Last week, The Cut, the feminine-centric vertical of New York, ran a piece entitled “Women Losing Objects In Their Vaginas.” Written by Maureen O’Connor, it was jauntily illustrated with a tampon, a penny, a condom, and a Dorito—all things that had been not only stuck up inside women’s birth canals, but that had been chronicled online as being lost up there. The piece was pegged to a piece at the women’s site xoJane about an errant tampon.
O’Connor noted that the xoJane piece was part of “an emerging literary tradition wherein lady bloggers describe discovering—then retrieving—vaginally lost items, either to comedic or cautionary effect.” She chronicles the history of that subgenre well, and I don’t need (or want) to rehash it here. I more bring it up because it’s indicative of a greater trend of serial oversharing, a neverending game of Truth Or Dare where the stakes can only get higher. The writers of these tampon pieces are not only not alone; these horrific, if humorously played, stories are but one in a long stream of hiccups and embarrassing moments, because the sites on which they appear are dependent on an increasing number of eyeballs from rubbernecking readers in order to sustain ad revenue. (xoJane’s eponymous editrix, Jane Pratt, once defended this practice as a way of keeping her site on a different plane than the competition; “Everything we write is an exclusive,” she told Fast Company around the time of xoJane’s launch, “because it only happened to us.”)
Confessional writing is nothing new to the world of media for women; being ashamed of being female is a crucial part of any girl’s formative years. When I read the teen-girl rag ym, tales of periods gone wrong dominated the section where readers shared their embarrassing moments. But a single squib on a page surrounded by other similarly shamed peers is different from a running catalog of one’s own misadventures—and, more importantly, the two are being run off very different revenue models. The letters to the editor were cheap content, but they were buttressed by pages of edited (if problematic) work. [...]