“Excessive Genital Detail”: Photoshopped Vulvas In Men’s Mags

A while ago I went to Sexpo and came home with a showbag full of… well, I didn’t bother to look to be honest. I was too busy being interested in my new corsets. The bag got shoved into a corner of my office and ignored until I did some cleaning. Thus I discovered 3 freebie copies of softcore men’s magazines: Zoo Weekly, Picture and People.

These magazines won’t win any prizes for offering subtle or intelligent journalism. They’re really just soft porn with exclamation marks. Guys like looking at naked women and these magazines cheerfully offer that, albeit with a veneer of hur-hur-hur sexism. In the era of the internet, when you can find any kind of porn at the drop of a hat, these mags still sell. I guess it’s sometimes hard to download porn in a truckstop bathroom.

In any case, that’s not why I wanted to write a blog post. What caught my eye was the ridiculous photoshopping that these magazines perpetrate. Not just removing blemishes or thinning thighs, either. These magazines heal up vulvas. Thus:

Picture magazine
A healed up vag
Picture magazine
They even “improved” porn star Tera Patrick:
Picture magazine
And here the frontbottom has vanished, leaving a worrying gap:
Picture magazine
People magazine


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These magazines don’t photoshop vulvas into smooth mounds for fun. They do it so they aren’t penalised by Australia’s censors, the Office of Film and Literature Classification. The existing guidelines say that those kinds of soft porn mags can’t show “excessive genital detail” – i.e. pink bits or inner labia. Pink bits makes it real porn, not just a “lad’s mag”. So, to ensure they don’t get into trouble with the government, they get excessively happy with the healing brush, often removing any hint of a vulval slit at all. In other cases, protruding labia are “tidied up” so all that’s left is a “perfect” pussy.

Australian Women's Forum censored photos
This situation isn’t new. In 2001, Australian Women’s Forum published an article decrying this type of censorship, arguing that it was encouraging women to have genital surgery to meet the unrealistic bodily standards suggested by men’s magazines. Ironically, their article illustrating the difference between photoshopped and real vulvas was itself censored for having “too much genital detail” (see image above).

In 2010 the ABC program Hungry Beast discussed this censorship issue. Watch it here:

The message that this kind of photoshopping sends is very fucked up. It says that female bodies as they occur naturally are obscene and must be “tidied up”. But the censorship rules are fucked up to begin with – witness the attitude toward female ejaculation in adult films.

There is supposed to be a review of our censorship system occurring right now. Unfortunately it seems as though the Australian Law Reform Commission has dropped the ball. They’re actually recommending MORE censorship, especially of online content, while refusing to recommend the legalisation of X-rated movies. Irene Graham from Libertus tears them a new arse in her excellent submission which points out all the assumptions and errors in their discussion paper.

Meanwhile, the UK has just taken a step into the 21st century via a court case which has challenged their definitions of obscenity. It feels as though a legal challenge is the only way we’ll get anything changed in this country.

Just as an aside, these kinds of photos remind me just how censored the female vulva has been throughout the ages. If you go to an art museum you’ll find that female nudes rarely feature realistic genitals. They were either covered up or the artist simply glossed over the details, creating the familiar “smooth mound”. Public hair was considered to be obscene. As far back as Roman times they were leaving out the all-important slit and the tradition continued up into modern times.

Roman sculpture from the 2nd century AD Bagneuse female nude with no vulva by William Bouguereau in 1870

Hell, Barbie still has the smooth plastic mound although there are now other anatomically correct dolls on the market. Which reminds me, when I was a kid I honestly thought that grown women grew hair and then their slit healed up.

See how important it is to show bits as they really are?

* Note: The last pic is from People magazine 25 July 2011. The ones above it are from Picture magazine 27 July 2011.

2 Replies to ““Excessive Genital Detail”: Photoshopped Vulvas In Men’s Mags”

  1. There’s something perversely amusing about the fact that these images are actually more regressive than in the pre-airbrush days when to avoid showing the most explicit bits the models had to actually pose in such a way as to obscure them. The resulting poses at least implied that genitals existed but weren’t allowed to be shown. The mass airbrushing somehow seems more creepy, especially combined with the obsession with denying that pubic hair actually exists.

  2. Well, to be fair, when a woman who is well-endowed in the thighs as women often were in classic portraits, and she puts her thighs together, it does cover part of the vulva simply because of the excess skin.

    That’s no excuse for the modern porn where their legs are spread wide, but for the classic paintings it offers an explanation.

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