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"Why I Won't Be Shaving 'Down There' This Valentine's Day"

"Why I Won't Be Shaving 'Down There' This Valentine's Day"

Words by Emmie Harrison-West

It's always the same around Valentine's Day - supermarket shelves fill with personalised prosecco, photo-books, teddies, tacky jewellery, boozy chocolates and wedgie-inducing g-strings (because nothing says 'I love you' like a beaded thong in your crack).

And this year was no different, as I opened Instagram to be greeted with an advert for products to help with 'unsightly' ingrown hairs, 'eyesore' shaving rash and - wait for it - vulva masks to help you 'prepare' for Valentine's Day.

The anger crept in immediately. The message was clear - that women are only worthy of love on Valentine's Day if they have prepped and primed downstairs; if their genitalia are completely "flawless".

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Personally, I've never been one for a bald vagina - I know some are, and that's absolutely fine, if you do it for you and you only. But the message that your bits must be 'prepped' is so dangerous.

Women are pressured into grooming downstairs, says Emmie (Credit: Shutterstock)
Women are pressured into grooming downstairs, says Emmie (Credit: Shutterstock)

Over the last few years, the marketing of female bodies has boomed. Cue: vagina tightening products, vagina soap, charcoal 'lip' masks, vagina steam cleaners, and even vagina surgery.

Even celebrities are hopping on board, Gwyneth Paltrow being a fan of 'steaming' her lady parts and This Morning dedicating an entire segment to the treatment.

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The sad truth is, even in 2021, vaginas are shrouded in shame - even in the run-up to a Saint's day that is supposed to celebrate love. If our vagina doesn't look right, feel right or even smell right we're doing something wrong.

It lures those of us with vaginas into thinking there's an 'idealised' version of our genitalia - which can be harmful, physically and emotionally. We convince ourselves that our genitalia must be dirty, toxic, and need fixing.

And it seems the message is sinking in, with searches for 'vaginal steaming' through the roof and increased demand for labiaplasty (surgery that trims and reshapes the vulval lips to make them more symmetrical).

This Morning hosts Holly and Phil discuss the benefits of vaginal steaming (Credit: ITV)
This Morning hosts Holly and Phil discuss the benefits of vaginal steaming (Credit: ITV)
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Studies by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found that labiaplasty was one of the fastest growing procedures and, shockingly, girls as young as nine have been requesting the surgery.

We can't lay the blame solely on celebrities and brands cashing in; experts say social media and pornography also have big parts to play in making young people 'distressed' by their genitalia.

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Mia Sabat, sex therapist at sexual wellbeing app Emjoy, tells Tyla: "In textbooks, the vulva is typically presented as pink in colour, symmetrical, and hairless.

"While pornography does show vulvas, they're typically presented in a very stereotypical way, upholding the myth that all vulvas fit one mould.

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"Women often feel overwhelming amounts of pressure to perfect their appearance, and this pressure certainly includes the vulva."

Emmie says she won't be partaking in shaving this year (Credit: Shutterstock)
Emmie says she won't be partaking in shaving this year (Credit: Shutterstock)

And she's right. Those who are distressed by their supposedly imperfect vaginas will be persuaded they can 'fix' them.

So why, as women and vagina owners, do we accept this ideal that our vagina must be perfect, 'symmetrical' and like Barbies in order for us to be worthy of love, lust and respect?

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That being said, if you find joy or pleasure in going hair-free, or having a quick vag steam, that's your intimate choice, and yours only. Once it starts to become distressing and doesn't work as a 'quick fix' method for your happiness, that's when we need to sit up and take notice of how much pressure we heap on ourselves to look a certain way.

Female hair removal is a lucrative industry (Credit: Shutterstock)
Female hair removal is a lucrative industry (Credit: Shutterstock)

Vaginas do not need to be prepped, primed, or baby pink and hair-free for you to be capable of being worshipped and respected. Ingrown hairs and shaving rash are natural, men get them too - you wouldn't dream of telling them they need to prep for sex, and use a scrotum mask, would you?

I can say, as a proud bush owner, not only will I not be shaving this Valentine's Day, but I won't even be having sex if I don't fancy it.

Because my vagina is actually respected as part of my own body, by both my husband and myself foremost - it's perfectly imperfect, and it's mine.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: Beauty, Life, Sex & Relationships, Valentine's Day

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