Aug 062013
 

By Elle Chase  

vulvasThis week, I found three year old article on www.MamaMia.com.au online regarding Australian Classification Board’s (think the the Australian version of the MPAA except it includes all video games, films and published materials) censorship of the natural state of a woman’s vulva in magazines. In it, journalist Mia Freedman (who also wrote the pieces I’ve linked to below) describes it in the following way (in an article that can be read HERE in full):

” … the basic situation is that any magazine featuring a picture of a naked woman, had to digitally remove anything visible outside the ‘single slit’ of the vaginal lips. So any stray bits of labia or clitoris had to be airbrushed out. Because it was deemed OFFENSIVE.”

and

“any magazine showing any ‘genital detail’ must be sold in a sealed plastic bag. Like pornography. And I’m not talking about explicit legs akimbo shots, just shots of a normal girl standing up with her legs closed. She must look like Barbie or the airbrush will be deployed to make the censors happy and protect our sensitive eyes from OFFENSIVE VISIBLE LADY PARTS.”

As you would expect, noted Australian Feminists have been up in arms about this for years to no avail. Their frustration is palpable. It’s bad enough that women are taught (intentionally or no) that their sexuality should be hidden, now the Australian government is literally sending a message that if their vulvas don’t look a certain way, there’s something wrong with them. To make matters worse, it seems that the Australian Classification Board denies they have any mandate to excise the labia minora from pictures of naked women. But all ‘soft-core’ men’s magazines and any other publication that ‘could be deemed inappropriate for a minor’ has been digitally altering women’s vulva’s for about 10 years in order to escape the wrath of the Board..

I have read the Australian ‘National Classification Code’ posted online HERE, and while it does not specifically list the excising of the labia minora from photos, being non-specific seems to be the (intentional?) real problem.

If you’re curious as to what non-specificity looks like, read on:

1. Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:

(a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want; (b) **minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them; (c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive; (d) the need to take account of community concerns about: (i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and (ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

2 Publications (except RC publications) that:

(a) ***explicitly depict sexual or sexually related activity between consenting adults in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or (b) depict, describe or express revolting or abhorrent phenomena in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult and are unsuitable for a minor to see or read

Category 2 restricted

3 Publications (except RC publications and Category 2 restricted publications) that:

(a) explicitly depict nudity, or describe or impliedly depict sexual or sexually related activity between consenting adults, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or (b) describe or express in detail violence or sexual activity between consenting adults in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or (c) are unsuitable for a minor to see or read

Category 1 restricted

4 All other publications Unrestricted

Nowhere else in the code or it’s amendments does it get any more specific about just what kind of material they are protecting minors from that is considered  **”likely to harm or disturb them.”   This means that somewhere, someone sits behind a desk with a big red pen and a singular opinion, deciding just would cause harm to the average Australian minor. Are sex education materials that show the labia minora offensive? How about medical journals and trade magazines? I mean, certainly a minor could come across such provocative pictures in the doctor’s office? This should scare the average Australian way more than it seems to, especially in light of the “adult opt-in policy”  that the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron is about to put into effect.

And what about this little passage?

*** “explicitly depict sexual or sexually related activity between consenting adults in a way that is likely to cause offence (sic) to a reasonable adult; or (b) depict, describe or express revolting or abhorrent phenomena in a way that is likely to cause offence (sic) to a reasonable adult and are unsuitable for a minor to see or read.”

Who decides what “revolting and abhorrent phenomena” or what a “reasonable adult” is? Perhaps someone who believes in a different God? Maybe someone who believes homosexuality is deviant? Possibly someone who regards the Transgender individual’s sexuality as indecent? No way to tell.

And that’s the point.

With so much room for interpretation amid rapacious denials of the controversial censorship or “editing,” can the banning of  images of male foreskin be far behind? But seriously, even in that case the “harm” has less potential, as men have the opportunity to see one another’s genitals in the restroom from an early age, where women have no societal structure where they come in visual contact with each others vulvas (as pointed out by Kirsten Drysdale).

As a child until I was about 18, I had only seen my mother’s vulva, which differed completely from mine. Her labia minora lips fell past her majora folds and mine did not. I felt as if something were wrong with me, or rationalized that this kind of stretched out labia minora happened after a woman had given birth. It was only until I was 18 and performing in theatre productions when I was able to see other women’s vulvas in the dressing room and realized that it’s natural for the vulva to have differences in size, shape, color and texture. What of the young Australian women who come across photos of vulvas, all digitally altered to look the same? What subconscious or conscious message will take root in their brain if they don’t resemble what’s in those pictures?

We’ve seen what fashion magazines and the media have done to women’s self esteem in reverence to the tall, skinny ideal of womanhood. It’s given our daughters eating disorders, caused out kindergarteners to go on diets and supported a multi-billion dollar diet industry worldwide to fix it all. This vulva editing is no different than shaming women for not being thin and the stakes are just as high.

Via: mediadissemination.wordpress.com

Via: mediadissemination.wordpress.com

If I were tasked to write a new National Classification Code for the Australian Classification Board, I think I might be a little more worried about the proliferation of violence against women in the magazines they police.

Case in point, this Australian ad for Melbourne shoe company, Luella was allowed to be published n 2009.

Although, it was pulled shortly after it hit the stands, this awful ad apparently didn’t have editors of the magazine it appeared in nervous enough that they would be chastised by the Classification Board if they published it. This is just one example speaking to the fact that according to the Australian Classification Board, a woman’s vulva in it’s natural state is more disturbing and causes more harm to our children’s minds than an ad with a woman tied up and stuffed in a trunk to sell shoes

Check out the original article that sparked this post (below):

Healing It To A Single Crease by Kirsten Drysdale for HungryBeast.com

Why Australian Law Demands All Vaginas Be Digitally Altered (NSFW) by Mia Freedman

Genital Surgery: Two Words You Don’t want to Hear in the Same Sentence by Mia Freedma

Classification Board Squirms Over Vagina Censorship in This Hungry Beast Interview

Additional articles on the subject:

Do Vaginas Belong on a Magazine Cover? from www.urbansociety.com.au

9/17/13 – ADDENDUM: The Beautiful Kind recently posted THIS about PLAYBOY airbrushing vulvas out this year.

Aug 062013
 

By Elle Chase  

vulvasThis week, I found three year old article on www.MamaMia.com.au online regarding Australian Classification Board’s (think the the Australian version of the MPAA except it includes all video games, films and published materials) censorship of the natural state of a woman’s vulva in magazines. In it, journalist Mia Freedman (who also wrote the pieces I’ve linked to below) describes it in the following way (in an article that can be read HERE in full):

” … the basic situation is that any magazine featuring a picture of a naked woman, had to digitally remove anything visible outside the ‘single slit’ of the vaginal lips. So any stray bits of labia or clitoris had to be airbrushed out. Because it was deemed OFFENSIVE.”

and

“any magazine showing any ‘genital detail’ must be sold in a sealed plastic bag. Like pornography. And I’m not talking about explicit legs akimbo shots, just shots of a normal girl standing up with her legs closed. She must look like Barbie or the airbrush will be deployed to make the censors happy and protect our sensitive eyes from OFFENSIVE VISIBLE LADY PARTS.”

As you would expect, noted Australian Feminists have been up in arms about this for years to no avail. Their frustration is palpable. It’s bad enough that women are taught (intentionally or no) that their sexuality should be hidden, now the Australian government is literally sending a message that if their vulvas don’t look a certain way, there’s something wrong with them. To make matters worse, it seems that the Australian Classification Board denies they have any mandate to excise the labia minora from pictures of naked women. But all ‘soft-core’ men’s magazines and any other publication that ‘could be deemed inappropriate for a minor’ has been digitally altering women’s vulva’s for about 10 years in order to escape the wrath of the Board..

I have read the Australian ‘National Classification Code’ posted online HERE, and while it does not specifically list the excising of the labia minora from photos, being non-specific seems to be the (intentional?) real problem.

If you’re curious as to what non-specificity looks like, read on:

1. Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:

(a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want; (b) **minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them; (c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive; (d) the need to take account of community concerns about: (i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and (ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

2 Publications (except RC publications) that:

(a) ***explicitly depict sexual or sexually related activity between consenting adults in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or (b) depict, describe or express revolting or abhorrent phenomena in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult and are unsuitable for a minor to see or read

Category 2 restricted

3 Publications (except RC publications and Category 2 restricted publications) that:

(a) explicitly depict nudity, or describe or impliedly depict sexual or sexually related activity between consenting adults, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or (b) describe or express in detail violence or sexual activity between consenting adults in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or (c) are unsuitable for a minor to see or read

Category 1 restricted

4 All other publications Unrestricted

Nowhere else in the code or it’s amendments does it get any more specific about just what kind of material they are protecting minors from that is considered  **”likely to harm or disturb them.”   This means that somewhere, someone sits behind a desk with a big red pen and a singular opinion, deciding just would cause harm to the average Australian minor. Are sex education materials that show the labia minora offensive? How about medical journals and trade magazines? I mean, certainly a minor could come across such provocative pictures in the doctor’s office? This should scare the average Australian way more than it seems to, especially in light of the “adult opt-in policy”  that the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron is about to put into effect.

And what about this little passage?

*** “explicitly depict sexual or sexually related activity between consenting adults in a way that is likely to cause offence (sic) to a reasonable adult; or (b) depict, describe or express revolting or abhorrent phenomena in a way that is likely to cause offence (sic) to a reasonable adult and are unsuitable for a minor to see or read.”

Who decides what “revolting and abhorrent phenomena” or what a “reasonable adult” is? Perhaps someone who believes in a different God? Maybe someone who believes homosexuality is deviant? Possibly someone who regards the Transgender individual’s sexuality as indecent? No way to tell.

And that’s the point.

With so much room for interpretation amid rapacious denials of the controversial censorship or “editing,” can the banning of  images of male foreskin be far behind? But seriously, even in that case the “harm” has less potential, as men have the opportunity to see one another’s genitals in the restroom from an early age, where women have no societal structure where they come in visual contact with each others vulvas (as pointed out by Kirsten Drysdale).

As a child until I was about 18, I had only seen my mother’s vulva, which differed completely from mine. Her labia minora lips fell past her majora folds and mine did not. I felt as if something were wrong with me, or rationalized that this kind of stretched out labia minora happened after a woman had given birth. It was only until I was 18 and performing in theatre productions when I was able to see other women’s vulvas in the dressing room and realized that it’s natural for the vulva to have differences in size, shape, color and texture. What of the young Australian women who come across photos of vulvas, all digitally altered to look the same? What subconscious or conscious message will take root in their brain if they don’t resemble what’s in those pictures?

We’ve seen what fashion magazines and the media have done to women’s self esteem in reverence to the tall, skinny ideal of womanhood. It’s given our daughters eating disorders, caused out kindergarteners to go on diets and supported a multi-billion dollar diet industry worldwide to fix it all. This vulva editing is no different than shaming women for not being thin and the stakes are just as high.

Via: mediadissemination.wordpress.com

Via: mediadissemination.wordpress.com

If I were tasked to write a new National Classification Code for the Australian Classification Board, I think I might be a little more worried about the proliferation of violence against women in the magazines they police.

Case in point, this Australian ad for Melbourne shoe company, Luella was allowed to be published n 2009.

Although, it was pulled shortly after it hit the stands, this awful ad apparently didn’t have editors of the magazine it appeared in nervous enough that they would be chastised by the Classification Board if they published it. This is just one example speaking to the fact that according to the Australian Classification Board, a woman’s vulva in it’s natural state is more disturbing and causes more harm to our children’s minds than an ad with a woman tied up and stuffed in a trunk to sell shoes

Check out the original article that sparked this post (below):

Healing It To A Single Crease by Kirsten Drysdale for HungryBeast.com

Why Australian Law Demands All Vaginas Be Digitally Altered (NSFW) by Mia Freedman

Genital Surgery: Two Words You Don’t want to Hear in the Same Sentence by Mia Freedma

Classification Board Squirms Over Vagina Censorship in This Hungry Beast Interview

Additional articles on the subject:

Do Vaginas Belong on a Magazine Cover? from www.urbansociety.com.au

9/17/13 – ADDENDUM: The Beautiful Kind recently posted THIS about PLAYBOY airbrushing vulvas out this year.

Dec 092012
 
406884_258751590858560_667376786_n-300x223

Originally published on www.CyndiDarnell.com on 5/30/12

In fragile times, it’s often our most intimate and close relationships that suffer. Intimacy is the glue, the enhancer that gives us the drive to connect, and in many situations, also the factor that can be a passion killer for some and the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

I have been reflecting a lot recently on what it means to be intimate with someone, what vulnerability is and how honesty plays a role in all of this. This of course in turn affects the way we can approach sex, but of course not all of our relationships are sexual or erotic, but that doesn’t have to mean they lack intimacy. Intimacy has many faces which can be misunderstood or worse still, ignored when we only relate to intimacy as something sexual or erotic. Intimacy is the essence, the determining factor that decides how close someone gets to us and what we’re prepared to do or share to maintain it.

Intimacy comes from sharing and bonding. People share and bond in hundreds of ways; from a drink at the pub, to a long, lazy dinner , to a friendship that has been cultivated over years, a cry on a shoulder, a rewarding hug, a sporting win  or a love of the same activities, revealing a truth about yourself that you trust another person to take care of, asking for help , asking for attention or allowing yourself to be seen as you really are, flaws and all, in the hope that you won’t be judged for it.

Whilst most of us have these requirements at different stages in our lives, very few are able to acknowledge this need within ourselves, let alone share it with others. It can often be the core of a nagging internal voice that manifests as only a hum or faint murmur rather than bolt of clarity. It can also be the trigger that releases aggressive outbursts, where words said, are later regretted because it’s easier to cast the uncomfortable sensation / feeling out and onto another, than to claim it as our own. It’s easier to blame others than to take a little agency, and while at times this is effective; what is the long-term cost? When this is the perpetual default setting, there is no recourse.Your default setting is powerlessness.

The rise of anxiety among not only Australians, but Westerners in general as a primary emotional default saddens me, but does not surprise me as we become less and less intimate, less and less able to acknowledge our own feelings and thus less able to share with others or learn how to listen to others without judging, being judged or feeling attacked.

While I generally tend to avoid binaries of any kind as a measure for looking at the world, it seems when it comes to emotions, we have only two options. We either allow them to be there, accept them, in all their discomfort and learn to work with them rather than against them; (thus having control over them or even better still, a relationship with them); or we can ignore them. (The latter in my experience can only last for so long before manifestations of ill health become apparent; excessive anxiety, delusion, sleeplessness, depression and a general corrosion of relationships as a result of any one or all of these things.) Shakespeare grasped the ultimate quandary: To Be or Not To Be, that IS in fact the ultimate question, the question that hundreds of years later we still philosophically ponder, but most of us avoid for the sheer terror of facing our internal truth, our shadow, that which makes us vulnerable.

So what is this vulnerability that can make even the most mighty a quivering wreck, or the mostfeeble a guilt-ridden avoider, keen to maintain the facade or status quo at any price, even their own well-being?

Vulnerability for many may be the shadow, the hidden that which dare not be revealed, OR it may also be the default, wherein manipulation and carelessness can take centre stage to avoid speaking a truth that is more confronting, potentially freeing but also downright terrifying to the inexperienced.

The vulnerability I am talking about here is the genuine kind, not the ‘’tantrum’’ or ‘’drama’’ kind where the protagonist is actually quite capable of helping themselves, but prefers instead to use manipulation or passive/ aggressive tactics to get their needs met consciously or unconsciously. True vulnerability here is acknowledging what is actually going on in the relationship in question, whether the relationship is with the Self or another. Vulnerability is a resource to actually achieve a mutually beneficial outcome rather than as a tool to wage messy, dirty conflict.

Vulnerability needn’t equate to meekness Being vulnerable is actually one of the most assertive things I for one have ever done. Having the gumption to tell someone I love them, to tell them I miss them to tell them I am angry with them is absolutely fucking terrifying when I don’t know whether or not I will be heard or acknowledged. (This of course requires that such statements are made as declarations rather than ultimatums or any kind of manipulation.) Acknowledgement of another person’s feelings is a vital part of communication and creating intimacy through vulnerability. If / when you acknowledge that you are actually valuable in another person’s life, you are then compelled to be responsible for your own responses and behaviour toward them. Acknowledging responsibility is an act of both vulnerability and power. Pretending it doesn’t matter that someone you’re close to just told you how they feel is not only inharmonious it’s also a form of rejection and an inhibitor to intimacy. They wouldn’t have been close to you in the first place if you didn’t actually care about them.

For example, we can all think of situations where for one reason or another we have wanted, or even needed to be taken care of in some way, shape or form, to be soothed if you like, or just supported and appreciated for a day, a night, a month, a life time. Where a need to be understood was crucial, but where the ability to recognise that need was impossible because the mere thought of allowing such a realisation was too much to bear. It was only with hindsight that we realised what we needed, but were too fearful to acknowledge it; instead judging our own feeling for example as ‘’weak’’ or ‘’inappropriate’’, rather than seeing it for what it is, a basic human desire to be understood and acknowledged. Somehow to admit our humanness is weak, is animalistic, is dangerous. My belief is that not acknowledging our feelings is far, far, far more dangerous. As my dear friend Cath says: What you resist; persists! I can think of few cases where this is not a universal truth. When your strongest motivator is actually also your blind spot, communication can get very very messy.

So where do we go from here? The concept of acceptance has been around for ages, thousands of years in fact. Buddhists cottoned-on to it yonks ago, and have been its greatest advocates ever since. Recently psychologists have decided it’s OK too, even beyond OK; downright effective! Good stuff! So we finally have science and spirit intersecting. (For the atheists who walk among us, substitute the word ‘spirit ‘for ‘feeling’ instead). So, what does this mean for us lay-people? It means two things that I can see so far. One is, we have one of the most powerful tools available to us to give ourselves the leverage to get a bit real with ourselves and stop pissing-about on the edges, and Two, it enables us to understand that being honest with ourselves first, and then with others (whilst being a bit scary at times), is actually a very assertive practice, and at times, a whole lot harder than running in on the defensive, but ultimately more fulfilling and anxiety reducing!

Are you more powerful when you act or re-act? Who is more powerful,  the initiator or the reactor? When it comes to relationships (not just sexual ones, remember?) the most effective work can be achieved when we take action, rather than just re-action. When our default is thoughtful, emotive and inspired rather than an act of defence strategy and one-upping, we are operating from a place of creativity and agency.

Here’s the thing; a wise teacher once asked me and I will ask you; Do you want to be rightOR Do you want to be close? Depending of your values, you may struggle with choosing between what may seem to be opposing alternatives. Sometimes (but not always) you can’t be both. Sometimes you just have to accept what is there, without judging it. Your answer to that question may actually be a cause of vulnerability for you…………… and so the cycle starts again.

The old adage we teach what we most need to learn rings absolutely true. I have spent years working through issues of accepting and embracing my vulnerability. It’s still a challenge for me, but I’ve been practicing for years and it gets better and easier. Believe me. I spent years feeling nervous, anxious and profoundly deranged trying to keep all the plates spinning, while trying to look cool as a cucumber. Will I ever have it totally mastered? Probably not! But then again, I don’t know that mastering emotions is the kind of goal I am looking to achieve anyway. Emotions by their very nature are erratic and arousing. Some are pleasant, others are not. But emotions in their essence are a necessary part of life, as necessary and water, air, food and sleep, yet these things are not judged as invalid, in the way that emotions often are. Feelings add value, colour and texture to what would otherwise be rather rudimentary and cardboard lives. Why would anyone want to dominate the one thing that gives their life its authenticity, its spark and its vigour. Conversely, being a slave to one’s emotions is also unsavoury and potentially deadly. Common Sense is calledcommonsense for a reason. It’s everywhere and everyone has access to it………. in theory at least! Learning to allow access to feelings, process them and foster acceptance is where the magic lies. Find the edge, find the distance you’re prepared to get to, wait and see. Don’t judge it, don’t push it. Just wait and see. …………………. What CAN you see? Let me know.

Cyndi Darnell: I have always been a pleasure enthusiast. For as far back as I can remember, my fascination with pleasure and sexuality has been part of my identity. Having travelled the world extensively in my 20s in the pursuit of self-knowledge and then my 30s exploring more introspective wonders and delights, I have come to embrace the understanding that sexuality and pleasure is not something separate from our lives, but part of our lives as a pathway to genuine wholeness, contentment and wellbeing.

My pursuit of quality sex-knowledge has led me down a variety of avenues to get the expert and diverse know-how I have today. From the dedicated hands on approach I took during the 1990s through workshops, seminars (including Sexological Bodywork and contemporary tantra) and good old fashioned trial and error; through to the academic and clinical studies I have completed in the 2000s in both general counselling and specialist clinical sex therapy, I am thrilled to be able to bridge the world of sexology from a variety of perspectives and approaches that embrace, understand and challenge the diversity of human sexuality.

I am also the founder and creator of Pleasure Forum Australia , a monthy  adult to adult sex education program where the emphasis is on pleasure and practical education, not sleaze and clinical theory. More recently my educational and therapeutic skills have been heard on Australia’s Triple J radio program The Hack for Sex Week, as well as working with Australia’s most outspoken darling,Catherine Deveny, on a series of free-to-air educational podcasts about sex, pleasure and the human condition. I am a mentor for the Minus 18 Sex Gurus, a queer  sex and health project for young queer identifying and gender questioning people. I work predominantly in Melbourne, but also offer my workshops and therapeutic sessions across Australia and globally via Skype.

 

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