Photo by Frances Goodman

Wax, trim, cut, laser and stud. These are just some of the methods women employ to change the appearance of their vagina. Making it a kind of designer vagina. In this month’s issue we look at Vajazzling as Art (page 47), where a South-African artist explores the commodification of the female body.

Do you want a designer vagina? Why so? And how far will you go to get one?

Grooming: Pubic Hair Removal 

This is of course the more mainstream form of vaginal modification. This is probably because it deals with the waxing or shaving of pubic hair from the vaginal area, either to sexually entice or for aesthetic or  hygienic purposes. It’s thus not very invasive.

Decorating: Vajazzling

This is a bit more niche, since it involves the process of decorating your vagina by means of sequins and studs. This is not for everyone and it is basically just for aesthetic purposes.

Cutting: Labiaplasty

The most invasive vaginal tool of modification is of course the actual trimming of one’s labia. Vaginal labiaplasty is a growing trend. What is it exactly? The shortening of the labia, via plastic surgery.

Why do more and more women want a designer vagina?

Throughout history women have tried to improve or change their bodies in various ways, whilst experiencing great pain in order to fit into a particular society’s femininity norms, for example Chinese foot binding. Across various cultures and contexts, women spend a lot of money on ‘beautifying practices’, for example hair appointments, gym membership, expensive beauty products and now vaginal modification. According to feminist Davis (1991:25), the body is not inherently feminine; it is trained to become feminine, through various beauty regimes, cosmetic surgery, waxing, etc.

Gender theorist Kathryn Pauly Morgan (1991) argues that the ‘need’ for enhancing your body is a fabrication. Women are pressured to believe that they have ‘problem areas’, which they need to fix – like their pubic hair or their long labia – in order to be socially accepted.

Women feel that they are actively choosing to alter their bodies by means of  labiaplasty or Brazilian waxing. She argues that an ideal is created of what a woman ‘should look’ like when their bodies are moulded, manipulated and cut to appear ‘normal’.

As a result, the real and the fake real become conflated and the ‘fake real’ may even become desired, for example when men prefer fake breasts to ‘real’ ones. The new ‘real’, the cosmetically enhanced body, becomes an unattainable ideal for women who do not use such technologies. These women are consequently viewed as unreal or abnormal, whereas cosmetically enhanced lips, breasts and vaginas signify ‘real beauty’.

So do you want a ‘real’ or a ‘fake real’ vagina?

Let us know what you think.