Thanks to an article published today by the Associated Press (AP), the American public now knows more than we need to know about a brand new category of products and services: cosmetics for a woman’s most private part.
Here are examples of ways to decorate the vagina that the article mentions:
- “Vajazzling” — gluing on sparkly gems such as Swarovski crystals to jazz up a bikini wax. According to the AP story, a New York spa charges $25 for house designs like a butterfly or dragon, and as much as $100 for custom designs.
- Pubic hair dyes, which are now available in salons and beauty stores. The $14.99 product works like normal hair dye but the company that makes it says it is formulated to be safe for the pubic area.
- The Schick Quattro Trimstyle Razor now has a bikini trimmer on one side. Let’s quote the article: “An ad for the product, which first aired in Europe and shows women dancing to a catchy song called ‘Mow the Lawn’ as they trim hedges, became a viral hit online. A toned down U.S. version of the ad shows shrubs shrinking into various designs as women walk by them – an allusion to trimming the bikini line.”
- A TV actress described her favorite tattoo on her vagina to a late-night talk show host.
I can’t imagine a more unnecessary product or service than something to enhance the appearance of the vagina. These are perhaps the most unneeded products ever sold.
Over the decades, I have gathered anecdotal evidence concerning the appearance of this most private part of a woman through informal interviews with hundreds of straight men and a small number of gay women, often over a drink or in a locker room. What I have found is that whether a woman is 110 pounds or 300 pounds, virtually all men or women who are interested in women are completely enchanted to be able to look at, touch, etc., a woman’s vagina in its natural state without enhancement. Many may prefer that a woman shave under her arms or her legs and some may like perfume, makeup or jewelry. But when it comes to the vagina, no woman has to do anything to make hers look more attractive to virtually any potential sexual partner.
But it’s the American way to commoditize all emotions, human interactions and relationships, that is, to make the purchase of a product the primary way to express the emotion, initiate the interaction or pursue the relationship.
One way to get people to reduce all emotional aspects of life to buying things is to make them feel insecure about themselves. Another is to create a need that doesn’t really exist, such as the need for feminine deodorants and douches that the marketers created about 30 years ago (even though soap and water should be enough to keep anyone’s genitals “fresh”). FYI, the article also discusses risqué new ads for feminine deodorants and new sanitary products that have bright colors and designs on them.
Products and services to decorate the vagina use both of these marketing strategies. They attempt to extend to the vagina the insecurity about their looks that many women develop because of the constant drumbeat of celebrity culture about idealized beauty that so often depend solely on the purchase of other products; thus the celebrity tattoo. At the same time, the products fill a newly created need: to make the vagina more alluring or appealing to the loved one.
One truism of marketing is that sex sells, and in this case, the Associated Press is using sex to sell the American ideology of consumerism. The article titillates, but behind the titillation is the same old message: Buying something is the basis of all relationships, celebrations, manifestations of love, respect and all other emotional states, and every other emotional component of life. To coin a phrase, the American ideology is “salvation through consumption.”
We see similar articles every day for other products and services, plus an avalanche of advertising, all dedicated to getting people to make a purchase to express an emotion or improve an emotional situation. But in the case of products and services to decorate the vagina, added to the ideology of “salvation through consumption” is an ugly kind of anti-feminism. It strikes me, for example, that shaving the vagina returns a woman to pre-pubescence, and thus symbolically more under the control of and less a threat to the (insecure) adult male.