The Metaphysics of Vagina

Earlier I wrote about political vaginas (see here), a topic inspired by the case of Dawson v. Vancouver Police Board within British Columbia, Canada. This legal case recognized the product of a “vaginoplasty” as a vagina, which is kind of an eyebrow-raiser, because that constitutes some legal recognition for it as a vagina.

As readers familiar with my writings might suspect, I took issue to that characterization, proclaiming that the alleged vagina is not a real, human vagina, but instead, it is a political vagina. I briefly alluded to some reasons for thinking this (for example, that pseudo-vagina needs to be dilated every day, lest the hole closes and seals itself), but I didn’t speak about the metaphysics of it all. So I’d like to do that now.

Let’s begin with the distinction between natural objects and artifacts.

Natural objects are those whose characteristic behaviour, change and stability is brought about by some principle intrinsic to them or the system of which they are a part. Think of trees, branches, human beings, dogs, plants, and so forth.

Artifacts are those objects whose characteristic behaviour, change and stability is brought about by some external cause. For example, the pencil from which I am now writing this proposition is an artifact – its formation and function has been brought about by some external force onto a piece of wood and some graphite. There’s no intrinsic principle within its being, parts or its whole to exist, subsist or function in pencil-characteristic ways.

But what is true of my pencil is also true of that alleged vagina. It does not exist, subsist, change, or function as a vagina or in a vagina-characteristic way through any intrinsic principle. Instead, its vagina-like appearance and any vaginal-like function has been imposed upon it by an external force, the surgeon. In fact, that surgical contraption possesses no more intrinsic principle toward vagina-ness than a face squished to vagina-likeness.

Thus, the alleged vagina is not a natural object – it is more like an artifact. In contrast, regular vaginas are natural objects: Their existence, development and function follow the course of human female biology, a course intrinsic to the female person herself. Thus, on this analysis, we can affirm this proposition:

1. That alleged vagina is not a natural object.

From this, there are numerous ways to conclude that the alleged vagina is not a human vagina (1). Perhaps the most obvious is to note these two obvious truths:

2. Human organs are natural objects.
3. Human vaginas are human organs.

Propositions 2 and 3 entail this:

4. Human vaginas are natural objects.

But proposition 4 and 1 entail:

5. That alleged vagina is not a human vagina.

If we accept this reasoning, and if we accept that distinction between natural objects and artifacts, we can conclude that this alleged vagina is both not a natural object and not a human vagina. But if that’s true of this alleged vagina, then truth-loving people should insist upon the recognition and clarification that this is not what we’d call a genuine vagina, and that it is, instead, something like an artifact, perhaps like a prosthetic nose or a glass eye (2).

But even if you insist upon catering to polite fictions, something I believe to be a false compassion, then we should at least agree that these fictions should not be recognized in law. I mean, come on now, seriously. That’s just not a freaking vagina. It’s sad that I even have to make this point.


(1) We could also look at the differences within their potencies and 4 causes (material, efficient, formal and final), which would surely lead us to conclude that this alleged vagina is not a vagina.

(2) Problem is, prosthetic noses only aim to restore our nose-like function and appearance, not give us an organ we never had and that is contrary to the kind of human we are (male or female), but I’ll address that issue another day.





  1. Here’s a potential problem for your argument:

    (1) Breast implants on a female with A-cup sized breasts are an artifact.
    (2) The groping of such augmented breasts, by a stranger, is no less an act of sexual assault than the same act performed by the same person on the previously unaugmented breasts.
    (3) The justification for (2) rests on the fact that the augmented breasts are in fact breasts in the same way that the unaugmented breasts are breasts.
    (4) All relevant legal and social issues surrounding these artifacts can be extrapolated in such a way as to obtain the justification expressed in (1)-(3). Such justification can be mapped onto any organ or appendage.

    Now, I assume the stickler for you will be (4). This would be valid pushback. There is a difference between a male-to-female transgender person getting breast implants (where none had existed) and a female getting breast implants that are of a categorical difference in nature (silicon), size (Small to XL), and function (risk of eliminating breast feeding, scarring, extra surgery, etc.). Namely, the breast-wise transition of natural to artifactual is absent as there was no comparable ‘breast’ of the sort to begin with.

    That’s all fine, but it means your argument has to add something more.

  2. If it was halloween, and the stranger groped large costume breasts (their hands never touching or getting close to the actual chest of the A-cup sized person), would it be sexual assault?

  3. Hi Jordan. If we are talking breasts amplification (a boob job), I don’t think we’re dealing with non-breasts. Those things underneath her beasts are not breasts (nor are they natural objects) but she still has her breasts.

    But suppose now she had her breasts lopped off and given artificial breasts. What if the man grabbed those? I’d still call it sexual assault, for those objects are sexualized, his intent was sexual and there was no consent to this sexual touching.

  4. Is there a good reason for your resistance to polysemy, Hulk? Perhaps that alleged vagina is an artefact and nonetheless a vagina. You wouldn’t want to suggest that laws referring to arms would not apply to prosthetic arms, would you? No one has to say that prosthetic arms are natural organs in order to extend laws about biological arms to prosthetics. Did you assume that this was the intent of the legislators in Canada? Really?

    That aside, your distinction between natural object and artifact in terms of external and internal causes seems a little sloppy. My arms are the way they are because of my genes, sure, but my genes are the way they are because of external influences on my distant ancestors. Right? So we’ll need to clean up that distinction, or rather make it messier by getting clearer on the complexity involved in the distinction. And then your whole argument will appear all the more suspect.

    • The issue is not whether laws about vaginas can be extended to encompass
      that pseudo vagina, no. Instead, the issue is just whether that pseudo vagina is a vagina, whether it deserves recognition as a vagina.

      Regarding your second paragraph, if you have a point, I’m not catching it.

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