‘Vajazzle' and now the 'Vajacial' – the weird and wonderful(!) 21st century beauty trends

Amy Hawkins 27 February 2013

Readers, when was the last time that upon seeing a woman naked, you glanced below the waist and thought, “naked girl, great, looking a bit…lacklustre, though”?

Perhaps never, but the plethora of vagina related beauty products and treatments that have flooded the market recently seems to indicate that this is a niche for which actual demand exists. They range from the frivolous and temporary “Vajazzles”, popularised by the reality television show The Only Way is Essex, to the more drastic and worrying trend for vaginoplasty which has become increasingly popular in the twenty-first century.

But what do such developments really mean for women? An empowering increase in freedom of choice? Or are they just fashions which will soon be replaced by new, transient and ultimately insignificant fads? And do they signify a change (or indeed, lack thereof), regarding the position of women in society?

First, ladies, let us examine the problems with your vagina that you never knew you had. Did you know that it can be both too hairy and too smooth? So for anyone regretting the expensive, painful laser hair-removal treatment they had to ensure that no partner gets the idea that they actually went through puberty, they can now get either permanent hair transplants to put hair back in; or, for those less committed to follicular restoration, fox-fur and feather toupees (known as “merkins”) are a temporary alternative and can be yours to the tune of around £100.

However, considering that the hair removal market in the United States was worth $2.1 billion in 2011 (and was of a similar scale in the United Kingdom), it seems that many women are still opting to bare all.

There are, of course, treatments on offer to deal with the repercussions of this – Stript Wax Bar in San Francisco offers the “Peach Smoothie”, which promises to “treat the key needs of anyone who gets waxed” and indeed, that a woman’s “‘little lady’ will thank us!”. The “key needs” of a waxed woman apparently include a papaya enzyme mask (surely affecting a woman’s very delicate natural pH balance) and a “lightening treatment”, which chemically corrects labial discolouration to restore the female mystique to its former youthful glory.

This, of course, should come as no surprise to most people – a multi-billion pound global industry has been built on telling women that they look too old and on providing solutions for this natural disaster.

However there is something particularly sinister about applying such a convention to a person’s most intimate area. Unlike her face, a woman’s nether regions (the lack of colloquial but accurate terms for female genitalia is whole other ball game, with its own set of confusing and illogical rules, but not one to be played out here) are not shown to the world everyday.

I am not saying that the vilification of facial signs of ageing is acceptable, or that women should be told to age differently upstairs compared to downstairs, but it seems peculiar that such a personal area, normally privy only to whose whom the woman approves of, should be subject to such a litany of what is essentially patriarchal propaganda designed to demean and infantilize women. As one reviewer of Stript Bar said, “Go here, your hubby will be happy”. Really? Really?

But what is the male perspective on such vaginal-enhancing treatments? Are hubbys really happy about it? It has been well documented that popular culture and high exposure to pornography has fostered unrealistic ideas and expectations about female nakedness, but do men actually prefer a Vajazzled woman to her non-Vajazzled equivalent?

I carried out a wide-ranging and totally representative of the entire male population survey of the closest male friends I had to hand. The responses I got were varied, ranging from “What’s a Vajazzle?”, to “Why the hell would you think putting diamante on your crotch would look sexy?”, to saying that the kind of guy who sees a Vajazzle as an improvement is probably “the kind of guy who masturbates to the idea of you being his slave and begging for an orgy with all of your best friends. And they’ll probably make ‘get to the kitchen’ jokes. And read The Lad Bible.” All in all, then, not hugely popular.

Of course a woman’s cosmetic treatment of her body is entirely her prerogative, and should not be assumed to being solely to attract men. But how much choice do women actually have? It is not currently a social obligation (unlike other beautifying treatments) that a woman bedazzles with a Vajazzle, or that she treats her “little lady” to its own facial, or that she has reconstructive vaginal surgery to make her labia look more even; but why, then, do women do it? Simply because they can?

The incidence of vaginoplasty has gone up three hundred percent in the past six years, with some girls as young as sixteen undergoing the procedure. One can only wonder why, when it is a painful and almost always completely unnecessary procedure which can result in total lack of sensation and an inability to give birth vaginally. Hardly empowering feminist rhetoric.

The idea that butchering and infantilizing oneself is somehow empowering and signifies a woman taking control of her body follows the same twisted logic that showing your boobs at work is a legitimate way of securing a promotion – you’re not playing the system you’re playing into it. In the immortal words of Jacob Palmer, protagonist of mediocre rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love, “The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise”. Please, let us not prove him right.

One final note – did you know that some woman have crystals implanted into their vagina to “improve texture” and for “extra energy”? Seriously.

Amy Hawkins