Thursday, September 27, 2007

Piercing Images

t used to be a big deal for a 16-year-old girl to get her parents' permission to pierce her earlobes (one each please). But ever since Janet Jackson's little "wardrobe malfunction" during the Superbowl half-time show, even the elderly Norwegian bachelors in North Dakota know ear piercing is old school. Nipplegate may have been a publicity stunt to pump up Janet's exposure just before the release of her new album– but what it really exposed was how mainstream body piercing has become.

American researcher Anne Velliquette, PhD observed, "[t]oday's social climate welcomes body art to an extent that no other period in modern history can rival." Her thought is that it provides meaning to persons bewildered by the fragmentation and chaos of postmodern society: your body is the one thing you have ultimate control over.

What Janet Jackson was exercising control over with was a nipple shield, a decorative piece of jewelry held in place by a 'normal' piercing rod or barbell placed through the areola. Her 1997 album Velvet Rope featured close-ups of her nipple piercing as part of the album artwork. She no longer wears jewelry in either her septum or tongue piercings, but her ears, navel, and genitalia are still adorned. (It is thought to be a clitoral piercing.)

She has competition from Christina Aguilera. Aguilera has five piercings in her ears and one piercing each in her nose, her lower lip, and right nipple, plus 3 more. She has said these are in a place known only to her doctor and her boyfriends: it's diamond-studded, "really beautiful and expensive" and "in a place that most people wouldn't have the guts to do it."

Like the nipple placement, genital piercings reportedly enhance sexual sensitivity. Piercing sites in men include the penile glans and urethra, foreskin, and scrotum; sites in women include the clitoral prepuce or body, labia minora, labia majora, and perineum.

Britney Spears gained some media attention as she organized a "nipple piercing party" for her staff on Valentine's Day 2004 (her own left nipple is pierced). Singer Pink (Alecia Moore) recently got all dressed up and had her nipple pierced in front of her mom– on videotape. Don't we all? The boys go in for it too, particularly the musicians: Tommy Lee, Axl Rose, Lars Ulrich, and scads of others.

As a matter of fact, the really flamboyant multiple piercings seem to be the domain of male celebrities, but only amongst those that don't make their money on the silver screen: Dennis Rodman, Benji Madden, Dave Draiman are standouts.

Christy Turlington is said to have started the female naval ring fad when she strutted her belly jewel on the modeling runway. After multiple ear piercings, navel rings are by far the most common choice amongst female celebrities and the American women who imitate them. Alyssa Milano, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Madonna, Keira Knightley, Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Teri Hatcher all chose this placement.

When Scarlett Johansson gifted herself a bull-style nose ring in 2005, though, you could hear the howls reverberate in cyberspace. On occasion she pops it in when strolling about and it's rediscovered anew by legions of disapproving fans. The actress is currently the face of L'Oreal, and adamant that the nose ring is attractive: "[i]t's all about my creative side and I personally look lovely. So what exactly is the problem with it?" Less controversial was her piercing of the nasal alar rim (the fleshy curve of the nostril). That placement evokes images of dark, exotic Eastern women, while the other conjures up a large, wet nose attached to 500kg of un-neutered beef.

Nose piercings were first recorded about 4000 years ago in the Middle East. Even Genesis 24:22 mentions it: when Abraham requested a wife for his son, Isaac, one of the gifts presented to Rebekah was a golden nose ring. The practice of nose piercing moved on to India during the 16th & 17th centuries with the type of jewel indicating social status. Indian women traditionally pierce the left nostril, thought to be connected with the female reproductive organs, to make childbirth easier and lessen menstrual pain. Nostril piercing came to the West in the late 1960s along spiritual enlightenment from India. Punk rockers and their followers adopted the practice in the 1970s, and it was revived again in the 1990s. Now the likes of Lisa Bonet sport them.

Is there a downside to this? Well, Nicole Richie did set off an alarm at the Reno Airport as she passed through a metal detector with her nipple piercing in situ.

In general, the medical specialty societies frown on it. The American Medical Association (AMA) goes as far as considering some forms of body piercing to be illegal surgery. The major things to keep in mind before you pierce your tongue, eyebrow, belly button, lip, nipple, genitals or navel are long healing, infection, dental damage, and scarring.

Nose piercings like Johansson's are usually are performed in the inferior fleshy part of the septum and not through cartilaginous tissue. Noses, like many cartilage piercings, can be notoriously long in healing because that type of tissue is not well vascularized. The wound heals from the surface, growing a tunnel of new skin inside the hole to form a permanent piercing.

The infection rate for tongue piercings is relatively low, but the tongue & lip studs and rings can lead to chipped and cracked teeth. And then there's the excessive drooling and speech impediment problem, but that's minor.

Even good old-fashioned ear piercing isn't exempt: up to a third of persons with pierced ears had one or more complications (e.g., minor infection, allergic reaction). The most disturbing are keloid formation (exuberant scar formation in dark skinned individuals) and traumatic tearing (bifurcated earlobes aren't stylish). 'High' piercing through the cartilage of the pinna (like Fergie's) is particularly associated with poor healing and more serious infection because of the avascular nature of auricular cartilage.

And then there's the 'stretching' or 'gauging' craze. It's the deliberate expansion of a healed fistula (hole in the skin) for the purpose of wearing big jewelry. It's been around for a while: even Otzi the 5000 year old Iceman mummy found in the Valentina Trujillon glacier had an oversize ear piercing. In Ireland gold artifacts from Bronze Age were identified as ear spools and boxes needing perforations 7+cm diameter.

Most piercings can be stretched far beyond their initial size. 'Blowouts' from over-stretching, especially ones caused by 'dead stretching,' can create scar tissue, which can lead to keloiding or hypertrophic scarring. And stretching too quickly can lead to a buildup of unsightly scar tissue, often described as the 'cat-butt' effect.

Now there's a lovely thought.

Want this look?
Part of the popularity of body piercing is the entry level pricing: it's cheap. Most piercings start at under $100, even the really interesting ones. Make sure you inquire about sterile technique and be prepared to involve your physician is goes wrong.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where's My Emmy? 2007

o you think the Emmys are more interesting if you are sitting there in person? Maybe if you had a frontal view? It does seem rather self-important. Or maybe it's all an elaborate joke: we're only pretending this is important!

So why are we listening to these actors thank people we've never heard of? Shouldn't it be in a heartfelt note on nice stationary? Is it good entertainment? We get lame jokes with wooden teleprompter delivery. These are actors, right? And they did rehearse...can't the presenters memorize 90 seconds of speech?! And the musical Jersey Boys lip-to-lip synced their way through "who loves yooooou, pretty baaaay-bee."

Oh dear. Well, let's get on with it. In a somewhat chronological fashion, here are style thoughts wielded with a knife.

Nearly everyone seemed a bit uncomfortable with the in-the-round set. You could almost imagine the whole 'backside' half of the audience was comprised of those life-size cutout photographs. Those were certainly the cheap seats where they stuck the crews with unrecognizable faces– hence the awkward about-face on camera when a winner thanked the little people.

So what about those fashions? Of course we picked out favorite dresses: the beautiful deep lavendar silk on Helen Mirren and the full, champagne number on Heroes star Hayden Panettiere. The gowns are flattering, timeless, unconventional for the times. Alright, Helen's hair was terrible. But her facelift is aging well, although the neck under the chin looks a tad pulled to me.

Whatever sartorial elegance the others were striving for was completely undone by wearers' graceless bearing. Why can't more of these women learn how to walk in a gown?!! They stagger side-to-side like they're off to a hoe-down. For heaven's sake, they're actresses! Oh, don't get me started. Katherine Heigl in her lovely hair and Zac Posen gown practically throws her skirt over her shoulder to hike up the stage steps without tripping. These are custom made couture gowns worth tens of thousands of dollars. Learn to walk in them like you own them.

Best dressed, overacting male nominee? Lost Terry O'Quinn (55) hands down. The fuschia shirt was a great standout look in the sea of b&w television. He really pulled it off, though I notice he's been a (upper) denture wearer for some time. You can see the bone reabsorption in the shortened maxilla and hear it in how he pronounces a few words. But he has a real (chubby) wife. I forgive him anything!

Ryan Seacrest may fake knowing fashion as he demonstrated by 'guessing' Eva Longoria's Lacroix shoes (about the same height as his own heels, hmmm...), but he doesn't wear it. Seacrest's shiny tux looked like he recycled a yard waste bag and rip-off tie strip is substituting for neckware. And who puts a necktie on a tux, anyway? Over half the male audience, I guess. Well, it is the Emmys.

And didn't it seem absurd for Seacrest not to mention Sally Field's two Oscar wins or her Emmy for Sybil as evidence of her talent? Why bring up Gidget and The Flying Nun?

"At the heart of Nora Walker, she is a mother, so surely this belongs to all the mothers of the world. May they be seen, may their work be valued. . . And to especially the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait, wait for their children to come home, from danger, from harm's way and from war. I am proud to be one of those women," Sally Field said (she plays a character whose youngest son was deployed at the end of the show's last season). "And let's face it: If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn war in the first place!"

Do you think Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network censored Sally Field for her vocabulary or the content of her political statement? Field's (60) facelift has aged well, although in 2005 she has pledged with Jane Fonda (69) to have no more plastic surgery going forward.

It seemed that the best extemporanous speeches were those given by film actors. Compare Robert Duval's sincerity or Helen Mirren's poise and polish with the television actors babblings and certain conlusions jump to mind.

It didn't win, but the hilarious nomination of Real Time with Bill Mahr for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series made hometown Minnesotans proud. Our MSP airport mensroom makes us a 'fly-in' state now! Jon Stewart won anyway, though I could swear he had makeup covering a cold sore. Nope, I'm wrong: just a funny upper lip.

Alec Baldwin obviously decided that with global warming and fall temperatures in the 80s we can wear white after Labor Day. I wonder if they sat him next to Al Gore? And wasn't it gratifying to have our chubby, national father-figure inspire the longest standing ovation of the evening?

Lewis Black should not have had Botox placed in his forehead. He's a raging comedian with pacing issues, he needs his full facial expressions! Watch the lateral side of his brows shoot up while the medial corrugators stay depressed and sprung apart. His fashion choice is a compelling statement why men with fat necks should not wear spread collars– but the Windsor knot on his tie was in place for once.

And my last thought? Actually a plea, really. Tell me, please, what did director Alan Taylor say to his wife Nickie and in what language??

Like the music we played on air?
Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons - The Very Best of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons - Who Loves You

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Designer Vaginas or Pimp My Vag

hat's among the hottest new trends in cosmetic plastic surgery? I'll give you a hint. It becoming popularized under many names: "vaginal rejuvenation," "designer vaginoplasty," "revirgination" and "G-spot amplification" to name a few. In other words: surgery down there. Elective cosmetic genitoplasty being aggressively marketed to women on late-night TV and in magazines; even the NYTimes has written about it. Eponymous websites like actively target the young and nulliparous, as well as aging vaginas.

How do women talk themselves into it? The proffered promise is that genital surgery can enhance one's sexual pleasure, aesthetic beauty, and self-esteem.

Just who would offer up the most exquisitely sensitive part of her body to a surgeon with a scalpel? Apparently, growing numbers of enthusiastic women. It's estimated that an intrepid few of the 6,000 members of the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) have performed over 1,000 "vaginal rejuvenations" in 2005, 30% more than the previous year. That doesn't count in the pioneering gynecologists who do the bulk of these operations but haven't fessed up statistically.

What these surgical volunteers have in common is a shared misconception about normal genital anatomy and low self-esteem– coupled with the notion that a surgical fix is the answer.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), with 51,000 members, issued a two-page statement in the September 2007 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology that declares "it is deceptive to give the impression that any of these procedures are accepted and routine surgical practices." Moreover, the doctors concluded that "the absence of data supporting the safety and efficacy of these procedures makes their recommendation untenable."

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) also weighed in on the topic with a May 2007 article calling cosmetic genital surgeries an "extreme and unproved intervention" that "could undermine the development of other ways to help women and girls to deal with concerns about their appearance."

Among the treatments doctors are offering only labiaplasty, which involves trimming and reshaping that part of the female external genitalia (the four folds of tissue of the vulva), is well documented in the scientific literature. Vaginal "rejuvenation" employs techniques similar to vaginal reconstruction after trauma (birth or tumor): the wall, muscle and connective tissue is supported and the introitus (opening) is tightened. (The non-surgical approach is to tone by strengthening the muscles with Kegel exercises. Yes! you could do it right now and no one would know.) Less commonly, the fat of the mons pubis is be reduced or enhanced, the clitoral hood removed, the hymen restored, or the G-spot plumped.

But the big seller is labiaplasty.

Who of the rich and famous are having it done? Well, what exactly would one be doing that might reveal the appearance of one's labia? Beyond Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan (nothing obvious there), the only rich and famous patients we can rightly suspect are the action porn stars. Larry Flint made a career for himself in the 1960s revealing the labia minora; doing so at one time changed the classification of a girlie mag from pin-up pulp to porn. In Australia, it’s still illegal for an adult publication to show the inner labia. Pamela Anderson's labia first famously disappeared when one of her 1990 rear-view poses was selected for reprint in a Playboy's Sexy 100. That area was airbrushed out, effectively 'defeminizing' her.

Nowadays, photoshop is used to create the illusion of uniformity. The carefully composed vulvas found in men’s magazines promote a smooth, sleek clam-shape as normalcy. Reality? Most adult women have inner labial lips that are at least partially exposed.

Historically, you have to go pretty far back to find that realism in the Western hemisphere: perhaps the VĂ©nus impudique c. 24,000-22,000 BCE. Classical European sculpture and art right through Victorian times most often showcased the feminine ideal as a smooth, hairless surface with a hand firmly shielding it from view. The rule-buster was the mid-nineteenth century masterpiece by Gustave Courbet entitled L’Origine du Monde. (In contrast, less familiar erotic art has been produced in Japan, China, India and most Asian cultures for centuries.)

We modern women are equally mystified by and estranged from our own genitals. We don’t know how it’s supposed to look, do we? Whose aesthetics do we want anyway? The sad truth is, prospective patients come toting porn particulars. But is this a realistic consumer guide for the women, let alone the girls, to whom this surgery is being marketed?

No two vulvas are ever identical.

These trendy surgeons' websites offer for-profit before-and-after shots which are extremely misleading. Nearly all the surgeons are men. The aesthetics are entirely made-up and money is the driving force. There are some hilarious discussions on female-authored sites like– check out this posting. That blog did some undercover comparison shopping interviews and found the pornographer more trustworthy than the surgeons; he alone seemed to hold a sincere appreciation for natural feminine variation. Much like Carl Linnaeus, the porn guy offered a taxonomy: "the bat," "the clam," the meat," and "the out-and-about." (In the 16th century, Sheik Umar ibn Muhammad al-Nafzawi wrote The Perfumed Garden, an Arabian erotic manual cateloging 34 different types of vulvas!) Or one can explore down-there diversity by ordering the video Viva la Vulva. And for the artistically inclined, there is this lovely, best-seller coloring book for purchase.

What about the other claim? Does it really improve sex? The inner labia (minora) are richly endowed with nerve endings while the vagina itself has few. Tightening the vaginal vault shouldn’t help much and resecting a muscle compromises its strength. If the pelvic muscles are strong, orgasm is likely to be more intense and pleasurable– puts the ooh-la-la in lady-land. Cutting the labia could actually hurt (yee-ouch!) the chances of gaining better orgasms by interrupting the pertinent nerve fibers. And the post-surgical scarring alone, to say nothing of possible infection, could also seriously alter sensation for the worse. It's called dyspareunia, ladies, and that kind of pain isn't sexy fun. Most experts agree, great sex is in your head.

Does it turn men on?
One article quoted them extensively:
"Unless there's some surgery that can change the taste of the vagina from salty and pungent to sugary — like a Twinkie, maybe? — then I probably don't care. Men are more concerned with 'rug burn' from infrequent shaving than the appearance of the vagina."

"Women constantly do things to their bodies I wouldn't do on a dare, so this latest craze in body alteration doesn't shock me or anything."

"I never thought about someone having unattractive labia. I'm usually so happy to get to see them in the first place that it never occurred to me they might be too big or too small."
So why do women do it? Another great undercover article by Lisa Carver, Surrender the Pink (borrowing from Carrie Fisher's book, you can guess at what it means), offers one conclusion:
"He shines a bright, hot light between your legs and offers you power over a part of yourself you don't understand. We could, by harnessing his "laseroscopy" machine, control our vagina. That's the snake oil he's offering. In the hour and a half I spent with him, he never mentioned men. It was power he was selling me. And for just a minute, I forgot I was a spy — I was ready to buy."

Want this look?
A labiaplasty operation performed in the Midwest runs around $4,900 in surgeon's fees. A vaginorrhaphy is in the neighborhood of $5,500-7,000. Labiaplasty is an outpatient procedure usually performed under local anesthesia. Very, very few women have clinical significant labia hypertrophy (labia stretched so long that it pulls into vagina with intercourse) which insurance would cover. Check with a gynecologist.

Like the music we played on-air?
Bunny - My Box In a Box - Single - My Box In a Box (Single)

Dinah Washington - Low Down Blues - No Voot. No Boot

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