400 Vaginas in a row. Well, hell, why not? (Warning, explicit photography; work warning.)

400 Vaginas in a row. Well, hell, why not? (Warning, explicit photography; work warning.)


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Some time ago – and for a second time soon, I trust – I visited the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart.

A short boat ride (or bus) from Constitution Dock in Hobart stands the amazing "MONA". Just go. Trust me.

Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and I raved about it: to each other, and to anyone who would listen. It was an utterly mesmerising and fascinating experience, combining everything from Egyptian mummies and Roman coins to the most modern video and physical installations and everything in between.


Sidney Nolan’s “Snake”, one of the feature pieces of Hobart’s new Museum of Old and New Art, with its own purpose-built gallery – the first time the work has ever been seen in its entirety.

It was confronting, funny, exciting, brilliantly staged, and above all, free. Frankly, it’s worth the cost of a flight to Hobart and back without question, regardless of all the other wonderful things to do in that most charming of small cities.

I believe it will come to be considered one of the most remarkable art spaces in the world, made more remarkable by the fact that the entire effort is the private gift of one somewhat eccentric self-made millionaire called David Walsh, God bless his cotton socks.

Anyhow, one of the most unusual and commented upon works in the gallery is a version of “The Great Wall of Vagina” by British artist Jamie McCartney.

This plaster cast wall consists of panels made up of, in total, some 400 vaginas, in plain, unadorned white, starkly displayed all along one wall in the heart of the museum. As the artist explained, the artwork was created from “over the course of 5 years, the vaginas (well the vulva area in fact) of hundreds of volunteers. It is an exploration of women’s relationships with their genitals.”

Now, Dear Reader, should you be inclined to be cynical and remark that a giant series of plaster casts of vaginas is (a) not art (b) sensationalism for sensationalism’s sake (c) a con, or (d) puerile and disgusting, well, frankly, I would dispute you.

“What is art?”, is, of course, an endless and usually ultimately sterile discussion anyway, but I will say that not only is the work striking and somehow – surprisingly – weirdly beautiful, and not in the least erotic, (well, to my eyes, anyway), but it also clearly engenders the debate on women’s usually-hidden parts that the artist was aiming for.

What I think is more interesting is whether women actually need to consider their “relationship with their genitals”. And based on recent studies, I really rather think they do.

"It's lovely dear, honestly it is." "You really mean that?" "I do, please don't worry." "Righy-ho, then."

“It’s lovely dear, honestly it is.” “You really mean that?” “I do, please don’t worry.” “Righty-ho, then.”

After all, it’s always been easy for men to consider their genitalia and their “normality” or otherwise.

Classical art is chock-full of gravitationally-enhanced examples of the penis and its attendant testicles. Not for nothing do women gaze at Michaelangelo’s David with relatively unabashed admiration.

But as we can see in this charming little vignette of family life, women’s genitalia has long been considered something to be somewhat prudishly kept from public view. The female pudenda is either lost behind some casually draped snatch of material or, even worse, simply ignored, replaced with a suitably sterile smooth surfacesans any worrysome dangly bits. It appears that vaginas are somehow, dirtily, ashamedly … well, just plain rude.

Well, this is what I think. For a start, this is a distinction I have simply never understood, this difference in the public acceptability between the male body and the female.

A man can walk around topless for days and no one will comment (unless their top looks like mine, in which case they will probably get asked to put it away) but if a woman lets so much as a glimpse of nipple hit the light then all hell breaks loose. (Janet Jackson, anyone?) Newspaper columnists fulminate darkly about whether or not women should be allowed to breast feed in public. And the exterior of the female sex organ is apparently a step too far for nearly everyone.

Clearly we have a long way to go before womens’ naughty bits are ranked at the same level as mens’. This is obviously because women are inherently the deceiving, wanton, lustful sex, luring poor helpless out-of-control men from their allotted paths of bonking-free righteousness. It’s a feminist issue, of course, and it’s a nonsense, but for today’s purposes I digress, so I will move on.

Hidden deep in the cavernous interior of MON A are 400 vaginas. ooo-er missus, will the honoured burghers of sedate Hobart ever survive the shock?

Hidden deep in the cavernous interior of MONA are 400 plaster vaginas in all their glory. Ooo-er missus, will the honourble burghers of sedate Hobart ever survive the shock?

The real reason women need to know what vaginas look like – and lots of vaginas, preferably – is because psychologists tell us that in fact many women have only a passing idea of what their own genitalia looks like.

This is as opposed to men, of course, who from the age of about two, as any parent of a male child can confirm, start obsessively studying their schlong, regardless, usually, of where they are and who might watching. Little girls, famously and alternatively, are taught from an early age to keep their knees together, and in some Roman Catholic convents in my youth, even forbidden to wear shiny or patent leather shoes, lest they unexpectedly catch sight of a reflection of their own vagina and become … well, I dunno what, exactly. Raging harlots destined to end up marked with a red “A for adulteress” on their shirt or perhaps preggers by sixteen to a village lad or somesuch. That wicked vagina, Lord knows what it could lead you into …

That’s why one of the very first exercises conducted in many psycho-sexual therapies for women having difficulties relaxing and enjoying their own bodies is to encourage them to get a hand mirror and have a good look at their nether regions, becoming familiar with their folds, wrinkles, innies and outies, clitoris and surrounding tissue et al. Many women apparently find it a liberating and fulfilling experience, and good on them. Many of the volunteer models for McCartney’s work also found themselves feeling “empowered” by the experience, whether they were an 18 year old or a 79 year old, and everyone in between.

But even that isn’t the best reason to go look at 400 vaginas in plaster cast. Surely the best reason is that the bloody beauty industry, which obviously isn’t making enough money out of making women feel insecure and in need of spending more money, is convincing more and more women to go under the surgeon’s knife to hack away at their inner labia (lips) so that they look “neater”. Or even, at the patient’s request, and without any medical reason for doing so, to remove their inner vaginal lips entirely.

This is the brave new world of labiaplasty. And it’s all the rage.

As Australian blog Mamamia commented: “And it’s why a ‘Barbie’ is no longer just the name of the beloved childhood doll whose hair you cut and whose bizarre shaped feet you squeezed into painful looking plastic shoes. If only.

‘The Barbie’ is so nicknamed because the procedure involves removing the inner lips of the vulva entirely so that only the outer lips are visible. In other words, it makes the genitalia of real life women look like Barbie’s.”

This horrifyingly unnecessary (and like any surgical procedure, risky) activity is a great way for surgeons to make a quick buck. Increasingly, young women pop into a clinic or hospital for a quick nip and tuck while on holiday in countries where the procedure is cheaper, such as Thailand. And labiaplasty is on the rise even though the invasive and irreversible procedure is only rarely carried out for medical reasons.

Note, some vaginas look like this, but not very men. Virtually all vaginas in porn magazines look like this. It's called Photoshop. And it's a lie.

Note, some vaginas look like this, but not very many. Virtually all vaginas in porn magazines look like this. It’s called Photoshop. And it’s a lie.

Mamamia again: “The real reason labiaplasty is going gangbusters is that women and girls have become more concerned about the asthetic appeal of their baby making parts. This has been prompted, at least in part, by the fact that our society’s view of what ‘normal’ even looks like has been vastly distorted by what photoshopped vaginas look like in porn.”

This all leaves many women feeling insecure about what their vaginas look like. In some reports, the women seeking surgery are as young as 12 years old, supported by their mothers. Words fail me.

Commonly cited insecurities amongst women of all ages seeking labiaplasty include being worried that their vulva is uneven or unsymmetrical, or thinking the inner labia is ‘too long’.

Kristen O’Regan, a writer for art and politics magazine Guernica, went undercover to find out more about the surgery.

Kristen made an appointment with a plastic surgeon and told her that she was interested in labiaplasty. Kirsten was told, “Oh yes, you’re not alone.”

Dr. Red Alinsod, who invented the ‘Barbie’ surgery explains the reasoning behind it, to Kristen.

This results in a “clamshell” aesthetic: a smooth genital area, the outer labia appearing “sealed” together with no labia minora protrusion. Dr Alinsod tells me he invented the Barbie in 2005. “I had been doing more conservative labiaplasties before then,” he says. “But I kept getting patients who wanted almost all of it off. They would come in and say, I want a ‘Barbie.’ So I developed a procedure that would give them this comfortable, athletic, petite look, safely.”

And how many people are getting surgeries like these?

The American College of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons recorded 2,140 vaginal rejuvenation surgeries in 2010. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons estimates that 5,200 procedures are performed annually.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the vaginal rejuvenation industry was worth around $6.8million in 2009. This number is now undoubtedly much higher and does not take into account any procedures performed by gynecologists.

This is despite the fact that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have issued statements advising against vaginal cosmetic procedures, because the safety of the surgery is questionable. And in Australia requests for labiaplasty – which is available on Medicare – have more than doubled over the past 10 years.

So as blog Mamamia asks, (and good on them for pursuing this issue consistently over a number of articles), “we’ve got patients who don’t really need to be patients and doctors agreeing to operate anyway. Why would that be?”

The answer of course is the great God money – and the fact that women are worrying completely unnecessarily about the shape of their vaginas.


That’s why Jamie McCartney’s work is valuable, (just one of the ten panels is shown here), why it deserves to be seen, and discussed, as widely as possible. And why MONA deserves praise for making room for it.

Because women need to know, whatever shape their vagina is, whatever its component parts look like, whether the lips stick in or out or simply hang about in the breeze, it is 99.99999% certain that their vagina is entirely normal.

And they really don’t need to worry.

There is not a man alive who could care less. Trust me.

You might also care to read: http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/let-it-all-hang-outie/

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Why Australian law demands all vaginas be digitally altered (NSFW)

Why Australian law demands all vaginas be digitally altered (NSFW)

Mia Freedman

It’s the Year of the Bunny and I have no idea what that really means except that a bunch of Playboy memorabilia is being auctioned by Christies. Among the items for sale are some original prints of Playboy bunny centrefolds complete with their original mark-up notes. These are the written instructions given by the art director about what must be digitally altered.

stretchlinesbutt 11 18 Why Australian law demands all vaginas be digitally altered (NSFW)

The nearly invisible stretchmarks on Brande Roderick’s bum, are circled with the annotation, ‘Kill stretch lines.’

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According to art directors, Shauna Sand’s pores were too large

Even though these proofs are from the 90s, before air-brushing became as extreme as it is today, there are still loads of alterations to ‘soften’ nipples, ‘remove stubble’ and ‘thin’ pubic hair as well as remove all stretch marks, blemishes and cellulite.

But what about the vaginas? Oh yes, they have to be air-brushed too. Although I’m not sure if this is enshrined in law like it is in Australia.

The debate around censorship and female body parts in magazines is one that I dealt with at Cosmo, you can read more on that here. In short, the laws in Australia legislate that you MUST air-brush vaginas to ‘heal it to a single crease’ so that no outer parts of the labia are shown, apparently it’s too rude to show what a REAL vagina looks like.

Earlier this year, journalists Kirsten Drysdaleand Ali Russell investigated the link between censorship and the increase in labiaplasty amongst young women and I wanted to share with you Kirsten’s blog post which was first published on Hungry Beast. It’s brilliant.

4403219366 0a0fd61c91 Why Australian law demands all vaginas be digitally altered (NSFW)


If I handed you a pencil and paper and asked you to draw a vagina*, odds are you would come up with something like this:

Which is interesting, considering only a small minority of mature females actually have fannies that look like that. Little girls – yes, that’s pretty much what they all look like. But grown women? The vast majority have a least a peep of their ‘inner lips’ showing, even when standing upright with their legs together while sipping Earl Grey from gold-rimmed Royal Doulton and nibbling on homemade shortbread. For many women, it’s more than just a ‘peep’ – some have full-blown dangly blossoms on display. This has nothing to do with how much sex they’ve had, their state of arousal or whether they’ve borne children (although, so what if it was?). It’s simply the way they are built.

So from a purely statistical standpoint, there’s something fishy about the fact that none of the women in soft porn mags have ‘outies’. Go and see for yourself – flick through Picture, People or Penthouse and see if you can find a single instance of a punani that looks like this:

4402427219 e18942cf93 Why Australian law demands all vaginas be digitally altered (NSFW)


You won’t.

And it’s not because they’ve chosen to only photograph women with ‘innies’. Many of those models actually have outies in real life, which have been ‘healed to a single crease’ (that’s the charming term used in the magazine industry) with the aid of image editing software. Think of it as ‘digital labiaplasty’.

It’s important to be clear that this is not something magazines do to suit the taste of their readership. Although mainstream pornography is hardly known (or appreciated) for a commitment to realism, in this particular case it’s a different issue. They’re not removing lady bits because people don’t want to see them, in the same way they smooth out cellulite or remove blemishes. They’re removing them because as far as the Classification Board is concerned, the labia minora are too rude for soft porn. It’s as though the censors think you could only possibly see it by spreading your legs or pulling your flaps apart.

If you still don’t believe me – go and pick up a copy of the ‘Unrestricted Category’ (M15+) Penthouse and compare it with Penthouse Max (the ‘Category 1’ R18+ version of the mag). I did this at the recommendation of the Classification Board, and found it a very enlightening little exercise. You’ll see exactly the same girls, from exactly the same photoshoot – and in some cases, exactly the same photographs – which will illustrate very clearly how they’ve been ‘tidied up’ in the softer version.

And they don’t even have to be very ‘messy’ to begin with. Take this example from the February editions of Penthouse and Penthouse Max:

4402449021 8c711f205c Why Australian law demands all vaginas be digitally altered (NSFW)

February editions of Penthouse and Penthouse Max

Heaven forbid minors – or people in Queensland, where only the Unrestricted category is legal – see what a real vagina can look like!

There’s a clause, you see, in Australia’s Classification Guidelines that concerns how much nudity is acceptable for soft porn. It says:

“Realistic depictions may contain discreet genital detail but there should be no genital emphasis.”

Need I point out the irony in the fact that the way the Board applies this rule results in highly unrealistic depictions of nudity? Or that at a time of fierce debate over whether a person’s physical appearance (regardless of their actual age) should be a factor in deciding whether they could incite paedophilia, the Classification Board is preventing obviously mature pussies (the growth of labia minora happens during puberty) from being shown in soft porn?

And WTF does ‘discreet genital detail’ mean anyway? Well, according to the Board member we spoke to, it’s obvious:

Yeah well I guess genital detail’s that, we can have discreet genital detail in Unrestricted and I guess that means genital, well, detail is pretty straightforward, so discreet means little or no or very little detail or not prominent, so it’s sort of quite clear on what is not allowed, if that makes sense…

No, it doesn’t really.

Well, genital detail. It’s just the detail of the genitals. Like if it’s not specific in our guidelines we use the Macquarie Dictionary meaning for those terms. And genital detail is details of the genitals. So, I guess in Unrestricted you can have discreet genital detail, and whatever that means, you combine that also with a pose, and with everything.

Clear as mud. And highly subjective. One person’s ‘discreet’ could be another’s ‘explicit’. And detail? What exactly constitutes ‘detail’? Can you show pubes? Can you show the clitoris? Can you show the eye of the penis? Can you show the wrinkles of a scrotum? Or can you only show genitals in soft-focus giving a general idea of shape?

The Classification Board’s denial that they are effectively censoring a particular body type is a first class lesson in spin. Have a read of their response to our written enquiry seeking clarification on the rules about nudity in ‘Unrestricted Category’ publications and how they pertain to the depiction of labia minora for yourself:

In considering each classifiable element, including nudity, the Board makes classification decisions based on the impact of individual elements and their cumulative effect. Both the content and treatment of elements contribute to the impact. The Board takes into account the concepts underlying individual descriptions and depictions, and assesses factors such as emphasis, tone, frequency, context and the amount of visual or written detail in those descriptions and depictions.

This is the same excuse they’ve been using ever since these guidelines were redrafted in 1999. Because no one factor alone is used to classify an image or publication, they can claim that photos of women with protruding inner lips are refused for any one of those other reasons – ‘oh, we can’t speculate on individual cases, but it must have been something else that was a problem, there’s nothing in the guidelines that says labia minora aren’t permitted’.

Horse’s arse.

They don’t allow it, and they know it.

Screen shot 2010 11 23 at 5.26.34 PM Why Australian law demands all vaginas be digitally altered (NSFW)

By Kirsten Drysdale

*DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know I should be using the word vulva. The vagina, technically, is the ‘muscular tube leading from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus’. The vulva refers to the external part (the ‘lips’, clitoris, etc) which is obviously what we are talking about here. However – the term vulva is not used in everyday language to describe the external female genitalia of humans, so for the sake of making the point clear I’ve opted to use the word vagina in this article as it is commonly (though not entirely accurately) used.

Kirsten Drysdale is a reporter/presenter for the ABC’s Hungry Beast and a researcher on The Gruen Transfer. She is currently travelling in Africa and working freelance.

WARNING: The video contains imagery that is not safe for work, including a labiaplasty surgery scene. Story by Kirsten Drysdale and co-produced by Ali Russell republished with full permission from the authors.

This should be mandatory reading and viewing in schools. Just like the Dove advertisement which deconstructed what goes on in the making of your typical beauty image, girls and women of all ages need to know that the vaginas (vulvas!) they see in men’s magazines do not exist.

Imagine for a moment if someone in the censor’s office had decided that testicles were too ‘explicit’. Imagine that to be sold over the counter at a normal newsagent, your naked pictures of men had to have their testicles digitally removed.

Yes, digital castration. Think there might be an outcry? Think the censorship laws might be overturned?

So what exactly is it about female genitals that are so ‘explicit’ and offensive that they must be removed?

People need to know about this. Please share it.

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How to Tell If You’re Dating a Sociopath

How to Tell If You’re Dating a Sociopath

A few years ago I dated a man who said that he loved me.

But hundreds of unanswered phone calls and dates that only I showed up for made that hard to believe. Still I knew that if I was patient and loved him hard enough that he would eventually change.

It took a phone call from the wife that he conveniently forgot to mention to make me realize that that probably wasn’t going to happen.

Many experiences (and a master’s degree) later, I’ve come to understand that my former lover, and those like him, are sociopaths: a unique breed of individual that is incapable of empathy or any other proper connection to other human beings.

Now when you think of the term “sociopath,” it might conjure up images of the lone stranger who gets off by dismembering people in his backyard. While this may be true, the term isn’t reserved for only felons and serial killers.

This is because the sociopath’s desire doesn’t have to be murder. Sometimes it’s money. Sometimes it’s sex. Sometimes it’s control. And while many people have these same aspirations, what makes a sociopath a sociopath is that they are more than willing to hurt someone to get what they want. So if your feelings or your well-being have to be sacrificed in order for them to achieve that need, that’s exactly what will have to happen.

They’re the man who sleeps with his partner just for her paycheck; the boyfriend that has sex with his girl’s sister, or even the husband that has managed to keep a secret, second family on the side. Most heartbreaking are the partners who think they can love or pray these individuals into being better people. But unfortunately, that’s simply not possible. Because unlike most people who suffer from some sort of mental disorder, sociopaths are perfectly happy being just the way they are. It’s the people that they come across who are miserable. So the only way to ensure that you’re not hurt by a sociopath is simple: stay away.

And what are the criteria for a diagnosable sociopath?

1. Unlawful Behavior Sociopaths are arrogant creatures who often think they can operate above the law. Because of this, they may repeatedly perform criminal acts. However, because they are usually crafty and highly intelligent, they rarely get caught.

2. Deceitfulness Lying! But not the random or compulsive variety. Sociopaths lie for a purpose, which usually includes some type of financial, sexual, or political gain. Lies may be grandiose in nature and are told as a vehicle of control.

3. Impulsivity Sociopaths act on instinct and without thoroughly planning ahead. They may enter relationships quickly and passionately, but lose interest just as fast.

4. Aggressiveness Sociopaths are usually easily irritated and may be prone to repeated physical fights.

5. Reckless Disregard Sociopaths are likely to partake in risky, thrill seeking behaviors as they constantly need to be stimulated. In the context of relationships, this includes highly promiscuous sexual behavior usually without protection.

6. Irresponsibility You know that person that can’t seem to hold down a job? Not because they’re lazy, but because they just don’t want to work? They may just be a sociopath that thinks they’re too good for a regular nine to five.

7. Lack of Remorse Sociopaths don’t feel bad about anything. This includes not returning your calls or sleeping with your best friend. And to add insult to injury, sociopaths will come up with reasons to rationalize their messed up behavior. Her friend wanted me and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Right?

Bottom line is a sociopath has one concern: himself. And while they know their behavior is devastating to those around them, they’re charming enough to make sure that there are always people in their lives to take advantage of.

You just have to make sure you’re not one of them.

Post by  Shayla Pierce