Lucy Mangan

"Why are we so mean to our vaginas?"

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“Now look here. Metaphorically I mean, not literally, because I’m going to talk about vaginas and although I am fond of you collectively, I usually like to be introduced to an individual by name before things get that far.

The vajacial has landed. Cunning linguists among you will have deduced the meaning, but for the rest… well, vajazzle refers to the practice of sequin-and-Swarovski-crystalling your nethers via a neat combination of ‘vagina’, ‘dazzle’ and ‘jazz’ (as in ‘jazzing up’ – nothing to do with training your lady parts to perform Chuck Mangione’s Feels So Good, though somewhere there must be a talented woman with a subscription-only website doing exactly that).

A vajacial is a facial for the same area, designed to soothe and beautify it – via papaya enzyme masks, cleansers and extraction of ingrown hairs with a pair of tweezers. I’m trying to visualise the amount of papaya pulp and labial lotion I would require if you’d been at my hoo-ha with a pair of tweezers, but there are limits to the imagination.

It’s no coincidence that the advent of this procedure has occurred alongside a rise in the popularity of waxing and shaving delicate areas and an increase in intimate skin infections (including a pox virus – words you never want to hear, especially spoken by a gynaecologist as they peel off their gloves gesturing towards the treatment room – called molluscum contagiosum). I think this marks a definite tipping point, and we might do well to take a moment to consider WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

First, let us note that processes which are so painful and damaging to an area only ever meant to be treated nicely they require special repair procedures, are now considered normal. And second, let us ask where the impetus for these heavy-duty procedures came from. I blame porn. Easily, infinitely-accessible internet porn, where only bald ladybits are on show. Why are they hairless? So the action therein can be clearly seen. That’s where the hair-free look comes from and why it developed. Of course some women genuinely prefer to get rid of everything down there, and some have always chosen to do so. That’s not a problem. The problem is that doing anything else has now become almost unthinkable in some circles as generations grow up ignorant of the fact it was not always thus.

We might do well to consider what the hell is going on

It is hard not to link the ongoing rise in labioplasty (cutting off any protruding parts of your vagina to look less, I dunno, human?) and other “vaginal rejuvenation” (tightened, pinkened, re-virginated – you name it, you can always find some plastic surgeon willing to do it) to the increasing expectation of porn-a-like p*ssy in real life and an ever-narrowing definition of nether-region normality.

Isn’t this a sad, strange state of affairs? Some might argue that it is simply an extension of the beautifying urge that has been with us since the dawn of time and I would agree that logic dictates that in a perfect world, nobody would have to do anything to alter his or her appearance ever – we would just be accepted for who we are and what we look like, living in perfect harmony together unto death, amen.

Unfortunately, life has very little to do with logic, so we must occasionally simply stop, look around us, take stock and perhaps say something along the lines of: ‘I must assert that there is something quantitatively and qualitatively different between evening out one’s skin tone with a smudge of base or painlessly painting one’s face in pretty colours for one’s own enjoyment, and embarking on intrinsically brutal procedures Downstairs for the (visual) pleasure of someone who a) should be bloody grateful to see it in the first place and b) has been mind-warped by internet porn.’

The amount of information and the number of influences we encounter bombard us as never before. We need to take care that they do not overwhelm us. We need to think about what we are being asked to do to ourselves and why. Who has what interests at heart? Who’s getting the benefit and who’s getting the money? I suspect the answer is rarely a vagina – or anyone who owns one.”

Email Lucy at lucy.mangan@stylist. or tweet her @LucyMangan