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Cult Health Sex. 2017 Apr;19(4):470-485. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2016.1237674. Epub 2016 Oct 10.

'Basically, it's sorcery for your vagina': unpacking Western representations of vaginal steaming.

Author information

1
a School of Psychology , The University of Auckland , Auckland , New Zealand.

Abstract

Vaginal steaming made global headlines in 2015 after its promotion by celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow. One of many female genital modification practices currently on offer in Anglo-Western nations - practices both heavily promoted and critiqued - vaginal steaming is claimed to offer benefits for fertility and overall reproductive, sexual or even general health and wellbeing. We analysed a selection of online accounts of vaginal steaming to determine the sociocultural assumptions and logics within such discourse, including ideas about women, women's bodies and women's engagement with such 'modificatory' practices. Ninety items were carefully selected from the main types of website discussing vaginal steaming: news/magazines; health/lifestyle; spa/service providers; and personal blogs. Data were analysed using thematic analysis, within a constructionist framework that saw us focus on the constructions and rationalities that underpin the explicit content of the texts. Within an overarching theme of 'the self-improving woman' we identified four themes: (1) the naturally deteriorating, dirty female body; (2) contemporary life as harmful; (3) physical optimisation and the enhancement of health; and (4) vaginal steaming for life optimisation. Online accounts of vaginal steaming appear both to fit within historico-contemporary constructions of women's bodies as deficient and disgusting, and contemporary neoliberal and healthist discourse around the constantly improving subject.

KEYWORDS:

Genitalia; female sexuality; gender; healthism; responsibility; vaginal steaming

PMID:
27719108
DOI:
10.1080/13691058.2016.1237674
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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