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beauty is pop culture // sex rules the world 

  • Arianne Obi

Designer Vaginas and the Cost of Extreme Beauty

Updated: May 22

How Extreme Beauty Standards and Social Media Shape Our Desires and Vaginas.


We are deep in the throes of plastic-mania, and there’s no sign of us using our talons to crawl out. Beauty standards have mutated with TikTok face being the norm, so it comes as no surprise that the performance of cosmetic surgery procedures increased by 102% (Statista, 2022) compared to the previous year. Fox Eyes, Russian Lips and Buccal Fat Removal are all mainstream procedures, performed in local salons and clinics to create faces which are ‘uncanny and ready for digital consumption’. People are also getting Ethnic Nose Jobs to toy with the natural beauty of their ancestors, BBLs to get a pert derriere and Labiaplasties to ‘fix’ what lies beneath. 

Scrolling on Instagram, you’ll see thousands of gorgeous (albeit indistinguishable) women in bikinis and underwear the size of dental floss. They are void of ingrown hairs, awkward tan lines and excess delicate skin. This is prevalent amongst celebrities and social media stars (the likes of the Kardashian/Jenners and their peers spring to mind (see Bianca Censori), however we know that Designer Vaginas are the biggest trend in this industry — reconstructive surgery and fresheners, tighteners and whiteners are now a billion dollar industry. It is the fastest growing cosmetic procedure, and the vaginal rejuvenation industry has climaxed (excuse my French) post-Covid. At a cost of around £4000, undergoing such surgery eats in to equivalent of roughly two pay-cheques when receiving the average UK salary.

Credit: Instagram @kanyewest

Whilst patients report being operated on for improved self-esteem, sexual confidence and satisfaction, it’s worth unpicking why exactly there’s been such growth in this space. Of course there are valid medical reasons for these intimate surgeries (i.e. within gender affirmation) but we’re holding a microscope to issues rooted in the society’s dictation of beauty.

As with fashion and beauty, the turn of each decade dictates what is ‘in’, and particularly what ‘sexy’ looks like. Across history, underwear has become increasingly associated with sexiness and femininity: In the 60s this took shape in the form of sheer nighties and cone bras, before switching to briefs and bushes at the peak of the 70s sexual revolution. Since then, sexuality has been a hotter topic whilst everything down below has gotten smaller, tidier, daintier. We have Pam to thank for introducing us to the Bikini Wax in Baywatch, and Sisqo for paying tribute to the G-String in its 2000s heydey with his hit single ‘Thong Song’ (sales at Victoria's Secret spiked by 80% following it's release). As part and parcel with Y2K trends on TikTok and Instagram, Gen Z has since re-embraced the thong, and to keep with demand retailers are also churning out teeny tiny underwear. As a teenager we’d grimace at the smallness of pants and bikinis at Hollister, but now this tiny underwear sensed to be the norm - the fact that there’s a Wikipedia page about the ‘social impact of thong underwear’ says a lot.

Credit: Complex

Shaming women on the internet for their anatomy is all too common, with ‘Vagina Shaming’ still standing strong as the last taboo. Body Positivity was once the word on everyone’s lips in an effort to embrace the uniqueness of each and every one of us. Once debate sparked about its toxicity, beauty standards were left to run wild and now we’re back in an era obsessed with leggings legs’, Yoni eggs and Ozempic. Internet culture has further propelled shame around body positivity and sexual health, with creators like Andrew Tate and Matt Rife spewing heinous drivel about women’s labia and internal misogyny running wild and free on social media. At the point at which female anatomy is torn apart in memes and given cruel names, it’s no wonder that women would feel uncomfortable enough about their natural beauty to find extreme lengths to change it.

Standards of beauty and sexuality have been marred by the all-too-easy access to explicit content, particularly amongst minors. Adult content stars who have long been known to toy with aesthetics are now engaging with these surgeries more and more in order to further their careers. In this industry, performers are encouraged to embrace the ‘bare look’ or ‘the Barbie’: one which is hairless, blemish free and — ultimately - prepubescent. Behaviour within explicit content is notorious for spilling out into reality, and incites doubt amongst young people about what ‘normal’ looks like.

It is clear to see that 'the why' is ultimately rooted to the male gaze; a weapon society uses to place women in the context of male desire. Falling down this plastic rabbit hole leaves a constant chase for perfection, gaslighting a generation into thinking their ‘average’ is ‘abnormal’ and creating a further gap between the haves and the have nots.

Victims of insecurity pay the price in mental clarity and financial strain, and whilst policymakers hit at pornographers and social platforms strive to safeguard young people from potentially damaging content, this does little to control the narrative around shame. Further cases of body dysmorphia are birthed as an outcome of beauty standards gone wild, with a recent study even evidencing the link between social media use and desire for cosmetic procedure. Now more than ever, it’s important to take a long and hard (again, excuse my choice of words) look in the mirror to assess how far we'll go to achieve flawlessness - inside, outside, and downstairs.

Are you passionate about exploring the intricate worlds of beauty, sex, fashion, wellness, and culture? Do you belong to a marginalized community and have unique perspectives and stories to share? If so, Nightstand Service is eagerly seeking contributing writers like you! Get in touch:


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