Y’know, I wasn’t going to write about vajazzling, because I figured it was too silly for words. I like sparkly things as much as any gal. Yet I’m just bemused that anyone would desire a crystal encrusted “vajayjay.” (How does one achieve this? Let Sociological Images enlighten you!) I don’t think this will take off as a real trend. A recession is on, and most of us can find better ways to spend $50. But even if it mercifully remains a mini-trend, its symbolism deserves to be sliced and diced.
It really comes down to denaturing women’s genitalia. By that, I don’t just mean that we’re rendering them unnatural. In itself, that would hardly be worth noticing. All of us engage in body modification, whether it’s something as simple as a haircut or as complicated as plastic surgery. Sometimes there’s a clear patriarchal background, such as the billions of dollars women spend on makeup and men don’t. Yet I’m not down on lipstick. I like it. What’s the difference? Well, lipstick isn’t meant to change lips into something they’re not. I dislike black lipstick because it makes living lips look dead, but in general, lips clearly remain lips.
Whereas the pubic area, once vajazzled, looks like something else altogether. It is indeed denatured in the sense of being far removed from its natural state. More significantly, it’s denatured by rendering it less suitable for actual sexual activity. The literal definition of “denaturing” alcohol is adding a substance that makes it unfit for human consumption. Obviously, I don’t mean that a woman’s partner should be literally consuming her, or that cunnilingus – like wood alcohol – could make him go blind, but crystals aren’t exactly conducive to loving nibbles, either. As usual, Sady Doyle totally nails it:
Probably what your vagina needs is to look MORE LIKE THE RUMP OF A SPECIAL-EDITION MY LITTLE PONY THAN USUAL. …
Like, I mean: I hate to be a jerk here, but if you need my vagina to dress up for this party, my suspicion is that it is not going to be much of a party. Not to be all second-wave, but the continuing impulse to make ladyparts look less like themselves and more like gifts you would get from your dingier variety of novelty shop, next to the lava lamps, bespeaks some ill to me.
(More spot-on snark at Tiger Beatdown. It’s worth reading the whole thing.)
I don’t really think male partners are going to start insisting women bejewel their nether regions, but fussy decor is bound to dampen the party regardless, and by “dampen” I don’t mean it in the good way. The crystals are supposed to last five days. They can pop off. That implies won’t stand up well to serious bumping and grinding. I’m reminded of women of my mother’s generation, those genteel young ladies of the 1950s and 1960s, who admonished their partners not to muss their hairdos or lipstick. “Oh no, darling, don’t touch my vajayjay! I don’t want to pop a crystal!”
Really, is there anything less sexy than “don’t touch”?
Nor may vajazzles be every guy’s cup of tea. I love how figleaf describes the sparkly things:
That should read shiny, sharp cut-glass crystal objects! Which at the very, very least would tend to limit one’s partner’s interest in face-to-face intercourse. And assuming men are being honest who say they don’t want pubic hair in their mouths ought to be just even more balky about chipping their molars on Swarovski crystals.
If I understand correctly, the stones are pretty tiny, so it’s unlikely anyone will suffer a gash requiring stitches. But yeah, they’re not exactly pettable. In his post, figleaf notes that he’s carefully not judging others’ choices or preferences. Me, I think we can gleefully criticize anything that makes us less touchable.
Isn’t any practice that emphasizes appearance at the expense of sensual pleasure actually, ultimately sex-negative? Aren’t practices like this – including rigid standards for public grooming, which are widespread – fundamentally alien to a sexual culture where ideas about beauty and appearance would actually amplify sexual pleasure, rather than interfering with it? Sure, you can avoid rubbing up against the crystals with a rear-entry position – and nothing wrong with that, not at all! But then who’s going to admire the vajazzles?
And shouldn’t we be suspicious when said practice is only marketed toward women? In comments at figleaf’s, Chingona said:
The nice, succinct way of putting this is escaping me at the moment, but the whole notion that women’s bodies are both their greatest asset and yet fundamentally unacceptable in a state of nature comes straight out of patriarchy, and I don’t think you get to vajazzling without that foundation.
Actually, I think she put it nicely and succinctly. It turns out that if you regender vajazzling, its intelligibility disintegrates. It makes no sense unless you factor in patriarchy, even in its current rump, zombie form.
So here’s the regendering test: Would vanilla heterosexual men do the same? Are those men waxing their balls and encrusting the family jewels in, well, jewels? And could any dude do the My Little Pony look without casting serious doubt on his masculinity?
Clue: The answer to those questions tells you that at the very least, oppositional sexism is in play – Julia Serano’s term for the conviction that men and women must think in act in polar opposite ways. Honestly, the odds of men embracing their inner sparkle are about as high as my six-year-old sincerely wanting a Pretty Sparkly Princess scooter – he jokes about it, but actual desire is somewhere less than zero. (Anyway, I think the Hello Kitty Band-aids have sated his need to mock the pink.)
Plain old garden variety sexism is at work, too, insofar as women’s genitals are reviled in ways that men’s typically aren’t. Take, for instance, all the jokes about women smelling like fish, and all the products that have been sold to sanitize us, from Lysol (yes, really) to flavored douche. A vajazzled mons is so closely tended, it’s practically guaranteed to smell like a rose.
And if all this sanitizing didn’t already stink, vajazzling takes us back to weird anatomy, where the “vagina” has migrated suspiciously far north. This anatomy might work fine in Cubism, or if Escher had produced female nudes (I don’t think he did). On real women? Personally, I hope to keep my vagina as an innie and at a safe remove from my belly-button.
“Vajayjay” is even worse, über-cutesy and little-girlish. It too is anatomically challenged. And about that oppositional sexism: When was the last time you heard a guy talk about his “cockadoodle-doo”? Of course I just made that up, because there is no parallel term that an adult man would use to frame his genitals as childish and coy. Weenie? Junk? They’re just not the same.
We have perfectly good terms to name the petals of the labia, the soft hillock of the mons, the eager clitoris. Let’s use them. And it they sometimes feel too clinical, let’s adopt or create words that convey power and pleasure, not a Bratz doll aesthetic.
After my Brazilian bikini wax, Alicia affixed the flair right above my vagina. It came in temporary tattoo form, which Alicia placed on me after first rinsing the area with rubbing alcohol. (This didn’t hurt although Alicia told me some women found it painful.) She used a tongue depressor to push down on the crystals (that hurt) and then I was all set.
Note, in passing, that the wax itself also hurt, and that the crystals were initially set upon a field of angry pink skin. So, so sexy! But the author can be so, so happy that Alicia didn’t actually apply the crystals “right above [her] vagina,” because her clitoris would’ve been mighty displeased. Also, I do wonder about the potential for a sweet little sparkle to migrate into the urethra, but I’d just rather not go there.
All of this – the anatomical obfuscation, the juvenile terms for ladyparts, the urge to embellish one’s crotch to match a five-year-old’s Barbie T-shirt – all of this contributes the mystification of women’s genitals. It neutralizes and denatures them, even as the “natural” pussy is rendered disgusting. It colludes with old, old ideas about “unmentionables” even in an era when Jennifer Love Hewitt gabs about her pubic grooming habits on national TV. It makes at least some young women reluctant to have sex that they want, only because their pussy isn’t “perfectly” groomed.
You know what would be a truly awesome trend? If people could be minimalist in their personal grooming, or creative and expressive, or whatever – as long as grooming and body modification didn’t get in the way of actual sex and pleasure. And as long as it didn’t reinforce the zombie, rump idea that women should get their jollies entirely through their partners’ pleasure, rather than pursuing desires and pleasures of their own.
Let’s leave the fussy, fusty grooming of pussies to the real experts – the felines – and just have some fun. Temporary tattoos, anyone? I have a mondo stash from Oriental Trading Company. Some of them are even shiny – with nary a sharp edge.