LINDA KELSEY: Is no body part too intimate to be made source of shame?
14th August 2019

As a new ‘vagina spa’ touts unnecessary cosmetic procedures, former Cosmo editor LINDA KELSEY rages… Is no body part too intimate to be made a source of shame?

  • Luxury spa to open in London’s poshest postcode, Knightsbridge, next month
  • Hot from New York it will offer all sorts of therapies – but not for your face 
  • VSPOT is dedicated to the business of tending to women’s private parts 

A luxury spa is set to open in London’s poshest postcode, Knightsbridge, next month. Hot from New York, it will offer therapies from plumping and lightening, to steaming and tightening. But these treatments aren’t for your face.

VSPOT is instead dedicated to the business of tending women’s private parts. The vagina vigilantes are arriving from across the pond, and I wonder if British women will fall for it.

I suspect, though, that plenty will line up as excitedly for the expensive (and unnecessary) treatments as they will for the latest designer dresses.

My fear is that many others — who can scarcely afford it — will be doing so because they will come to believe there’s something intrinsically wrong with their bodies. I worry, too, that we’ll soon be seeing ‘medispas’ like the expected VSPOT in cities and towns across the country.

Former Cosmo editor Linda Kelsey (pictured) fears a luxury spa set to open in London, to treat women’s private parts, will lead to some people thinking there is something intrinsically wrong with their bodies

After decades of boob jobs, facelifts and Botox, it feels sadly inevitable that marketers should dream up new areas of our bodies for us to feel bad about. Are your orgasms less intense or less easily achieved than you’d like? Have you noticed changes following the birth of your children? The folks at VSPOT are here to help.

The V, in case you’re in any doubt, stands for vagina, though it also stands for vulva, and represents all the bits that women shouldn’t have to concern themselves about other than for medical reasons. Serious things, like vaginal prolapse, where the pelvic organs protrude into the vagina.

Following its success on upmarket Madison Avenue in Manhattan, Real Housewives Of New York star Cindy Barshop (no, me neither) is bringing to the UK her dedicated spa for intimate titivating, tightening and lightening — yes, as in skin-lightening.

Cindy is also a hair removal expert who founded the salon Completely Bare, at which you could laser your pubic hair into oblivion. And she promoted the ‘vajazzle’ trend, in which tiny rhinestone crystals are applied artistically to your pelvic area.

The treatments on offer in the States read like a gourmet taster menu, though less digestible.

Vaginal steaming, for starters — a method that was given the seal of approval by Gwyneth Paltrow some time ago, but only last week, as reported in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Canada, was cited as responsible for giving a 62-year-old woman second-degree burns.

According to VSPOT, its steam clean (around £100), will harmlessly ‘revitalise your uterus’ and increase your libido. A mixture of herbs is placed inside a steamer before being directed at your private parts while a technician massages your abdomen.

Excuse me if I forgo this offer, as, according to real experts, most women have a perfectly balanced eco-system of their own — no steaming required.

Cindy Barshop agreed that the vagina is self-cleaning and told us the steam was ‘opening its pores’ and was held ‘about four feet away from the canal’. The reference to the uterus subsequently disappeared from the website.

Next on the list is The O-Shot, to help you orgasm faster and more intensely. Apparently, a painless procedure extracts your own blood platelets, which are then injected back into your clitoris and your G-spot, previously prepared with a topical anaesthetic.

Following its success on upmarket Madison Avenue in Manhattan, Real Housewives Of New York star Cindy Barshop (pictured) is bringing to the UK her spa VSPOT

The VSpot team forgot to mention that the jury’s still out on whether the G-spot actually exists. If many women report they can’t find their own, how are the VSPOT team going to?

According to consultant urogynaecologist Dr Sushma Srikrishna of King’s College Hospital, London, despite many women singing its praises, ‘there is no evidence for the effectiveness of this and there have been no peer-reviewed clinical trials’.

Cindy Barshop refutes this, citing a single study on The O-Shot published in the Journal Of Women’s Health Care in 2017. But Dr Srikrishna says: ‘My fear is that this is a vascular area which could easily be damaged. Repeat injections could lead to long-term pain, infection and scarring.’

Another Vspot treatment on offer is V-Lightening, for women who want fairer skin down there. Although even VSPOT admits it’s ‘normal’ to have areas of darker skin, a combination of professional treatments and at-home lightening products can, apparently, get rid of any ‘discolouration’.

Dr Srikrishna is shocked: ‘This treatment strengthens the belief there’s something wrong with pigmentation. These ideas can quickly become the social norm, with no discussion of risks.

‘Substances to lighten skin can strip it of its protective barriers, making you prone to infections and scarring.’

Cindy claims the treatment uses only gentle products — referring to a ‘gentle almond peel’ developed for sensitive areas. The horrifying thing is that this is all part of a wider movement cashing in on the notion that your private parts should conform to a stereotype — encouraged, no doubt, by the proliferating porn culture.

Lightening creams with names such as Booty Bleach and Gyntima are widely available online, as are vaginal ‘tightening’ gels.

As I witness our most private parts being exposed to public shaming in the name of some specious norm, I am remembering, almost with nostalgia, a time when the word vagina wouldn’t have been suitable for mention in a family newspaper.

Real Housewives Of New York star Cindy showcasing a machine at one of her spas in a YouTube video

I grew up in the Fifties, when the term was taboo. I recall the first feminist workshops in around 1970, at which women examined their genitals with mirrors. Over the years, as I began to work on Cosmopolitan magazine, conversation slowly increased. Knowledge was seen as essential to protecting sexual health and helped to shed the pall of shame many felt.

In the Nineties came The Vagina Monologues, a play celebrating the female sexual organs and a powerful protest about sexual exploitation.

More than 20 years on, fuelled by proliferating pornography, celebrity ‘perfection’, and ever-more potentially harmful products and treatments, we find that we are more hung up on our bodies than ever — and vulnerable to exploitation.

What’s advertised these days as promoting self-care and taboo-busting is really just another way of making us feel that our private parts are sites of shame to be buffed, primped and perked up.

Some young girls and women spend fortunes on beautifying and tightening their vaginas, while others risk dying of cervical cancer because they are too self-conscious to go for screening readily available on the NHS.

The charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust surveyed more than 2,000 women aged 25 to 35 at the beginning of the year and found almost half delayed or had never gone for a screening.

Eight out of ten admitted to feeling embarrassed.

Perhaps surprisingly, there is one treatment VSPOT offers that may have some medical benefit, according to Dr Srikrishna. Advertised as a treatment for incontinence, looseness and dry, painful intercourse, especially after the menopause, FemiLift uses carbon dioxide laser technology to boost the formation of the body’s own collagen.

Dr Srikrishna says it may help some post-menopausal women. She might even recommend it if oestrogen supplements were unsuitable and moisturisers were insufficient.

But, despite anecdotal data, the evidence it could assist with vaginal laxity or incontinence is not compelling, she insists. And, in any case, your first port of call should be your doctor.

The message is clear. We are being encouraged to feel bad about our bodies by the fast-buck brigade, even as they proclaim they just want us to feel better about ourselves.

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