Calling a cunt a cunt and other pernicious cultural assumptions

Posted: August 15, 2011 in Culture

The Femfresh ads scattered all over London have been annoying me for a while, with their relentless insistence that ‘loving your la-la’ (translation: looking after – because ‘loving’ means ‘looking after’ for women, obviously – your genitalia) equates to buying a specific product whose sales are obviously down and who’re therefore going on a huge marketing campaign to convince us that yet another aspect of the female body is unacceptable without having money thrown at it. Complete with relentlessly false joviality and a litany of ridiculous euphemisms, it’s a one-way train to seething incandescent rage at the pressures contemporary culture and the forces of capitalism put on women to continually focus on manipulating tiny details of their bodies to perceive themselves acceptable rather than, eg, taking over the world. Nowhere is it implied that possibly ‘woo-hoo for your froofroo’ (really) might consist of, eg, having really good sex, learning about one’s own desires, masturbation, not feeling under pressure to behave physically in any particular way, conducting your sex life in whatever way maximises your own personal fulfillment (however that may be achieved), or even (FSM forbid!) simply wearing comfy boypants rather than a lacy thong, rather than purchasing a scented was you had no idea you needed until 5 minutes ago. Sure, maybe some shower gels irritate genital skin, but some shower gels irritate my skin full stop, and I took the revelatory measure of *not using those ones*. Shocking, huh? Personally speaking, I shower 2 or 3 times a day (swimmer, sorry), with or without shower gel, and am lucky enough to have a fantastic, healthy and fulfilling sex life. I suspect my genitalia are about as a) hygienic and b) ecstatic as they’re likely to get without immediate manual assistance, and even were this not the case, I’m damn sure a new concoction of chemicals with which to wipe my cunt wouldn’t quite match up to multiple orgasm.

Even more irritating, therefore, is the special ‘promotion’ in September’s Cosmo. Just for the fuck of it, here’s a breakdown of why it pisses me off.:

‘Any Cosmo girl will tell you that knowing how to party, looking good and taking care of our bodies improves our overall confidence’. Because using a genital wash = partying, obviously. Jesus. It doesn’t appear to occur to anyone that confidence could conceivably work the other way round, that confident women spend less time obsessing over minute details of their appearance as instructed by Cosmo.

59% of women spend most time on their faces, with only 2.7% spending an equivalent length of time on their genitals. Well no, really? Apart from anything else, surely a significant proportion of Cosmo readers apply make-up daily, which obviously takes some time. Not to mention that the face is constantly exposed, and so the continuous round of cleanse/tone/moisturise women are supposed to engage in (oops, yet again I fail at femininity…) has at least some logical justification. The implication that somehow we should be lavishing equivalent attention on our cunts is just mystifying. Who for? Mine feels quite comfortable untoned, thank you. And what lover actually wants a mouthful of moisturiser or scented wash if they’re going down on you? Don’t cunts taste hot? It’s not like vaginal secretions can be made to taste of anything other than, well, cunt. Possibly, at a pinch (hah!) cunt and lube. Or am I missing something? And by the way, is anyone telling men they need special washes to make their penises acceptable? Serious question, because if so I’ve missed it. How is it fair that women, specifically, are made to feel anxious abt their bodies’ acceptability? I know there’s a vastly increased male grooming market, but please in the name of all that’s holy tell me it hasn’t got as intense and relentless as the feminine equivalent. I may have to kill someone.

Buying product =/= ‘being kind to yourself’. Rinse and repeat.

Not trying to put unrealistic pressure on yourself = being kind to yourself. Are we clear?

I DO NOT HAVE A VA-JAY-JAY. I have a vagina, a cunt, possibly a vulva (i’ve never quite figured out exactly what that is; the word sounds too much like a brand of family car for my comfort. ‘The drive of your life!’), and sometimes a pussy, if the beautiful person I’m with is that way inclined. I certainly do not have anything so absurdly euphemistic as a va-jay-jay, which takes 3x as long to say and is basically a phonetic adaptation of ‘vagina’ with a cutesy ending. (I’ll draw a veil over the rest. Hur hur.) And all the above feel fantastic or otherwise dependent on factors like recent sexual activity and time of the month; I doubt use of any product is likely to change that massively.

46% of women would feel more uncomfortable without washing their faces that without washing their genitalia. Presumably this is because most women do not go out with their genitalia on show, and are more concerned about the comfort or reactions of others than adherence to a rigid washing routine. (I have been known to go straight to the gym without a shower first. Shoot me now.)

Underneath all this are the same problematic, continuous cultural assumptions, viz:

For women, loving = looking after = purchasing specific products. Failure to do so = failure as a woman = failure at life. YOU WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH. Etc.

Women should be concerned about every minute detail of their physical appearance – and here, not only appearance, but self. The entire ad is calculated to trigger anxiety – am I ‘fresh’ enough to be acceptable? Does my nonscented vagina make me unsexy? dirty? repulsive? Am I just not trying hard enough?

And there’s an unpleasant subtext, too: forget working hard at your job, having fun with friends, having a family, building functional relationships, challenging cultural dictates that oppress and annoy you, campaigning for political change – what *really* matters, ladies, is what you wash your cunt with. That’s what you’re *really* judged on, not your words or your actions or your achievements.

Welcome to femininity in the 21st century. Please leave your independence of mind and your natural body at the door.

  1. In Britain we get told to make our cunts look cute. In America, women are instructed that cunty freshness is the best path to achieve career success (Summer’s Eve ad, last year – Not sure which method of patronising women I find most pernicious, but just thought I’d add to your anger by contributing another example! You can thank me later.


  2. alisonmay says:

    Great post. Good to know it’s not just me that gets wound up about stuff like this. And don’t get me started on the thorny issue of how hair down there really shouldn’t be viewed as a source of shame… Grrrr.


  3. Eunice Hung says:

    I think it could make a lot of sense to spend as much time on our vaginas as our faces – a good masturbation session should take *at least* as long as washing and moisturising your face! (Mind you, I have many days where I don’t wear make up or do all that cleanse and toner stuff, so maybe I’m the wrong target audience to be taking the ‘appropriate’ message from that ad…)

    I think of orgasms as like massages – it’s often beneficial and relaxing and good for my stress levels to get regular ones. Orgasms are often cheaper and easier to have frequently than a massage though. :p


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