The problem with sex and glitter
From phone cases to vaginal pills, we know glitter can be harmful – so why do we love it so much?
Lost your sparkle? Glitter-filled capsules, a bit like these (below), are being used as a sex aid.
Last month a doctor was compelled to tell women not to put glitter pills inside their vaginas and once again I was reminded of Stephen Hawking’s prediction that humans are heading for extinction. 2017: the year Earth learned why we’re not allowed nice things. Passion Dust Intimacy Capsules are “small, sparkleised capsules that dissolve when inserted into the vagina and release the sweet sparkle that is Passion Dust”. Basically you piss heaven.
They sold out immediately, hence gynaecologist Dr Jen Gunter explaining exactly how and why glitter has no place in the vagina. If her name sounds familiar, it’s perhaps because she is the person who has, breathing a sigh the size of Center Parcs, decided to take on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, clarifying the problems with (among other things) their suggestions to steam your vagina before inserting jade eggs inside you for better sex. Glitter, though. Is that what men want, after the candles are lit and the Baileys is drunk? A dick like a disco ball? Would their reaction not be, as I’m pretty sure mine would, when he looks down at this scene like a shattered car windscreen, shock that they were transitioning into some sort of unicorn sex robot, then existential dismay as their genitals glinted shyly in their knickers for months afterwards? It’s not for nothing that Ship Your Enemies Glitter (a company that sends an envelope of glitter through the post, to coat recipients in sparkling debris upon opening) is so popular. Anyway, post-vajazzle, it seems, glitter has migrated deeper into the curious woman, like a feminist metaphor gone rogue.
And this right at the moment we learn glitter itself is… problematic. Though delightful and star-like, glitter flakes are essentially flattened microbeads, a particle plastic banned in the USA and soon to be banned here, too. The size of microplastics allows them to be ingested by the tiniest of organisms, which poses huge problems for aquatic life and, consequently, us. Glitter has been harming some people already though, with a range of iPhone cases containing glitter suspended in liquid being recalled after reports of skin irritation and chemical burns. “One consumer reported permanent scarring from a chemical burn and another consumer reported chemical burns and swelling to her leg, face, neck, chest, upper body and hands,” wrote the US Consumer Product Safety Commission in its press release. Being me, this news took my one-track mind quickly jogging down its well-trod path of toxic femininity – a frilly argument about the inevitable injuries that result from princess culture, not including pay gaps. But it wasn’t satisfying. It left me wanting. Though associated often with girliness, today glitter is bigger than that. It covers everything. To the point that it’s considered one of the most effective forms of forensic evidence – it’s really, really difficult to wash away.
You get the sense, don’t you, that the whole world has been glitter-bombed by a sly, jealous enemy, with these rainbow shards quietly embedding themselves in every aspect of life, and, like sand after a holiday, we’ll find it for weeks after in the oddest places? The thing about glitter is that it is used to make dull things exciting. Which is why it’s been so easy to ignore its darker side. Have we always known glitter was a trick, a distraction? Have we known that and ignored it, and used it to our advantage? As well as covering up birthday card mistakes, we use it to decorate difficult things, like coming out in public, or being female.
Hence the success of Passion Dust, “The pretty little pill that makes you ‘magically delicious’”. Glitter turns an awkward encounter into a princess tea party, vaginal excretions into something safe and cartoonish that taste like Skittles. For all the horrors that vagina glitter implies, I sort of get it. I mean, I get why. I get it as a My Little Pony-flavoured attempt to make every inch of an unwieldy body perfect, to hold it at a distance in order to feel you have at least a little control. Which is not to say Passion Dust can’t produce vaginal wall granulomas, act as an irritant and cause vaginal contact dermatitis, damage the good vaginal bacteria leading to infections as well as in increased risk of STIs. But Lord will it make his penis sparkle like diamonds.