of sexual depravations. The female body, a lot more than the male, is perceived as something that must be constantly under control, not only for their own sakes but also for others'. Take, for example, the many cases of girls taken out of class because their clothes were too ‘distracting’ for the boys.
The vaginal trends are representative of this, but in a much more intimate spectrum. Women need to present their bodies in a way that is satisfying for their partners, otherwise, they risk being perceived as not feminine, dirty, lazy. Far be it from me to judge what others do to their bodies or the reasons why they do it, but it seems possible that these trends are motivated by a need that is created from society and imposed upon women, not the other way around.
Another aspect that comes into play in this situation is the positioning of the market and the commodification of female insecurity. Along with this idea that the female body must be surveilled there comes, naturally, a lot of insecurity. The smallest slip could lead to various mistaken interpretations about a woman and that is something most of us would prefer to avoid and the market knows that. Every trend is made marketable, however ‘natural’ it may seem to be, it has a product to accompany it. The wasp nests are for sale on Ebay, the 'vajacials' cost 75 dollars, but for some extra money, you can get a ‘vajazzle’, that is, to put some adornment in your vagina, and the list of products goes on.
All in all, these trends represent a lot more than just the most recent craze in the fashion industry.
All in all, these trends represent a lot more than just the most recent craze in the fashion industry and they have been around for a while. In the 1930s, for example, women used to douche with Lysol soap, which contained cresol, a phenol compound that can cause inflammation, they did it to make their vaginas smell nice. So not only can these practices be physically dangerous, but they also help keep the female body in a position of being controlled. The media, the market, and celebrities are all important players in this situation. One might argue that it could be empowering and freeing to have this many options and ways of presenting yourself, yet, in a world where celebrities become role models, and social media surveillance can lead to death, it is hardly the case of a freely made choice.