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?
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.