Ladies Bleaching Private Parts… Men, Are You Getting A Bad Rap?

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About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane,, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.


  1. Why screw up a great thing? says:

    Ladies, leave your perfect parts alone. Why mess with something so amazing? We men often hear size doesn’t matter…well same goes for you… color, shape, size, none of that matters. It is nice when a woman is well groomed, shows she takes good care of herself, but don’t go overboard. You are great just the way you are, and we like it! Sure, there will be some who say that stuff DOES matter to them, just as some women say size DOES matter, but does somebody like that deserve your attention and your…ahem…”gifts?”

  2. I don’t understand any form of skin bleaching.

    But that’s because I grew up in America.

    This seems to be about a product that is not aimed at American women. It is aimed at women from a culture that also sells other “fairness” products.

    Why are men from not-this-culture being dragged into this?

    • Actually, Anal Bleaching in particular is kind of shockingly popular in the United States… Especially in the major metropolitan areas…

      Here’s an article about it in Cosmo:

      • Joanna,

        I know all about anal bleaching because I live in San Francisco and it was a big hit with the gay community here a few years back (I’ve lost touch with how popular it is in ongoing culture at this point).

        I think that anal bleaching doesn’t really compare to vaginal bleaching because of the prevalence in the gay community.

        The purpose of the Jezebel article is to argue that this is something *being done to women*, and that somehow men bear some amount of responsibility to this. (In fairness, this is also the basic premise of 90% of Jezebel, so please forgive my overall distaste for their articles). But because anal bleaching is popular with a significant subset of men, it seems like the whole *done to women* thing falls apart because men are also participating.

    • sweetsue says:

      Mike L

      Skin bleaching and or lightening is not just for other countries. America does not want to admit this but it is quite prevalent in the good old US of A. It is colorism or shade-ism also known as the shade wars. Skin lightening products are routinely marketed to darker skinned ethnicities within the USA and traditionally paler/fairer skinned women in would always wear hats and carry parasols to shield them from the sun so they would maintain the paler fairer skin and use lemon and buttermilk to “bleach” their skin and maintain that fairer/lighter skin shade.

      People do this because of the perception that skin shade denotes rank i.e. the lighter – paler the skin shade the better. Paler skin shades connote wealth and higher status. Farmer workers and laborers have darker skin from working in the sun uncovered i.e. rich and privileged persons who did not do manual labor or work out in the elements had paler skin and higher status in the social hierarchy. People aspiring to be perceived as equal or higher in the social society ranking treated better, have better quality of life will use this to lighten their skin. In India there is a hierarchy and very little movement from on class or caste to another and skin shade matters.

      This is true within various ethnic groups society’s through out the ages have been and are color conscious. So there is internal colorism within ethnicities/cultures; and intercultural colorism between ethnicities.

      As far as this product goes – the only persons to be blamed are the company owners marketing this product and the women who buy this. Men are getting a bum rap here. Women writ large need to stop letting fear mongering and insecurity drive their actions; and recognize that their worth and value are not defined externally unless they let it be. Starve the beast and stop feed it $$.

      • Sweetsue,

        I appreciate your acknowledgement that men are getting bum rap, but I’m still not really clear that this is a real problem within the culture of the US.

        Whether or not it happens in the US seems like it would be immaterial. What would be material is if it is a part of mainstream American culture. It seems like it’s not, and so I don’t really see the issue. The ads aren’t on mainstream American television: if you look at mainstream American culture, this product doesn’t seem to exist.

        If this is a big problem, shouldn’t the target be the relevant cultures rather than America “at large” as it were?

        • Mike L,
          I am the third person to tell you that anal bleaching is a big deal in the US. Just because it’s not on cable TV doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because no woman has told you personally that she’s thinking of doing or has done anal bleaching doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Women are having it done in greater numbers in the US, and it’s definitely becoming mainstream. The US public discourse on sex is not particularly healthy or open, so I wouldn’t expect something like anal bleaching to get any real discussion. But ‘Cosmo’ is not exactly known for its quirky, off-beat indie articles. It is the mainstream, and if a subject makes it into Cosmo, it’s because it’s mainstream as well.

          • Donna,

            You will please forgive me if I don’t feel that anonymous strangers on the internet, who are looking to advance an agenda, can tell me what is “mainstream” in my own culture.

            If you can cite me something with hard numbers that demonstrates what words like “big deal” and “becoming mainstream” mean.

            ‘Cosmo’ might not be known for “quirky, off-beat indie articles” but it’s also not known for accurate investigative reporting either.

            • Mike L, and everybody else,

              I’m not American, I’m European, but honestly, bleaching is a serious issue in the US, I’ve studied there for one year, and maybe not everyone talks about it, but it exists, it’s popular, and you can buy bleaching products in any drugstore. If you don’t know about it, I can only suppose that you’re white (nothing wrong with that, of course) and not much interested in other people – because bleaching is something very popular among black people. So check this out:



          • yea I gotta say, you may very well be right about it “becoming main stream” even tho many of us have never had anybody talk to us about actually wanting or doing it but if your going to claim it as a fact you gotta give us somthin more than “well it was in cosmo so it must be mainstream”, some sales figures from beauty stores? early usage statistics? give us somethin here?!

        • Mike L,

          Most people rarely pay attention to advertisement unless it is directed at them. How often do you as a man pay attention to feminine products skincare, hair care, face cream etc. it may be in plain sight but hidden because it is not a product you “need”. Advertisers target a given market and that markets sweet spot in order to make a sale. Women make up a large segment of the market demographics and so there is a great profit to be made targeting that demographic and playing on their fears and insecurities.

          The advertisements for these types of products are in the mainstream i.e. magazines, billboards and commercials; however the advertisers are strategic. They do not come out and call it skin lightening cream to avoid some of the discussion this is creating – it maybe billed as blemish creme to fade ugly brown spots, age spots, anti-aging creme, blemish lightening cream, or sun spots, body bleach – Walmart carries a skin bleaching products. Porcelana is the first to come to mind – the porcelain skin creme.

          No one wants to acknowledge that colorism still exists in mainstream society. Everyone wants to believe skin color does not matter and that people are not judged by skin shade in these progressive post racial times. Moreover most people do not recognize that within cultural groups and ethnicities within the melting pot of the USA there is colorism or shadism; because of the desire to believe in being color blind or color neutral regarding skin color and shade.

          More over intimate care products related to sexual matters rarely come out and say what they are for – it has just been in the past few years that KY jelly and condoms have been advertised on television and even then it is talking around the issue.
          However in this global community advertisement now crosses all borders. Just because this is not advertised in the family hour in the very conflicted puritanical USA – use sex to sell products but do not teach children the basic facts about their bodies and control/ restrict access to contraception. In the USA ads for intimate products such as this vaginal/anal bleach will never make the sensors – “think about the children” so it is unlikely to be on the regular channels.

          This product really is a non-issue for women with self esteem and critical thinking skills and a large enough sense of themselves to ask is this really necessary – much-less healthy or even advised. This is why – feminists blaming men and the all powerful patriarchy for this as on Jezebel have got it wrong on this – this is about pushing the product – creating a need then filling it to make a profit. The only concern is that some of these products may contain chemicals that are toxic.

          Thanks for being engaged and thinking critically.

          • “This is about pushing the product – creating a need then filling it to make a profit.”

            It really does bring to mind the creation of halitosis by Listerine.

            • Hmm…that sounded fishy, so I googled it. It looks like Listerine can be credited (or exposed) as having created their own market by giving people a scary word for bad breath to make them want to buy their product, but the word was not coined by Listerine, and whether people were calling it halitosis or not, they don’t get the credit or blame for having invented bad breath. Still a cool bit of trivia that I’d never heard of before, though. :)

              Apparently, Listerine started as a surgical antiseptic without much of a market for it; if the market were being invented today, maybe instead of mouthwash, it would have been pitched as a way to get minty fresh after bleaching.


            • wellokaythen says:

              My understanding is that Listerine did not invent the word “halitosis,” but they expanded the existing definition. It originally was a medical term for extremely bad breath, like the horrible smell that comes from a rampant infection in the throat or very acute tonsilitis, something on the order of the smell of gangrene. A very distinct, extreme, specific medical condition, and NOT “everyday bad breath.” Listerine started using the word to mean “everyday bad breath” or just common “morning breath.”

              It would be like referring to the common cold as “bubonic plague.”

  3. Jamie Reidy says:

    I see further commercialization down the road: Hallmark will fabricate a “Happy Anal Bleach Day!” movement, necessitating more cards men will forget to buy.

  4. Anthony Zarat says:

    I looked at several you tube videos. Don’t look for “bleaching”, you won’t find anything. Advertisers call it “whitening”. There are several testimonials about effectiveness. I could not find any clue about why people do this.

    There are several women who share their feelings about other aspects of genital looks, both for men and for women. I could find no male who talks about any aspect of male or female genital attractiveness.

    I conclude that (i) virtually no man cares about female genital looks, (ii) very few women care about male genital looks. This seems like commercial exploitation of an unfounded female anxiety.

  5. The Wet One says:

    FYI, anal bleaching comes from porn. That’s where it got it’s beginning in the 90′s or so. Now it’s mainstream. Porn leads the way again.

    That said, most normal males have absolutely no expectation of their women anal bleaching.

    Men have absolutely nothing to do with anal bleaching other than consuming porn. Which they would have consumed sans anal bleaching.

    Screwed up world isn’t it? Thank god orcs aren’t fetishized in porn. 10 years later you’d walk out your door and be surrounded by the army of Mordor on the elavator at work with all the other guys saying in their heads (WTF HAPPENED LAST NIGHT? DID I WAKE UP IN MIDDLE EARTH?!?!?!?!!?!?!).

    That previous paragraph is a bit of a joke. But it’s also reflective of how “fashion” and “women” work. I honestly don’t get how exactly fashion gets women (regular women, not the ones who get paid to do all the ridiculous things fashion calls for) to do this stuff. It truly is amazing how much power they have over people.

    I wonder what I do that is totally ridiculous that someone told me to do. I know that shaving definitely falls into that category, but what else?

    Anal bleaching though? WTF? How on earth do you convince people to do that? Vaginoplasty? WHAAAA???? (then again there’s penis extension surgery, so I guess I get it…)

    One must overcome oneself if one is to be free. Conquer your insecurities, before they conquer you and your bunghole looks downright odd.

    The Wet One

  6. wellokaythen says:

    I’m not offended by this “bad rap,” because holding me responsible for this is so completely absurd. If you voluntarily put caustic chemicals on or in your own sensitive skin, that is YOU doing that to yourself. Take some responsibility for your own insecurities and your own ideas about what men want. Yes, I know, the patriarchal beauty industry and the inhuman pressures of physical appearance that women face, yada yada. At some point common sense and individual accountability need to kick in. For feck’s sake, people….

  7. Peter Houlihan says:

    I have to wonder how much this is actually linked to porn (as suggested above). The idea that women need to be smooth, hairless and evenly toned wasn’t dreamed up by some pornographer.

    Look at pictures of naked (or near naked) women from the 1930s or before. You’ll notice they all have hairy underarms and crotches, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that leg shaving was less common then too. As skirt hems went north and bikinis became popular underarm shaving was a must.

    Now that women are thinking about their vulvas (rather than just calling it “down there” and leaving it to the men) the same standards that have always applied are being applied to crotches. They need to be smoother, they need to be more evenly tones they need to be tighter etc. etc.

    Somehow I can’t picture women huddling around a VHS of deep throat and all agreeing “THAT’S what I want to look like!” It seems alot more likely that the porn industry got their ideas from the same place that regular women did.

    • Wait a minute, are you suggesting porn didn’t cause the problem? Don’t you know that porn causes all problems? ;)

    • Women in pornos all end up looking the same, from what I can tell. They probably hear the same volume of detailed insults about their appearance as models do, but somehow the models still manage to all look mostly different (at least their faces) while the porn women all end up looking the same (whole body, face included). At this point, the younger women entering the field probably just see the more successful women and think that to be successful they need to replicate that look. It’s hard to say if men actually want to look at women who all have that one look, but I suspect there have never been any boycotts by porn-watchers to demand more variety in the leading ladies.

      • No, women in porn don’t all look the same. That’s part of the fun of looking and watching. Are you sure you’re not watching penguin porn?

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        How much porn have you watched?

        • To be honest, not much. I’ve tried watching it at various times, but I generally find it quite boring. But the women who are quite well-known seem to have a plastic surgery look, bleached hair (and assholes apparently), orange tan, a bit too skinny, lips too big for the face, too much mascara, fake breasts. Jenna Jamieson comes to mind (she was on reddit with a pre-surgery picture in which she was much better looking than she is after surgery).

          I know that there’s quite a bit more variety in amature porn, but I meant specifically the ones who market themselves as a brand all seem to have the same look.

          • But it’s good to see that people disagree with that ‘same look’ characterisation, and do want and look for variety.

      • I boycott it in a sense, I go for amateur porn which has variety. If I followed popular opinions I’d never look at freckled redheads in porn yet I think they’re beautiful. Not everyone has the same tastes and even the pro porn industry knows this, there is a very diverse range of porn of all shapes, sizes, colours.

      • It’s hard to say if men actually want to look at women who all have that one look, but I suspect there have never been any boycotts by porn-watchers to demand more variety in the leading ladies.
        Its because a lot of us porn watchers are able to find the stuff we like by going off the main path. And since (for a lot of us) our tastes are not mainstream to the point that we can be shamed for them sometimes we prefer to just stay outside the mainstream.

        Maybe if folks that watch porn weren’t shamed about it they would be more likely to boycott openly about it. But in the meantime don’t think that just because you don’t see the boycotting doesn’t mean its not happening.

  8. Oh believe me we are all getting hosed on this one. And the messed up part is we are hosing each other when we hold people to silly standards like this.

    So that leads me to the bum rap (I just made a pun about butts) that I think you men are getting from all this bleaching-vaginoplasty-waxing thing. While some guys might like to see more skin and less hair, and while some ladies may need vaginoplasty for comfort, or prefer hairlessness for pleasure, I bet a lot of this comes down to miscommunication.

    We think you don’t like our general vagine-icinity being flesh-colored, or vulva-shaped. We think you don’t want our butts to look like lady-butts, we think you want them to look like mannequin-butts. What are we basing this upon?
    And mind you this is happening at the same time that we are told that men are slaves of our lust and basically live day to day drinking beer, eating steak, and looking for the next woman to violate.

    Eli and I were perplexed too. As much as I want women to have complete freedom to do what they want to feel sexy, to feel pretty, to feel… I don’t know… bleached, I think we need to examine this next (seemingly excruciatingly painful) step toward reaching some weird standard of beauty and figure out exactly why we’re doing it… Because I truly believe that women suffer in the thought that their bodies are naturally just repulsive to men.
    Yes. Its like everyone is walking around believing they are repulsive to (whoever matches their orientation). And there just so happens to be plenty of companies offering weight sets, beauty spas, extreme diets, etc…. in order to help us with that stuff.

    And as for the process itself. I’ve gotten alcohol on my (male) genital before. That felt so bad there is no way in hell someone could convince me that bleach on the back door doesn’t hurt.

  9. gabby watts says:

    The vulva is the exterior part of the female genitals, not the whole shebang; it does not include the vagina. Just F.Y.I.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Good point, Gabby! Thanks for the clarification. I did always operate under the understanding that the exterior opening to the vagina was considered part of the vulva, however.

      I guess I should’ve specified that I don’t think anyone’s actually bleaching the vagina itself, more like the whole exterior shebang… Though I wouldn’t be shocked if people started bleaching INSIDE the vagina next. And then their eyeballs.

      Interestingly, I always thought “shebang” was spelled “shabang” until I was autocorrected.

      • You’re correct, Joanna, that “vulva” does include the exterior opening of the vagina, or if you want to get even more medical about it, the “vestibule” of the vagina.

        While “vulva” does not include the entire vagina, it definitely includes more of the shebang than just “vagina”, which is even more frequently used by people to describe the whole shebang, despite being anatomically incorrect.

    • Correct. So maybe we need a name that does cover all of it. Would “shebang” be too flippant? It’s fairly descriptive.

      • If “shebang” didn’t already have a more general meaning, it would be perfect, and then the male counterparts could be the “hebang”.

        Anatomically speaking, I can’t think of a single word that captures both vulva and vagina, because even “genitals” refers to external genitalia, not the parts hidden inside the body. In everyday slang, I can think of many words that I think of as referring the whole shebang, starting with my favorite: “pussy”. I would be careful of any word that’s too flippant, because then there’s the risk of shaming women into getting shebangectomies for flipping around too much.

        • I remember about 20 years ago, one of the alternative weekly papers ran a contest to come up with a name for a women’s ladybits. The winner was the Sanskrit word “yoni,” and one of the runners-up (which I personally liked) was “kit” as in “kit & caboodle.” :-)

  10. gabby watts says:

    To Mike L, there’s skin bleaching in America.

  11. Oliver Lee Bateman says:

    Back to Peter’s question: How did this procedure get started? Who determined that this was a good idea? It’s certainly not self-evident. The Cosmo article doesn’t completely answer the question, stating only that “as Brazilians became more popular, women noticed that their anuses were darker.” What does that mean? How could someone notice something like that? Ah well. This is probably leading to “jobs creation” of some sort.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Oliver, I imagine that the Brazilian wax removed the butt crack hair and therefore exposed the brownness of the anus.

      So I assume we blame Brazil, right? And their bikinis?

      Also, I wouldn’t exactly expect Cosmo to have done a whole ton of historical research into the origins of anal bleaching.

      This blog about anal bleaching is AMAZING and everyone should read it, just for laughs:

      Here’s a quote that made me almost choke I laughed so hard, referring to a conversation she had with her girlfriends about this exact topic:

      “Anyway, we came up with a fine entrepreneurial idea, which you are quite welcome to steal. Anal bleaching strips. Like tooth whitening strips, you could wear them while at work, at play, out to dinner, whenever! Here, I’ll even write the ad for you. The scene: two women talking on the phone. “Hey Barb, could you watch my kids while I get my anus bleached?” “Kathy, get with the times! I’m folding the laundry AND bleaching my anus in the comfort of my home! My anus is as pink as a new lipstick. And, Jim, by the way, is thrilled. He can’t stop bragging to the fellows at the office about my light and bright anus!”

  12. Anonymous says:

    The pitch for the commercial is quite possibly the funniest thing I have read in a long time.

    Hysterical, I want to go shoot the commercial now.

  13. sweetsue says:

    If you want to blame anyone; blame the person(s) who mindlessly buys into the message and the hype and allows their fears and insecurity shut down the ability to think critically and ask is this really necessary – healthy or make sense i.e. who benefits or how does this benefit me?

  14. AnonymousDog says:

    Thank you for distinguishing between ‘vulva’ and ‘vagina’. That’s a word usage issue that has bugged me for years.

  15. wellokaythen says:

    Somewhere out there is a man who is with an attractive woman who is ready and willing to have sex with him and who is perfectly sexy already in her own way, but… he just can’t bring himself to have sex with her because… her vulva is too dark. Mood ruined, can’t do it, I’ll just have to find another beautiful woman to have sex with me tomorrow, one who’s bleached.

    Who are these people? How often does this actually happen?

    Yes, those men exist. I really do not understand it, but I’m sure they exist. I can only imagine that this is a teeny, tiny, infinitesimal percentage of men. (I’m tempted to put them in the category of “people who don’t know how good they have it,” but that’s insensitive to real, valid sexual preferences.)

  16. Nice piece Joanna.

    I personally am a little conflicted here because I do agree men get a bad rap on this point but I also think men (and yes women) are problems on this issue too.

  17. All of this just seems crazy to me. I have no idea why women are doing these idiotic things to themselves. I remember “back in the day” (the 1980′s), we didn’t even trim our pubic hair. I mean, I went through high school, 4 years of college, grad school, and the rest of my 20′s being blissfully ignorant of the whole issue. And all I can say is that every single guy I slept with seemed absolutely thrilled to be anywhere in the vicinity of that part of my anatomy. I never got one complaint. I received, and gave, plenty of oral sex. It was all good.

    Sometime in the 1990′s, I heard about women waxing their pubic hair and it sounded insane to me. I mean, ouch! Subsequently I learned that if I insist on keeping my gross, disgusting pubic hair, I’m now expected to at least keep it short and neat. Where did I learn that? Women’s magazines and the internet. My boyfriend has never mentioned it, but I trim it just in case he cares. I don’t like trimming it because the short hairs get pokey and itchy at times and I once got a nasty infection when I scraped myself with the plastic teeth on the trimmer. I got a huge boil that had to be drained. (Talk about gross.) But I’m supposed to trim, so I trim.

    Then I heard about women getting labiaplasty and for the first time in my frickin life, I though, “Labia come in different sizes? Who knew? ” quickly followed by, “Oh my God, are mine too (gasp) BIG?” I’ve since learned (thanks Internet) that my labia are on the large size, giving me insecurities about a part of my body that I never, ever felt bad about before.

    When I heard about anal bleaching I was like, “what? Who cares what your anus looks like?” Even if you are into anal sex, I mean, what guy is going to be peering around down there and critiquing the esthetic qualities of my anus? And would I want to be with an idiot like that?

    Now, vulva bleaching? What next?

    I never thought I’d say this but, boy, I miss the ’80′s.

    • So just don’t trim. I mean, if you want to wear a bikini and worry there will be exposure of hair, then trimming makes sense. But if your partner doesn’t care, don’t do it. No one else will know!

      I see these articles in magazines ALL over the place. Pretty much any major women’s mag (Vogue, Marie Claire, Allure, Cosmo, InStyle) will have articles on hair removal etc. It’s an expected part of the “grooming” narrative, whereas in the 80′s I recall a lot of articles about perms. Trends in grooming change.

      That being said, if people try the whole waxing thing and they dig it for sexual purposes…so? Have at. But don’t do it if you don’t feel like doing it.

      That’s always been my opinion anyway.

      • Word, Julie. On the one hand, Sarah, I get what you’re saying about not necessarily wanting to follow grooming trends. On the other hand, I don’t understand the negative outlook at people who do follow them.

        • I don’t care what other women do, it just bothers me if it becomes a social expectation that I’m supposed to follow or I’ll be the one who is judged negatively. If 90% of women start bleaching their vulvas I’ll be a freak if I don’t follow along…. That’s the concern. It’s like footbinding and whalebone corsets, any woman who wanted to buck the trend would have been rejected socially, so it became entrneched despite the negative health effects.

          • *entrenched

          • I guess the thing is….who will know other than your lover? Everyone could actually see corsets. They were visible to everyone.
            Whereas, if your lover doesn’t give a shit, no one else will know.

            • Yes but you have to find a lover who doesn’t care, and refusing to follow the social norm can negatively impact your romantic options (like women who don’t want to shave their legs). My impression is that a majority of men now expect women to have shaved/waxed genitals and a significant minority (I don’t know any exact stats) may be grossed out by larger labia as a result of the porn influence. (I’ve certainly red plenty of negative comments from men on the topic although I don’t know if that’s representative of most men now)) So if a woman wants to be sure that she will be acceptable to the men she’ternate rested in, she is almost forced to shave/wax and slice those labia off. Anal and vulva bleaching doesn’t seem to concern guys now, but if enough women start doing it, that may change.

            • *she is interested in. Darn iPad

            • But that begs the question…why do you want to be with a man who has different aesthetic tastes than you do? Like, right personally I prefer women who are trimmed, but I actually like long labia. So do I expect my sexual partner to go out of her way to conform to this? No, but I’m glad when I find a partner who does.

              Theoretically everything can negatively impact your romantic options…some men prefer skinny girls, a few prefer big girls, etc…there are a million and a half different fetishes that you won’t fit into. There are a million and a half different style trends that you won’t be able to adhere to all the time. All of your sexual preferences and appearance specifics will narrow down the potential dating pool, regardless of whether you’re following the norm or not. I think it’s looking at dating and relationships a little backwards, if the concern is about appealing to the widest audience possible.

            • For a bit of humor:

              “I’m also pretty sure there are segments of the male population that LOVE hair.” – I have the web addresses of some porn sites that would appear to back up this statement. ;)

              “Austin, Eugene, Portland, Athens, San Fran, VERMONT and more” – You totally left out my favourite city ever, NYC. I don’t know if we can be friends any more, Julie. lol

            • NYC is a hippie city??U

            • Well it’s got hippies in it. The bit around NYU’s “campus” turns a bit hippie during the school year, or at least it did when I was there a few years ago. Plus, it’s certainly a ton of alternative and queer people. NYC is an everything city, really…except small. :)

              Yeah, including NYC in your list is Serious Business. lol. ;)

            • Consider it smended

            • I hear what you are saying, Julie, I really do, and actually I tend to agree with you, but I think most people want to be mainstream, they don’t want to be outliers. That’s my point. If most men expect a certain thing, then as a woman, you have to conform or you may be limiting yourself to a rather small pool of fringe-y type men. So that’s the choice you have to make. Like not shaving your underarms; sure, you can decide not to, but it will be a huge turnoff to 99% of men. So in that sense, women are “forced” to shave their underarms, unless they are willing to be viewed as freakish. I’m just concerned that we are going to reach the same point with pubic hair shaving/waxing and I will not have a feasible choice anymore, and that sucks.

            • BTW, I have lived my entire life in the SF Bay Area (born and raised) and attitudes are not that different here than anywhere else for the most part. There are large subcultures of hippies and queer folk in certain areas (San Francisco itself, Santa Cruz, Sonoma County, etc) but a lot of the Bay Area is just a big suburb with nice scenery. If you have a particular kink or fetish, you can probably find it here more easily than in, IDK, Iowa.. But most people are still fairly mainstream and have mainstream tastes and expectations.

            • Most of Julie’s comment wasn’t about your geographic location. I think she just provided those cities as positive examples. What she’s saying is this – First, most women she knows actually haven’t ever had labia surgery, and wouldn’t ever have labia surgery. Sometimes what we perceive to be mainstream, isn’t actually. More importantly, though, is the fact that no one is being forced to get the surgery, or shave their pubic hair, or have anal bleaching. People make choices about what grooming trends they follow. If someone is in a place/environment that makes them feel forced to conform to the mainstream, then they should change their environment and probably get new friends.

              This, comment that you made right here, is what’s a bit worrying:

              “If most men expect a certain thing, then as a woman, you have to conform or you may be limiting yourself to a rather small pool of fringe-y type men.”

              I don’t think that’s a very healthy outlook to have about sex and relationships. The goal shouldn’t be to make yourself so mainstream as to appeal to the widest possible number of males. That’s a very dehumanizing way to go about dating. That’s like the worst kind of peer pressure. Plus, then you don’t end up finding mates who actually fit what you’re looking for anyway. You just end up finding mates who are attracted to conventional physical attributes. A healthier way of looking at it, I think, is to be who you are, and then find spaces where people will accept and welcome you.

            • Maybe the word “normal” captures it better than “mainstream.” Most people want to feel that they are normal and that their partners are normal. Of course “normal” is a very loaded word. “Normal” is based on social and cultural expectations. But it’s difficult to fight those expectations if everyone else has bought into them. Shaving one’s underarms is considered “normal” in American culture and any woman who decides to do things differently will be viewed as abnormal by most other people. In fact, many men will view her as physically repulsive. I just worry that the expectation for women to be totally shaved/waxed has gotten almost to that point, with labiaplasty and perhaps some of these other trends not far behind.

            • It really hasn’t gotten to that point with labiaplasty, though. I know of absolutely no woman who has ever considered getting a labiaplasty. Julie doesn’t know any woman who’s ever considered it either. I know plenty of women who have heard of it, and not one who has considered it. Anal bleaching is even further behind that, because most women I know haven’t even heard of it.

              And yeah, there is pressure to be normal. But if an adult human being is feeling so much pressure to be normal that they’re doing things to their body that they don’t want to do, then that person has a serious self-esteem and probably a self-image problem.

            • Sarah, it is obvious this is an extremely frustrating and worrying trend that you see. What’s wrong though, I’d ask you, with being abnormal. I see, on my college campus here, people of size, people with body mod, people with weird hair, women with preppy preppy looks, women with armpit hair and I don’t see anyone being forced off campus. I see in my job, and in my social life, a lot of very varied people.

              Gay. Punk. Conservative. Fat. Tall. Religiously garbed. Preppy. And most of the get along fine and I don’t see any real…ostracisms to the extent you are speaking of. There are no tarring and feathering in Austin for not shaving your pits…:)

              I mean, they might not do well up in Weatherford Texas, but then again, you never know!

              So I’m not sure from your posts, but it doesn’t sound like you are at all interested in non normative men (those hippy alternative types) or being appealing to them. It sounds like you like the kind of men that you worry would want you to conform but you don’t want to conform (and still be loved) but you aren’t interested in men who don’t conform?

              If you are interested in the corporate jock type businessman kind of dude that seems “normative” (and who may go to the gym WAY more than he really wants so that he looks a certain way for women, or does some other thing he thinks women want) then maybe he’ll be seeking a woman who is similar. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could just risk not-conforming a little?

              You worry the expectation will be that women will have to do significant alterations to their bits. I’d encourage you to start a blog about it and take some actual action against all those practices. Do some surveys of your friends. Find other like minded people and do things that will give you that kind of strength and passion so that you’ll feel even more secure in being who you are.

              But I don’t think that’s just a “men make women be this way” easy answer blame game.

            • @Julie, I agree that’s is not just men making women this way — women do most of this to ourselves. No one is forcing us to rip out our public hair by the roots with hot wax, or to put our genitalia under the knife to meet some crazy beauty standard. But men do put pressure on women. There was an article on Askmen awhile back about how to convince your girlfriend to wax her public hair. The implication was that public hair is absolutely gross and disgusting, and no sane man would want to be with a woman with even the tiniest fringe of public hair, and if necessary you should shame your girlfriend into complying. If you go searching for articles on labiaplasty, you will encounter a lot of vile comments from men about how a woman with large labia is probably a slut and her vagina is probably “loose” and stretched out. OK, those are (hopefully) a small minority of really stupid men, but those attitudes are out there. Women encounter stuff like that and they get scared.

            • So, I’d advise you to stay off those comment threads, and do more action towards the editors themselves. Email them and ask them about the tone? Get your male friends to join you? If you are feeling scared, take actual action. Cause just us commenting here doesn’t do much good. Refine your arguments and take them to the places where you’ll actually see change.

              And find new men to hang out with if you think the men in your love life are acting this way.

            • “But men do put pressure on women.”

              Well okay…but women put pressure on men. And men put pressure on men. And women put pressure on women. This is true about so many things, but when it comes to beauty and attractiveness, I’ve found that all genders put huge pressure on both their own gender, and the other gender. And with the huge industry that is beauty, I think we have ended up in a society where there is so much pressure on everyone to be attractive, that the gender of the origin of that pressure is mute. So for shaved underarms – there was a singer not too long ago (I can’t remember who), who went on stage with stubble. Men and women both went bananas…the commonality was that they were all from the entertainment industry. When it comes to penis size, a lot of women will say it doesn’t matter, or at least it doesn’t matter much. Yet when there was talk about how apparently Brad Pitt’s got a small penis, the shaming language was coming from both genders. Again, the commonality was that it was the entertainment industry.

              So with your example: “The implication was that public hair is absolutely gross and disgusting, and no sane man would want to be with a woman with even the tiniest fringe of public hair, and if necessary you should shame your girlfriend into complying.”

              Yes, you came across some idiotic guys who were commenting on what is an already idiotic article. But think about who wrote it…a pop internet blog thing that’s comparable to the likes of Cosmo, for men. I’m willing to bet Cosmo, or a similar magazine, has run articles about the ‘benefits of waxing your pubic hair,’ or something. Because, yeah, it’s a created issue used to sell magazines, or generate website views.

    • I sense the common theme from the comments is that women’s magazines are the ones causing many of these major insecurities, are they telling women that men like x and thus women follow suit? It’s easy to blame the men but quite frankly after reading some of these magazines I find them a major source of female insecurity and infact the most harsh criticisms of fashion, beauty, the body of women I’ve heard has been from other women. To me it feels like there is heavy competition for beauty amongst some women and no shortage of judgment, insults and negative behaviour to leave each other feeling like shit.

      I don’t really think most men give a damn about how a vulva looks, I’ve found a wide variety to be very attractive and I’m sure many men would be happy down there regardless. Trimming back can make it easier for oral but there are men who like thick bush, trimmed, smooth, just like women who like men with the bush, trimmed, smooth. I think women are placing too much importance in these magazines and those who dictate fashion. Pay more attention to what your partner thinks and not what “society” tells you because with more than 1 person in existence there can never be the perfect woman/man, the perfect look, we all like different things. Why change yourself to suit someone elses ideals especially if you have a partner that loves how you look?

      If people spent 1/10th the time worrying about their personality traits vs their beauty we might really have a paradise….

  18. Very few heterosexual men have ever heard of this absurd practice, let alone pressured women to do it. Thus, a reasonable mind with no anti-male agenda would assign 0% responsibility on men for this. This is one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard of.

    • Yeah.

      In all my years I’ve never crossed paths with a guy that wanted women to do this (in fact I wager that most of them have never heard of it). But as usual when women are met with an unfair expectation the first thought is to try to pin it on society and the second is to try to pin it on men.

      • True, and I’m not excusing it. But consider the fact that this is a beauty trend that is inherently tied to sex and sexual attraction, and the majority of women are heterosexual. If I read in a magazine or saw an advert for something like this, it’s not exactly illogical to assume that it exists because a demand for it exists…and who would care about a woman’s physical appearance? Well heterosexual men.

        It’s a bit of an advertising ploy, as someone else mentioned, where you create a “problem” that needs to be fixed with your product. Or you sell a magazine by discussing a way to fix a “problem” that most women don’t even know about…which fails to mention that most women don’t know about it because the problem doesn’t actually exist. This sort of thing works on men, too.

        • So, some women are falling for a crazy, desperate ad. Still, heterosexual men don’t have even a tiny bit of culpability here, since the vast majority of us have never even thought about this, let alone knew it was possible, let alone people were actually doing it, let alone suggest that any woman we know do it.

          • I didn’t say they did.

            • It was implied. First paragraph.

            • No, actually, it wasn’t. I was saying it’s not illogical to jump to that conclusion, not that the conclusion is right.

            • Perhaps that was not the intention, but the implicaiton is there, particulary the concluding sentence, since it was in response to Danny’s comment that men are blamed. Your comment seemed to explain why men get the blame.

            • “Your comment seemed to explain why men get the blame.”

              Okay we have a communication problem, it seems. Because I was, actually, trying to explain why I think men get blamed. But just because I’m trying to explain the reason I think something happens, doesn’t mean I condone or even agree with it. A lot of what I do is about trying to understand why people do things…heck that’s why I got into anthropology in the first place. So, for example, I could explain to you why a lot of Christian conservatives don’t think gay people should be able to adopt children, but that doesn’t mean I condone it.

            • Oh, I see. Unless you state clearly what you are doing, it really does sound as if you are defending and justifying it.

            • Eric, the first sentence of my reply was this: “True, and I’m not excusing it.” I had agreed with Danny’s comment and also very explicitly stated that I didn’t condone it.

            • This sounds familiar. Didn’t we three get into this on another thread? I don’t think that she has to say prior to every post “I”M NOT CONDONING THIS” because I expect people will read thoroughly and then ask for clarification.
              Though, I suspect it would save she and I a lot of time to put on each of our posts a permanent disclaimer and link to a position statement where we share our beliefs about equality, human rights and our communication styles ;)

              And that last statement was written with a tone of banter, as if I was kindly teasing.

              Except, now that I think it about it, if we all of us did that it would cut back on arguments.

            • You went on to, in fact, excuse it, canceling out your intiail statement. It explained the logic behind blaming men without stating that the logic is faulty. But, I accept your explanation that it is just a misunderstanding.

            • So funny. I read that and assumed that the logic was faulty, that she knew the logic was faulty, and that it was simply a fame to look at the way the faulty logic was created. Words are weird.

            • “It explained the logic behind blaming men without stating that the logic is faulty.”

              I’ll sort of point to what Julie said, but also add my own thoughts here. I think the thing to remember when reading, well most of what I end up writing, is that I tend to try very hard to take a sympathetic tone when trying to understand opinions I don’t agree with. Part of this is to do with the whole cultural relativism thing…I find it is easier to truly understand something if I refrain from being judgemental about it as best I can. But also, I think it’s often a bit unfair to judge something (or someone) without first trying to understand. I’ve found most people aren’t purposefully malicious, they just sometimes hold ideas or perform actions that result in harmful things.

              So yeah, I’ll very rarely start laying blame or condemning someone, or an idea, unless it hits a particularly sore spot with me.

        • Oh yeah it does work on men I’m aware. I just often get a feeling there is a bit of a double standard here at work where when something is aimed at women like this its a matter of trying to show that its happening to women but when its aimed at men we just created it on our own.

          As I said above we are all getting hosed on this one.

          • Actually I think most women would acknowledge that the pressure to keep up with fashion trends largely comes from other women. But when we are talking about things like removing pubic hair, labiaplasty, and now anal/viulva bleaching, I think many women do believe that it makes them more attractive to men and that men might expect it or view them negatively otherwise.

            • It’s their belief that is faulty though. The belief they won’t be loved or whatever because of anal bleaching? That’s a fucked up faulty belief and any person looking at you mid lay and saying, “Um, sorry your parts aren’t the right shade.” is a manipulative shallow ass.

              See my response to Heather, Submitted on 2012/04/14 at 4:59 pm | In reply to HeatherN.
              for more thoughts on the advertising industry.

          • Well I think that could stem from the misconception that the majority of people in advertising are men. If you assume that the people putting out all of these false “problem fixing” products, or at least assume that all of the companies that do this are probably run by men, then it is perhaps easy to view it in terms of men doing it to themselves, and men doing it to women.

            And if you’re not even aware of the control the advertising companies have over this sort of thing…and actually believe that there’s a problem to be fixed, then it’s even easier to think that it’s men creating these “need-to-be-fixed” problems. Because, again, there is a misconception that men create cultural norms and women just follow them. So if you actually think that some new “trend” is a real thing, then it’s easy to believe that men are the ones who perpetuated this trend…because after all they’re the ones who create cultural norms.

            Again, not excusing any of this crap…just trying to think about what might explain some of it, because if we understand it, maybe we can sort it out. Well…not you and me, exactly considering neither of us run advertising companies, as far as I’m aware. ;) Also, I’m sort of thinking out loud, here, so I hope what I’m trying to say is getting across.

            • “Well I think that could stem from the misconception that the majority of people in advertising are men. If you assume that the people putting out all of these false “problem fixing” products, or at least assume that all of the companies that do this are probably run by men, then it is perhaps easy to view it in terms of men doing it to themselves, and men doing it to women.”

              Only to one with some anti-male agenda, since no one knows who created a particular ad. Moreover, only a mind with a negative view of men to start with would blame “men” in general (3.5 billion) for something done by (literally) no more than several men and likely at least some women.

            • Well I think that could stem from the misconception that the majority of people in advertising are men. If you assume that the people putting out all of these false “problem fixing” products, or at least assume that all of the companies that do this are probably run by men, then it is perhaps easy to view it in terms of men doing it to themselves, and men doing it to women.
              I’m sorry but for a lot of people who make that “misconception” I don’t buy that. Because if anything that line of thought calls for lumping men together in a monolith and equating all guys with the ones that do that false “problem fixing” with the ones that fall for it, the ones that say otherwise, and the ones that buy into it.

              Because, again, there is a misconception that men create cultural norms and women just follow them.
              I don’t think that’s a misconception but rather a forced idea (and it doesn’t help that that pushing involves making us all a single entity).

              Actually I can understand that some folks honestly misconceive this but at the end of the day I think a lot of folks who do this are invoking guilty by gender association.

            • “Actually I can understand that some folks honestly misconceive this but at the end of the day I think a lot of folks who do this are invoking guilty by gender association.”

              Totally, 100% agreed, because, yes, that’s exactly what’s happening. Actually, in general I think our society tends to create single monolithic entities surrounding gender (and other categories). We like simple answers to really complex questions, so when something happens we don’t like we blame men, or rich people, or poor people, or whatever. Instead, what we should be doing, is looking at the complex ways in which multiple social groups and systems interact to create and maintain whatever problem we’re discussing….in this case it’s the idea that anal bleaching is somehow necessary. And in this case it’s advertising companies and magazine execs that are probably most responsible…are they men? Are they women? I’d say it doesn’t matter, because what they’re doing isn’t motivated by gender.

              What does matter, with regards to gender, is how men seem to be getting blamed. Which is why I answered the way I did, an attempt to maybe tease out why that is. I don’t tend to go for the “anti-male” agenda explanation, because I think that implies a lot more malice than most people have. I think, most often, a group gets blamed because, again, we like simple solutions. A lot of assumptions and misconceptions go into the process of laying the blame at the feet of an entire social identity.

            • Bam! Word to this whole piece.

              Looking at systems takes time and energy. It takes LESS energy and time to connect two of the dots in a 500 dot system and say…well, this is it!

              And easy stories get told more. Then they become truth even if they are filled with lies or flaws.

              Humans are weird.

            • We are really bizarre, aren’t we. And I’ll be honest…I picked up the term “systems” from you…because really I think it works better than “cultural practices” or “cultural norms.” I think the term “systems” impresses the idea that they are working, moving, entities that are constantly being maintained. :)

            • Yeah, I mean we are all people who form groups and the groups become part of systems. And systems are complex and difficult. What’s that old parable about the blind men and the elephant? And they all thought that parts of the elephant were different objects altogether and argued?

              “They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

              “Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.”

              Systems are like that and even though we have our eyes open, we can’t see the entire thing. In the case of systems and groups influencing anal bleaching (which I cannot believe I am referencing again)…you’ve got heterosexuality, advertising, market research, porn, the current time and country, whiteness and race issues, beauty industries, product development industries, gender wars, human desires for variety and change, human vulnerability to peer pressure and groupthink…etc. So yeah, it’s easier to say, “I BLAME PORN!” but that’s like saying the elephant is a fan or wall, and not what it is at all.

            • What does matter, with regards to gender, is how men seem to be getting blamed. Which is why I answered the way I did, an attempt to maybe tease out why that is.
              I think this (and what Julie says about the 2 dots out of 500) happens is because people want an easy target. They want something they can point to and blame.

              In relation to that people need an “enemy” to justify their existence. If the enemy is a broad group that will, short of a massive world changing shift, never go away then “the cause” will always have a reason to exist. (In this case short of a massive world changing shift there will always be men around.)

              Now are there men that are responsible for invoking seemingly outlandish beauty standards on women? Yes. But does that somehow mean that this issue starts and ends with getting men and men alone to change? Hell no. Does this mean that sharing gender with Random Male Advertising Exec is enough to say that Random Guy That Doesn’t Invoke It is responsible for RMAE’s actions? Despite what some folks have been saying in other threads no.

            • “Does this mean that sharing gender with Random Male Advertising Exec is enough to say that Random Guy That Doesn’t Invoke It is responsible for RMAE’s actions?”

              And here is where I’ll…well not quite blame feminism…but critique it. A lot of the current discussions about gender roles began with feminism, and unfortunately early feminism did treat each gender as if they were homogenous, monolithic entities. Third-wave feminism moved on from that, and recognized intersectionality, but it’s not quite caught on as much as it should.

              So if we wanted to be all simplistic (and absolutely ridiculous), we could say that anal bleaching is actually the fault of feminism. Gloria Steinem has forced women to bleach their anus. lol

            • Third-wave feminism moved on from that, and recognized intersectionality, but it’s not quite caught on as much as it should.
              But even if they did recognize it there still seems to be a problem with them not seeming to want to invoke it unless its in their interests.

              So if we wanted to be all simplistic (and absolutely ridiculous), we could say that anal bleaching is actually the fault of feminism. Gloria Steinem has forced women to bleach their anus. lol
              As funny as that sounds I wouldn’t do it because.
              1. Obviously not true.

              2. It would just give a lot feminists something else to act like they are being blamed for.

              3. If it were Steinem she just follow up with a poem about how if men bleached their anuses gas prices would go back to less than a dollar a gallon, the unemployment rate would somehow be negative (I guess that means there would more jobs than people to fill them?), global warming would just STOP, everyone would become vegan, and you know how some cans have that damn tab that you have to put the key on and twist around to open like on Corned Beef? those would NEVER BREAK AGAIN.

              Oh and those little viruses like AIDS, HIV, anthrax, small pox, measles, etc…ALL DEAD.

            • Oh come on, be fair to Steinem, she did say “Women can’t be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.”

              Anyway, on to the serious portion…personally I’ve found a lot of the more gynocentric and radical feminists out there are actually still using second-wave paradigms and ideas. That’s what it seems to me, anyway. Mind, the only feminism I’ve ever been taught third-wave, and well post-third-wave. I learned about first and second-wave feminism as pieces of history, the same way I learned about outdated anthropological theories.

        • It is WAY more than a bit of an advertising ploy.

          SOMEONE is pushing the service. It may not be “heterosexual men” and it may not be “heterosexual women.” But I assume it’s probably a combination of men and women who work in the beauty and advertising industries that do market research, surveys, focus groups and more to determine what trends are happening.

          Someone (system) is getting the impression that waxing sells. It might be women answering surveys that they’ve seen it on SATC, or other movies or heard a celebrity did it etc….It might be men who say they see it in porn. Those answers to those marketing surveys and research indicate to the corporations that this is potentially big business.

          Then they invest money in advertising and articles in beauty mags that reach millions of women (not men, necessarily but most magazines are owned by a head corporation some of which have mirror men and women’s mags) so you’ll see “waxing” in one and “manscaping” in another.

          So then those millions of magazines are read monthly over quarters and years and then the same execs go back to market research and then it isn’t just a think someone heard once, it’s “what you have to do.”

          Big business. That Jezebel would blame it on men is uncool. Men may have SOMETHING to do with some of the research, but it’s not a “man make women wax” kind of thing.

          Also? “Or you sell a magazine by discussing a way to fix a “problem” that most women don’t even know about…which fails to mention that most women don’t know about it because the problem doesn’t actually exist. This sort of thing works on men, too.”

          Bam. This. This for a great many new pharmaceuticals as well.

      • “But as usual when women are met with an unfair expectation the first thought is to try to pin it on society and the second is to try to pin it on men.”

        I don’t find that to be the case with women in general, only within feminism. For example, an article in Jezebel is far more likely to place the blame on men than a general women’s interest is.

  19. Carl Menger says:

    No, I don’t want her vulva bleached, nor her anus, Nor do I want her shaved/waxed/no-noed or whatever, bald as a 3 year old. I’ll shave my face, she can shave her legs and pits and we’ll can it enough.

  20. Speaking of women going a bit far for the beauty thing.

    Feeding tube diet to upwards of 20lbs in the 2 weeks before wedding day?

  21. Wilhelmina de Jong says:

    “But a part of me thinks this is a big, ridiculous plot by the beauty industry to make money off women’s insecurities and the stereotype that men are shallow and obsessed with porn.”
    The beauty industry will talk any complex into your head if that make you buy their product. The worst culprit however are those women’s magazines. If a woman really wants to get rid of insecurities, the best thing is to ban these magazines. It’ll take a week or two and you’ll feel much better about yourself.

    In all my life I’ve never come across a man who said anything negative about my genital parts nor breast and in my experience men are pretty much relaxes when it comes to the look of a woman’s genitals. This is really something that women impose on each other.

  22. Products like this are full on bat shit crazy. As a guy who enjoys the company of women, and having sex with women, I can say categorically that I’ve never been with a woman, undressing, about to consummate a lovely evening when I suddenly have the urge to blurt out, ” shave, and bleach your butt and vaj or this isn’t going to happen.”. Ladies, if you EVER have a man say anything remotely in this vein to you run, don’t walk away as fast as possible. Because he is a lunatic, and you clearly deserve much, MUCH better.


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