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    Posted on 09 August 2012
    CULTURE & SOCIETY  
    SOCIETY

    After fairness cream, vaginal tightening cream is here to empower the Indian woman

    If the Indian obsession with fair skin wasn’t enough, this new product—advertisers insist—would make you feel like a virgin, says Nishita Jha


    There is a lot that you could remember from the first time you had sex — confusion, unfamiliarity, relief, discomfort, exhilaration. But as a recent advertisement for Ultratech India’s new product will have you believe, what’s truly worth remembering is how tight your vagina was.

    In the 60-second video commercial made by advertising agency Curry Nation, a young man, presumably dressed for work, bends to touch his parents feet, as his comely young wife, carrying a tiffin box for him, first runs a finger down his back, and then croons — “Ooh, I feel like a virgin”. As his father spits out his tea, and a young boy pulls out his phone to start recording — the husband joins in her salsa number singing — “Oh yes, you do”. The two dance all around the courtyard, loosely borrowing lyrics from Madonna (“Touched for the very first time”) and eventually waltz their way into the privacy of a bedroom. An accented woman’s voice tells us we can all feel like virgins, thanks to ‘18 Again’ vaginal tightening gel. “Now in India” says the voice, implying that women all over the world have already tightened their vaginas and stopped their husbands from going to work. In the advertisement’s parting shot, the ageing mother-in-law is bent over the keyboard, painstakingly keying in one letter at a time to order the product online, while her husband pats her shoulder with an excited smile.

    American author Naomi Wolf writes that while one could look at the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, grey hair and the loosening of skin on an older woman as a mark of experience, the proud scars of what one has lived through — advertising for ‘female’ products almost always projects ageing as a disease that needs to be fixed. On the phone with Tehelka, Curry Nation’s account manager Nagessh Pannaswami insists that a tighter vagina is empowering, because “it’s not just about sexual pleasure, but also about preventing infection, discharge, urinary incontinence, and making older women feel good”.

    While one could appreciate the advertisement’s attempt to talk about pleasure in a sexually repressed country, Nivedita Menon, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, points out that it is still the man’s pleasure that we’re talking about. Menon, who finds the idea of a ‘vaginal tightening gel’ hilarious and maddening, says “the perversity of it all lies in the fact that (using the gel) will be sold as a health issue, as something women ‘should’ do to take better care of their bodies”.

    Ad-man Prahlad Kakar, responsible for handling ad-campaigns for some of India’s biggest brands, such as Pepsi and Cadbury, says that while selling feminine products is always tricky, Curry Nation could have sold the gel better if they had chosen a toned, athletic woman in the advertisement instead of a woman in a sari — “possibly a gymnast on the bars, because a tight body automatically makes you think of a tight vagina”.

    Ultra Tech, the brand’s spokesperson Celina Jaitley and Curry Nation were prepared for the advertisement going viral due to the negative publicity and attention that a recently launched vaginal fairness cream had received. Unfortunately, their answers still need some rehearsing. In response to a query about where the clinical trials were conducted, and the product’s side effects — given that that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, and gynaecologists do not encourage women to douche excessively or use external products for vaginas, Pannaswami asks me “not to get clinical”, because “the time is right for a product like this — women are looking after every part of their body, and looking after the vagina is the next natural step to being healthy and confident”. That the ideal of this health and confidence should be an 18-year-old virgin, does not strike him as ridiculous.

    Nishita Jha is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
    nishita@tehelka.com


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    Posted on 09 August 2012
 

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