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Labiaplasty & Porn: What Can We Learn? (Pt 2)



    Who doesn't love a beautiful vulva? Why isn't every vulva beautiful? This Naked November, we're thinking about nudity and body image. We think you should be naked more often. In fact, we have ways to help you feel better about your naked body. Sometimes, though, as humans, we compare ourselves to others. This could give us a complex! In the discussion of body image, we're talking about the plastic surgery called labiaplasty. We continue Hylton Coxwell's of Vulva 101's discussion about porn's affect on women's genitals. Here, Hylton jumps into the specifics of his argument.

    * * *

    First, a word on pubes

    Contrary to popular belief, removing pubic hair is not a new thing. We humans have been doing it for at least 5,000 years, and probably considerably longer, for both aesthetic and practical reasons. So why do we start seeing shaved vulva appearing in porn in the mid- to late-1980s?

    That’s actually a trick question. Though the 1980s are often cited as the start of the shaved vulva trend, that’s not when we see the first smooth vulva on-screen. Scroll back to 1972, the movie Deep Throat sports Linda Lovelace’s fully shaved vulva. Thanks to Fanpix for the picture. When asked in an interview with Esquire Magazine why she shaved for the film, Linda replied, “I always do. I like it.”

    And today, women (and men) answer that question the same way. They remove their pubic hair because they want to, they like it and because they can. Of course, there were porn movies before the 1970s, but by today’s standards they were very difficult to produce, acquire and view, ergo they only had very limited audiences.

    In these ‘stag films’ we still find the occasional shaved vulva, even in very early black and white films (silent but with big band soundtracks). Personally, jazz and swing are a little off-putting in terms of porn music, but I grew up in the age of “bow chicka wow-wow” themes, so I can’t be one to judge. Either way, it’s another example of how porn is a reflection of society.

    Shaved vulva on film can be traced back to somewhere between 1915 and 1920, coincidentally the same time we start seeing shaved armpits in Hollywood movies. Prior to that we run out of film pretty rapidly, but we have literary evidence, artwork and the existence of the pubic wig, or ‘merkin’ (dating back to the mid-1400s) to show us people have been removing pubic for a very long time.

    Clearly, porn isn’t causing people to shave, wax, laser or trim. People shaving, waxing, lasering and trimming are what’s causing hair-free vulva in porn, not the other way around.

    The unnatural vulva

    What about vulva themselves, does porn on film/video show “unnatural” or “impossibly neat” ones? Many claim the vulva seen in porn don’t appear in nature and seeing these unnatural vulva causes women to feel bad about theirs and incites them to have labiaplasty surgery. That’s simply not true and it’s one of the most mind-numbingly stupid things I’ve ever heard.

    We already established in Part 1 the vulva shown in photographic porn are indeed real and actually vulva. No impossibly perfect—I think they’re all possibly perfect—nor surgically altered, dyed or Photoshopped vulva anywhere to be found (except when required by law). Video, of course, shows the same real vulva. With one caveat: there’s surprisingly very little visible vulva on video (say that three times fast!).


    The hidden vulva

    Even in big-budget, two-hour features there can be less than five minutes of footage in which you can clearly see a vulva. I used a stopwatch, admittedly a strange way to watch porn, and some scenes I didn’t press the button once!

    It can vary quite a bit depending on the genre, but most of the time there’s something (a body part or object) in the way, obscuring our view, or the shot is too wide to make out any details beyond their pubic hair style. When we, for a few fleeting seconds, do see vulva, they are naturally diverse. Long labia, short ones and barely there ones, dark and light and every shade in between. They match the complexions of those who have them, no dye or photoshop needed.

    The pornographic scapegoat

    So this impression that porn is making women shave or making them feel so bad about their vulva they are compelled to get labiaplastic surgery, where is this coming from? It’s coming from sources who aren’t interested in facts and evidence, as they are consumed with their own insecurities and go to great lengths to blame pornography for their problems. It’s the same group which writes things like “porn is cruel and violent” and “porn dehumanizes women and turns them into nothing more than sex objects.” This attitude begs the question: what kind of porn are these people watching?!

    Anti-porn hysteria doesn’t reflect reality. It’s a delusion, whether it comes from the mouths of politicians, religious leaders or activists, and it needs to be treated as such.

    Many of these rather shrill people want to see porn banned. Their minds, like cement, are all mixed up and permanently set. Their message should be ignored. A better message would be one based on facts: if you’re watching porn and see a vulva (or penis) that looks different than your own, it’s simply because everyone is unique. That uniqueness should be celebrated and appreciated.

    With a background ranging from journalism, publishing and photography to computer programming and languages, along with an insatiable curiosity of the world around us, Hylton Coxwell explores a hidden topic in his first book ‘Vulva 101’. Born in 1976 near Belleville, Ontario (Canada), Hylton moved to Hiroshima, Japan in the mid- 90’s to study Japanese and various martial arts. Having returned to the Belleville area, he now teaches self-defense classes, mostly to women, and owns several small businesses. Follow Hylton on twitter @Vulva101. You can also email him at info@vulva101.com, or subscribe to his Facebook page.
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