Cindy Barshop is no stranger to controversy.
Having begun the infamous vajazzle trend that rocked the world of nether region self care back at the turn of the millennium, she then went on to create a stir on her season of Real Housewives Of New York. She’s a seasoned professional in the business of public surprise and glamour. And her new venture is perhaps the most controversial of all.
“I’ve always been one of those women that brings up topics people are kind of afraid to take about.”
Way back in 2000, Barshop was the pioneer of waxing studios in New York, with her line of spas, Completely Bare. It was becoming cool to be completely bare down there, and Barshop was a woman happy to talk about the situation downstairs openly. Nothing was taboo.
She decided to make an appearance on RHONY because she was about to launch a product line and of course, it would prove to be the best form of publicity.
Having endured tremendous success with the spas, she eventually sold them off, admittedly naive about how long she could last off the back of the sale. “I’m good at promoting and getting the word out there - not that good on the finances.”
Barshop would inevitably have to go back to the drawing board, as, at this stage she was now a mother of two, having given birth to twin girls Jesse and Zoe back in 2009.
“I was lucky enough to find out about this great technology in Europe from the laser companies of my previous life," she says. Barshop then began to look through different methodologies and research and discovered that technologies and groundbreaking advances for women's sexual health were sorely lacking in the U.S, and the statistics that compounded this horror would lead to more questions about why the technology has not arrived yet. Barshop says she was awed by the amount of women who endure vaginal loosening after they give birth; can’t orgasm; or have incontinence. Three out of four women suffer from incontinence throughout their life. And nobody was addressing these issues in the U.S. There was only one treatment, in Europe, coming shyly out of the woodwork.
“There are so many young women out there that don’t have orgasms, or can’t orgasm - it’s part of their life. If this was a man, you would be able to get this treatment out of an ATM Machine!”
For her, it’s the lack of communication and speaking up that has restricted the women of the U.S from getting such treatment. The subject is taboo. “This year however,” she says confidently, “ I believe will be the year of the V Spot sexual revolution.”
When the treatment eventually got to the U.S, Barshop was straight over to try it out. She got what was called the FemiLift. “And that was the beginning of the whole thing,” she recalls.
Having initially availed of the treatment to address incontinence, she realized quickly that she was experiencing a period of low libido, and the treatment would ultimately serve this issue as well.
“I had a very low libido, but thought I was just a busy mom with twin girls - five at the time,” she says. Once the treatment was finished, this was a different story. “Oh. I’m alive down there,” she thought. Barshop would begin dating again after her FemiLift.
Thus came the concept and creation of Barshop's "vaginal rejuvenation spa," VSPOT. She would bring together a team of professionals - all women of course, to use these new technologies and treatments and tackle the problems associated with women's sexual health actively and openly.
Barshop is, of course, aware that a lot people won't welcome such subjects with open arms, but is nonetheless defiant in her approach. “Women in their minds, with this, will automatically go to the negative,” she warns - continuing, “but I’m not sitting here trying to make anyone a porn star.” While I might have felt the tiniest bit queasy as she explained the o-shot to me, I was still able to recognize its empowering abilities. This treatment involves a removal of blood from your arm, and the plasmas from that blood injected right into a numbed clitoris. The after effects of which are heightened clitoral sensitivity and a more intense orgasm.
The spa however is not just about techie treatments: “when I started I was just going with these groundbreaking treatments that were addressing sexual health, then realized that there are women who want relaxation treatments and de-toxifying treatments,” she comments. These include a 24karat gold wax and LED vajacial, which fights ingrown hairs or post-wax redness, and a V-steam, which detoxes, soothes (and has the ability to increase libido).
So who, we asked, are the women that are coming? While a lot of her clients are women who have just given birth, or women going through menopause, according to Barshop, a surprising number of young women make up her customer base because they are unable to orgasm.
“The women who are talking about sex - they’re strong powerful women,” says Barshop. They conform to a certain type - women who generally have their act together. They care about their bodies, their businesses, their well-beings and their sexual health. It’s the people who are in the know that are becoming Barshop’s most lucrative customer, and from where she will build her customer base.
Powerful women have powerful friends.
It's something we’ve been learning for months here at SWAAY and through all of our entrepreneurial success stories. And it’s what Barshop is using to grow her business from the ground. These aren’t services that will be streamlined as fast as her last salons were, and they won’t duplicate with as much ease - in particular because of the specialty nature of the treatments and the doctors required to execute them.
The important thing to remember is that Barshop’s treatments at the spa are non-surgical. They may be completed by a doctor using medical technologies, but you won’t be going under anesthesia or have a hospital bill for this. This is you, taking care of your nether regions in the most groundbreaking way possible - and feeling fabulous doing it. The spa and the surrounding area are beautiful and Barshop is the queen mother of vagina spas, waiting to care of something you’ve felt afraid of, or neglected for who knows how long.
She’s ready for you - so the only questions remains is - are you ready for your va-juvenation?
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."