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Vulvas & Porn: Why Their Relationship 'Is Complicated' (NSFW) (Part 1)



    At GetLusty, we feel like porn can be beautiful. Feminist porn that is. What about mainstream 'traditional' porn? At GetLusty, we like to talk about erotica of all kinds. We've touched on the potential negative affects of too much porn for men. but now we want to take a look at how porn might be skewing the perceptions of women. We're glad to have the perspective of Hylton Coxwell, author of Vulva 101. The first in a two part series, Hylton defends the porn industry against what he calls "quasi-feminist" blogs.

    * * *

    It’s porn’s fault! 

    At least that what we’re often told. Whether about corrupting morality, or the more recent hot topics of pubic hair removal and labiaplasty, the notion that pornography has the ability to manipulate human behavior has been assumed to be the truth. But is this really the case—can it actually compel people to shave daily or have parts of their genitals surgically removed?

    Though I’ve read it in medical literature, today quasi-feminist blogs are the biggest pushers of that idea. I say ‘quasi’ as there’s a big difference between believing women have sole control over their bodies, choices and sexuality, versus simply being angry with individual men. The latter also presume women are gullible and easily manipulated, by those evil male pornographers, into doing things like shaving their pubic hair or having parts of their labia removed.

    Here’s a few direct quotes:

    “Sometimes they are influenced in these views by having seen misleading pornographic magazines or videos – in which the ‘heroine’s’ vulva appears impossibly neat and tidy!” “Often times the only point of reference women have is what they see in porn. And what they see is dyed, shaved, airbrushed and sometimes surgically altered. What they see does not occur naturally.”

    That sounds good on the surface, except it’s not true. That’s not what you see in porn, and is so far from reality I must question whether the authors of those statements have ever actually viewed porn. It’s not based on evidence. They just made all that up, or repeated something someone else made up.

    Don’t believe me? 

    Just google the words ‘vulva’ or ‘pussy’ or any of the other common slang terms and what you’ll find is a real cross-section of how vulva actually look. You’ll likely end up on thumbnail gallery posts (pages of small images which when clicked view the full-sized pictures). And probably, you'll encounter more than a few blind links. But you’ll see long lips (labia minora), short ones and barely there ones, shaved, trimmed, hairy and a respectably wide range of body types and ages.

    In essence, you’ll find the same range of vulva appearance, labia size and pubic hair in porn as you do in the general population. While researching for this article, I viewed thousands of random vulva images, and not a single vulva would be out-of-place in Vulva 101. All were naturally occurring—not one was dyed, Photoshopped or manipulated to alter the shape, size or color of labia. The only ones I found that were surgically altered were those of transgender women.

    It’s important to note: virtually every image you see (of any subject, in print and online) has been “Photoshopped” to some degree, mainly to ensure the image looks good color-wise on-screen or on various combinations of ink and paper types. I spent more than a decade Photoshopping hundreds of thousands of images, and ‘darkrooming’ them before that, in my career so doctored images are pretty easy to spot. If there are misleading vulva images in pornography, I’m having a seriously difficult time finding any.

    Pornography is not a manipulator, it’s simply a mirror of what exists. There’s no agenda, no one is trying deceive you as to what vulva actually look like.

    Illegal vulva

    No one at least, except for some governments. There are countries with strict laws prohibiting the sale of images showing vulva (and penises too). Japan, for instance, forces porn producers to blur out vulva entirely and Australia requires on-the-shelf erotic magazines to not show any inner lips. Producers comply, not because they want to or because they think lips are obscene—in fact they hate the laws and the expense incurred by all that retouching—but because they have to in order to sell their products.

    Prepubescent myth

    Another argument often thrown around regarding the lack of pubic hair in porn is that it makes women look like little girls, and men want women to look prepubescent. This concept is as absurd as it is insulting. It ignores the fact that adult, shaved vulva don’t look like those of little girls and it totally disregards women’s motivation for shaving, and their right to do so.

    While working on Vulva 101, I spoke with hundreds of women about this. When asked why they chose to remove some or all of their pubic hair the answer was a resounding, “I like the way it feels, and it’s easier to keep clean.” Coincidentally, these are some of the same reasons humans have been removing pubic hair for thousand of years.

    Vulva Puppets

    And then there’s the Vulva Puppet, and other abstractly colored vulva trinkets, sometimes regarded as the antithesis to the “unnatural” images of vulva in “male-centric” porn. Well-meaning as they may be, as teaching tools they are worse than useless and border on the comically ridiculous. They only serve to illustrate what real vulva don’t look like and sadly reinforce the perception that actual vulva are too graphic or obscene to be viewed.

    So where do people get the idea that porn causes women to believe they must shave their pubic hair, or that their labia are too long and need to be surgically removed? They certainly don’t get the idea from viewing porn, that much is clear. Instead the idea comes from not viewing porn. It’s an idea based not on fact but on ignorance and fear.

    It’s a lie, often repeated and easily believed. In Part 2, we delve deeper into the subject of porn and vulvas. Our two favorite topics.

    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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