the wanderings of a restless soul

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A Response to “The Most Beautiful Vagina in the World” Contest

On July 30th, Mic published an article titled “Meet the Woman With the Most Beautiful Vagina in the World.” Initially I was grossed out. Just another Helen of Twat story with men spearheading (pun intended) the rhetoric, with the end result of an empty Trojan horse left on the beach, and Helen in the hands of another man because how else is she relevant?

Let’s be real. It’s basically just another sausage fest.

But the article raised some interesting perspectives about the part of a woman that is pervasively exploited and rarely talked about. The article, written by Sophie Kleeman, recognized that, whether disgusted or intrigued, the question remained, “Who would win, and just what, exactly, would her flawless lady bits look like?”

To which I can’t help but rebut, since when does beautiful mean flawless? This is the damaging rhetoric that keeps women wobbling on a weak-structured pedestal of an unsympathetic male gaze. Even the use of the word flaw as a connotation of ugliness or the unappealing is dangerous, and should really only be used for the mechanical and technological. For instance– The keyboard on my Android is lagging. There must be a system flaw.

Sex toy engineer and apparent vulva aficionado Brian Sloan is the mad scientist behind the vagina pageant. According to Mic, his goal was to find an “aesthetically pleasing vulva” in order to “deduce what kind of vaginal appearance [his] customers prefer and then design vagina sleeves based on their feedback.”

I would argue that it is more competent to use the term aesthetic than flawless when engaging a conversation about beauty. The use of the word aesthetic promotes the understanding that an object’s appeal concerns individual sensory responses versus one that is universal, which ultimately constructs a standard of expectations from a niche aesthetic.

With the contest offering “$5,000 for first place, $2,500 for second place and $1,250 for third place,” it’s unsurprising that 182 women submitted their photos. What is surprising, though, and irksome, is that even the winning vulva, the acclaimed “most beautiful vagina in the world,” whose clone will soon be penetrated by thousands of lonely and undersexed men all over the world, only got a rating of 7.7 over 10.

A rating, which I’m willing to put money on, will be outrated by her soon-to-be vagina sleeve made from “… a high quality artificial skin material.” In other words, real just isn’t good enough. Ladies, take your sweaty, hair-prone, bruised, undetachable vaginas and offer them up to a museum, because they are the thing of a barbaric past.

In spite of the creep culture this pageant caters to, I can’t bring myself to criticize the women who turned in their pictures. That is a choice for them to make, and if they get prize money without anyone laying a hand on them, then more power to you. Even the winner seems level headed about her participation, “I still do not believe I have a special vagina… I happen to have the best picture of my vagina.”

My concern arises from these women’s motivation to enter the contest. The winner revealed to Mic that it was her boyfriend that encouraged her: “[My boyfriend] has always told me, you have a cute, chubby vagina.”

Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t think there is anything wrong with men complimenting women or with women enjoying compliments. But the winner clearly stated she thought very little of her vagina, until her boyfriend pointed out that it was a contender for “most beautiful in the world.” Why is it that her boyfriend and apparently “134,707 votes from a pool of 1.2 million visitors” decided her vagina’s value for her?

I’m compelled to wonder how many of the women turned in pictures with confidence presented to them by their male partners and/or the standards of the porn industry? Women need to take time in their lifetime and explore their vaginas to deduce, on their own terms, what they think of their individual aesthetic. I understand the challenge of this feat when women are rarely encouraged to explore or understand their own sexuality. We are taught by mostly the women in our family to not get pregnant or get an STI.

I would imagine it disheartening for a woman to look at her vagina and send it the love and appreciation it deserves when according to the results of the votes there was “a slight preference for ‘Class 1’ vulvas, or vulvas with ‘labia minora [that] don’t protrude and are soft.’”

As harming as Western standards of beauty are to body dysmorphia, it’s even more disastrous when women give in to such false narratives.

Watching Josh Sloan’s cringe-worthy promotional video on Vimeo made me realize that no woman should be bogged down by the aesthetic expectations from men who, like Sloan, benefit from soliciting women to “Take off your pants, take out your phone, and take a picture of your vagina.”

There is no validity in rating aesthetics on a numbered scale. With that said, ladies, if you really believe that your vagina is “the most beautiful in the world,” then you should be smart and refuse to settle for $5000. You would ask for a minimum of a very negotiable 30%.