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Friday Ephemera

Sparkly Bits

Further to recent comments regarding Laurie Penny and her struggles with reality, let’s turn to the New Statesman, where, thanks to Laurie, “pop culture and radical politics” are given a “feminist twist.” 

This latest trend shows that female sexual shame remains big business.

Which heinous trend would this be? Why, vajazzling, of course:

The burgeoning celebrity craze for shaving, denuding and perfuming one’s intimate area before applying gemstones in a variety of approved girly patterns. The end result resembles a raw chicken breast covered in glitter.

It’s not for everyone, then.

As the name implies, this one is just for the girls - nobody, so far, has suggested that men’s sexual equipment is unacceptable if it doesn’t taste like cake and sparkle like a disco ball.

Ah. I fear some presumptuous rote feminism may be lurking in the bushes. As it were. But wait a minute. Who’s suggesting that an unadorned ladygarden is now “unacceptable”? Are husbands and boyfriends nationwide lecturing on the woes of unglittered panty parts? Do the manufacturers of vajazzling kits put ominous hints of inadequacy on their packaging? (Incidentally, any male readers in search of a sequinned sack or other “dickoration” will find suitable products online, and New York’s Completely Bare Spa does, I’m told, oblige.) 

Surely it can’t catch on. Surely, no matter how ludicrous, painful and expensive consumer culture’s intervention in our sex lives becomes, nobody is disgusted enough by their own normal genitals that they would rather look like they’ve just been prepped for surgery by Dr Bling. Or are they?

I hate to be a nuisance, but I do have more questions. How, exactly, does “consumer culture” – i.e., a faintly silly fashion product – intervene in “our” sex lives? Aren’t vajazzling kits bought by women voluntarily - for amusement possibly? Are women everywhere, or anywhere, being coerced into vajazzling - and if so, by whom? And why should we assume – apparently based on nothing – that the obvious motives are insecurity and self-disgust?

Suddenly, my teenage friends are popping off to get vajazzled.

Thank goodness for Laurie’s friends, to whom she turns, conveniently, whenever evidence is needed. No doubt they too are mere playthings of the all-powerful vajazzling conglomerates.

During the biggest shake-up of higher education in generations, someone at the University of Liverpool advertised a vajazzling evening for female members of the student body.

Peddling body hatred, clearly. The patriarchal fiends.

All of this is sold as a fun, pseudo-feminist “confidence boost,” as if what women really need to empower themselves is not education and meaningful work, but genitals that resemble a traumatic, intimate accident in a Claire’s accessories shop.

An interest in all three being utterly inconceivable. Vajazzling, it seems, is the latest burden of the demoralised and put-upon woman. And not, say, just a fad. It must be quite strange living in Laurie’s world, where there’s so little room for taste, or bad taste, let alone frivolity. Practically everything – even pubic glitter – has to be framed as a sociological issue and cause of feminist angst. There must always be some dastardly agenda beyond parting punters from their cash.

Vajazzling has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the cruel logic of identikit, production-line womanhood, in which “fun” means slavish adherence to the joyless motifs of corporate pornography and “confidence” means submission to a species of surveillance whereby your nether regions are forcibly reshaped into a smile.

Whoa, Neddy, whoa. Someone fetch the blow darts. We’ve a runaway mule.

It’s all about making us feel that women’s bodies - which are supposed to smell, leak and grow hair - are shameful and need fixing.

Let’s be clear then. Vajazzling isn’t merely a diversion to amuse the wearer or enliven a seduction. It’s a patriarchal tool for propagating uniformity, insecurity and submission. What power those sticky little gems must have. And what, then, are we to make of Laurie’s own publicity shots, including the one displayed proudly above her article? Should we take the author’s own grooming and careful hairstyling as indicating some kind of “submission” and “slavish adherence”? Is that also a sign of “sexual shame”? Wouldn’t unkempt, unwashed hair be more… empowering and authentic?  Does Laurie not deodorise? Does she not paint her nails to match her hair? Or are cosmetics, coiffure and careful lighting an entirely unrelated matter? Dare we enquire whether Ms Penny has piercings or tattoos – presumably to signal her liberation and womanly might?

As so often in supposedly feminist pieces of this kind, there’s an urge to pathologise the prosaic and an implicit disregard for women as autonomous beings with preferences of their own. It seems we’re supposed to believe that women – other women – are largely passive and adrift, at the mercy of advertisers and trivial social tides. Apparently the women who choose to stick beads and glitter on themselves are being duped and manipulated in ways never quite made clear. Unlike fearless leftwing columnists who wear their hair just so.