That’s the takeaway from The Goop Lab, the Netflix series launched to bring Paltrow’s lifestyle brand to a wider audience. The moment the high priestess of the pudenda’s ignorance is revealed comes in the third of six episodes, entitled The Pleasure Is Hers, courtesy of Betty Dodson. Dodson is a 90-year-old New Yorker and old-school feminist who has been teaching female masturbation workshops for half a century. She lets Gwyneth speak about the holy of holies for a bit. Then she leans forward and tells her: “The vagina is the birth canal only. Ya wanna talk about the vulva – that’s the clitoris, the inner lips and all that good shit around it.” The high priestess of the pudenda is shook. “I thought the vagina was the whole thing?” It’s almost as though she never had any idea what she was talking about. Her CEO, Elise Loehnen, fails to improve matters when she thinks Betty’s patented “rock’n’roll” method for inducing female orgasm involves rocking from side-to-side.
Nor did Gwyneth have any idea that porn stars have often had labiaplasty to make themselves look “neat”. Which is an almost impressive level of ignorance for anyone who pretends an interest in feminist issues and women’s health to have maintained in the year of our lord 2020, and proud testimony to the impregnability of the Paltrovian bubble. How nice it must be to live there.
Anyway. Dodson, possibly enjoying herself by now, further startles Gwynnie with the notion that, to maximise their pleasure during sex, “women have got to learn how to ‘run the fuck’.” She is worth the price of admission alone. Which is good because nothing else in The Goop Lab is.
From vampire-facialled head to seaweed-wrapped toe, it’s exactly the guff you would expect. Self-indulgence is relabelled self-care and raised to high art. Massages are everywhere. Expensive diets to improve longevity are embarked upon. Paltrow’s blood is taken and reinjected into her face because when you look good, you feel good, right? In most episodes, the Goop team are sent on a glamorous foreign trip – to Jamaica, for example, to take magic mushrooms and call them “a healing modality” – where they try out various unregulated “therapies” while lawyers sit in their offices feverishly checking that all waivers have been signed.
There is an adamantine refusal to accept that sorrow and anxiety are attendant upon life all the way through, and a demented commitment to expunging every negative moment from it, whether by vegan eating, cold plunges, the cleansing of energy fields, psychic intervention or any other pseudoscientific activity that can be monetised for people whose gullibility marches in lockstep with their wealth.
The place is awash with thin blonde women, pastels and vocal fry. Virtually the only men you see are more or less creepy advocates for whatever wellness therapy they have developed, patented and depend on for their incomes. It is the cult of the individual taken to its logical conclusion. It is the zenith and nadir of late western capitalism. It is six hours of masturbation, albeit not of a kind Betty would recognise.
And all that is before we get to the potential harm done by this sort of claptrap feeding into the thinking behind eating disorders, promulgating the very narrowest of beauty and fitness aesthetics, and contributing to the notion that to those who have (wealth, leisure, social capital) shall be given more (life, health, happiness).
Like an overpriced jade egg, I say you can shove it up your jacksie. Someone commission a series from Betty and let’s sort this mess out.