Well nobody wants to see a hairy fanny do they? Exploring the Everyday Narratives of Young Women's Perceptions and Practices around Genital Appearance and Sexual Identities

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch

Description

With the rising use of social media and in particular the visual elements of ‘selfies’ by young adults, recent research has explored the ways in which the images of the female body are scrutinised and stigmatised if non-conformity towards an idealised body image is apparent (Chrisler, 2011). This current trend of social media surveillance and self-regulation has led to recent moves towards young females removing their pubic hair with clinicians claiming that it is now unusual to examine a female under the age of 30 years who still has pubic hair (Braun, Tricklebank & Clarke, 2013; Riddell, Varto & Hodgson, 2010). In addition, the visible components of the vaginal area, albeit when clothed, can also be under scrutiny and subject to ridicule. More particularly in this case, the size and shape of the labia minora becomes the focus of the public gaze especially if the labia minora is visible (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001)). Discourses such as ‘camel toe’ are used to ridicule females where the labia minora is visibly evident which may contribute to the rising levels of young females undertaking vagina surgery creating a cultural move towards having a ‘designer vagina' (Braun & Wilkinson, 2005). These are ways in which the intimate appearances of genitalia become enveloped within everyday life. This qualitative research uses one-to-one, semi-structured interviews analysed using a discursive analysis with females aged 18 to 30 years old, with differing sexual orientations to explore their own perceptions and practices of this particular grooming regime. This research is still in progress at this time but initial findings suggest that participants predominantly cite the removal of pubic hair as a hygienic issue together with narratives of non-shaving resulting in a lessening of sexual activity (this can take the form of self-monitoring whereby not having shaved before a night out will stem sexual activity together with partners’ (either male or female) influencing shaving behaviours by refusing to have oral sex if the vaginal area is not fully shaved. The visual components of the labia minora seemed to be dependent upon being in a long-term relationship where this was not such an issue but there were narratives around possibly having surgery if looking for a new relationship. All participants cite pornography and the media (television programmes such as Geordie Shore) as being instrumental in both these trends.
Period15 May 2015
Event titleLGBT/Sexualities Conference
Event typeConference
LocationManchester, United Kingdom

Keywords

  • Narratives
  • Young women
  • Genital appearance
  • Sexual identities