Everyone knows that red is the sexiest color. Like, what else would it be—blue? Please. Blue is for bluebirds. Yellow? Don't make me laugh! Yellow is for baby virgins. Red is obviously the sexiest—that's why Mars is the sexiest planet, stop signs are the sexiest signs, communism is the sexiest social and economic ideology, Target is the sexiest big-box retailer, red apples are the sexiest apples (boo hoo, Granny Smith!), red sky at night is the sexiest sailor's delight, toy wagons are the sexiest child-powered vehicle, and red tide is the sexiest form of seasonal toxic algal bloom. Did you know that a lump of raw hamburger is 100% more likely to get fucked by the night manager of the Chilis than a pile of raw chicken thighs? Fact! Plus that red M&M is a total pervert! But, despite all of that, is a red vagina the sexiest vagina?
What's behind our sexual fascination with light in the wavelength range of roughly 630–740 nanometers? (It changed its name to "red" so it could make it in Hollywood.) Well, some have speculated that it's all rooted in our evolutionary monkey-grandpas. Like, you know how baboons have those big red butts? Well, those big red butts signify, "Heeeeeeeyyy!!! I'm hella fertile! Look at my weird butt! Gimme all your sperms!" And it's possible, some say, that human ladies used to have big weird butts too, only our big weird butts have calmed down and shrankened (if you see it in print that means it's a word) over millions of years, until now, when each woman has her own secret tiny weird red butt called a vulva. It's a Christmas miracle! But for men, that primeval sexual response to the color red lingers. (I wonder: do lesbians react to red in the same way?) So your red lipstick? That's just a baboon's weird butt. Your favorite red dress? Baboon butt. Lucille Ball's head? SEXY MONKEY BUTT. Ha ha. I mean, maybe. Like I said, it's all just speculation.
Until now! Kind of! In a recent anthropological study, researchers from the University of Kent sought to find out whether this seemingly instinctual attraction to red held true where it really counted—women's genitals. The human vulva does tend to deepen in color when engorged by sexual arousal, but are men actually more attracted to big red vaginas? Science is on the case!
The researchers showed 40 men a set of 16 photos of female genitalia, digitally altered to represent a color spectrum from cotton-candy pink to Jessica Rabbit red. The men then rated each vulva's attractiveness on a scale of 0 to 100. And the results? Men don't give a FUCK about how red your vagina is. In fact, they liked the red vagina significantly less than the pink vaginas. As the author of this Slate article notes, that might be because the digitally-altered red vagina looks a little bit like a vaginal-infectionally-altered red vagina. Or it might just be because the whole baboon's-butt theory is bunk:
In any case, Johns and her co-authors propose that whatever special attraction men might have to women wearing red is caused by some other psychological mechanism than was previously thought. Since red has been found to be associated with perceptions of male dominance, they suggest that a woman with red accoutrements might function as a sort of "badge" to enhance a man's social status among his peers. "Women may even use red (clothing, cosmetics)," write Johns and her colleagues, "to stimulate such competition as a means to select higher quality mates." In other words, a man's desire to be seen with a lady in red may be less about his being attracted to the mirrored state of her wanton genitalia than it is a reflection of his own social psychology.
Phew!!! So if any of you were getting concerned that your obsessive vulvar bleaching was secretly working against you in an evolutionary sense, never fear, little doves. You don't have to rush out and invest in some Manic Panic for your vadge (it's called Mubic Pubic, BTW).* It appears that any man who's about to have sex with you will still totally want to have sex with you even if your vagina doesn't look like a sexy heirloom tomato (aerial view).
In case it isn't clear, none of this conversation about the color of women's genitals is actually about the color of women's genitals. Because the color of women's genitals doesn't fucking matter. Most women you know (and most men) will laugh at stories like this one—almost none of them will actually go out and purchase products to chemically alter the aesthetics of their gonads. The relatively small percentage of men and women who buy into this bullshit are not the problem. The real conversation is more abstract. It's about the fact that some mythical "ideal" color of women's vulvas is a topic for discussion—and commercial profit—at all. It's about the way that women's confidence in the rightness of their bodies is deliberately eroded—because no matter how hard you laugh when you see a commercial for genital "fairness cream," a tiny, tiny part of you can't help but think, "Wait…COULD my vulva be better? AM I a floppy brown monster?" And that's the problem, those teeny seeds of doubt that keep women buying and spending and worrying for their entire lives. Because, no. As studies like this one indicate, in the real world, a vagina is a vagina is a vagina. Everything else is advertising.
*But if you want to, here's an easy home recipe for red vagina dye!
1 bathtub-sized-amount of red Kool-Aid
Fill bathtub with Kool-Aid. Squat. Repeat. (Do not drink. Kool-Aid will be full of vaginal bleach residue.)