When sex toy entrepreneur Brian Sloan spearheaded the world’s first vagina beauty pageant, he imagined the online contest as an innovative business project and subversive take on a tired tradition.
There would be no ball gowns or bikini contests, no crowns or sashes or fickle judges.
Instead, voters scrolled through hundreds of images of vaginas—primarily full-frontal photos, to showcase varying anatomies--and rated them on an arbitrary “hotness” scale.
The contest gave Sloan’s potential customers a role in product design: the top three most popular vaginas would be 3-D scanned and molded into sex toys—a precise reproduction of the real thing.
But as vagina submissions and votes came in from around the world, Sloan’s marketing ploy yielded unexpected socio-anthropological research on aesthetic preferences.
Sloan hired a PhD data scientist to assess the contest’s results and present them in what we can only assume is a rigorous scientific study, The Vulva Papers, which found that “both simple and more complex vulvas have a nearly equal percentage of admirers.”
In other words, the “simple” vaginas we often see in pornography (small and symmetrical, with minimal fleshy protrusions) did not account for the majority of votes.
The more “complex” vaginas (meatier, with larger and often asymmetrical folds and flaps) were more popular than traditional porn sites have led us to believe.
Taking cues from previous studies on vulva anatomy, Sloan and his data scientist examined 110 vagina submissions and assigned them different classifications, where Class 1 represented the “simplest looking genitalia” and Class 6 represented the most “complex.”
As described in the study:
Labia minora in Class 1 don’t protrude and are soft. Class 2 labia are also soft, but they protrude slightly from the labia majora. Classes 3 to 5 display protruding labia minora. Classes 3 and 4 have moderate rugosity, but Class 3 has a longer clitoral hood that results in a dangling appearance. Class 5 vulvas exhibit more rugose labia than Classes 3 and 4. Finally, most protruding labia belong to Class 6 vulvas.
Over the course of a month, roughly 135,000 unique visitors from 191 countries cast their votes, many returning to the site multiple times. (Sloan collected nearly 3 million votes).
Not surprisingly, 81 percent of voters were male, and a majority came from North America and Europe, though the contest drew a large number of voters from South Korea, South Africa, India, Kenya, and Brazil.
There were an overwhelming number of voters from Finland and Hungary, as well as 22 from Libya, who spent an average of 12 minutes surveying each vagina before assigning it a rating.
Indeed, the contest saw voters from far-flung countries, many with limited Internet access, including Cuba, Turkmenistan, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Cook Islands, Burundi, Tajikistan, Togo, Mali, Liberia, and Gambia. Not surprisingly, there were no votes from North Korea.
While most countries preferred Class 1 vaginas, Class 6 and 3 came in close second (class 6 was particularly popular in Kansas City and Barcelona).
Syrian voters favored the fleshy, protruding, and variegated labia of Class 4 vaginas.
It’s interesting, though not surprising, that qualifications for “hot” vaginas vary from country to country.
American ladies with Class 4 vaginas may be tempted to move to the Middle East, where their vaginas would likely be worshipped.
Many submissions were disqualified from the study—including two of the three contest winners—because photos of their vaginas were taken from a rear-view angle.
According to the study, “pictures depicting contest entrants in a doggy style position obtained ratings 2 points higher on average than others.”
Nell, who is 27 and lives in Scotland, won the grand prize of $5,000 for the highest rating (7.7 out of 10 on the “hotness” scale), but was disqualified from the study. Likewise 23-year-old Anita from Hungary, who came in third place.
Second place went to Jenny, a 23-year-old student from Germany.
In addition to her $2500 cash award, Sloan’s company is flying Jenny to California for a 3-D scan of her Class 1 lady bits (small and bubblegum pink, with smooth, symmetrical labia).
“My boyfriend always told me I have a very ‘neat’ vulva,” she told The Daily Beast.
It’s hardly surprising that fantasy images rated higher in the contest than anatomical, textbook-like photos. We didn’t need a study to tell us that.
But the more important takeaway is that vaginas come in a variety of expressions. As one participant told me: no matter what class your vagina falls into, “someone will be obsessed with it.”