Tight and lovely

Aug 12, 2012, 11:47 IST | Sowmya Rajaram & Phorum Dalal

First, they said you should have a white vagina. And now, an ad campaign for a herbal gel tells you how to keep it tight, too. SUNDAY MiD DAY delves into Indian society's disturbing obsession with virginal women, and wonders when having a 'tight', '18 year-old' vagina began to epitomise the sexual empowerment of women

It was always going to be a momentous week for Indian women, when Mary Kom from Manipur became the first-ever Indian woman (and mother of two, to boot) to win a bronze medal in boxing at the London Olympics. ‘Let me jump into the fray,’ is what we imagine Celina Jaitley, best known for championing gay rights when she wasn’t acting in a few forgettable films, must have thought. Why else would she suddenly shift focus to women instead, and lend her credentials to a campaign that launched 18 Again, a ‘vaginal tightening cream’?

Clearly, dressing modestly for our own safety and being white isn’t enough, we must now be tight too.

Whose pleasure?
The attempt to market yet another beauty product that snidely pushes women to better themselves for men, couched in the garb of a ‘health initiative’, is not lost on women’s rights lawyer and writer Flavia Agnes. Outraged, she asks. “Whose pleasure is this product for? We all know the pleasure of a woman does not come from the vagina. Such campaigns make women feel unhappy about their body and then sell them products. Why do women want to be what they are not?”

Indeed, we wonder. But not Dolly Thakore, theatre veteran and communication consultant, who was present at the launch. “This product is a result of evolution and advancement. We have been performing The Vagina Monologues for 10 years and one of the reasons we supported this product is because it is about what women want. Is Viagra sexist? Is Botox sexist? How can a vagina tightening gel be sexist? Today, there is an acceptance of the problem, and women are open to such products.”

Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal, producer of The Vagina Monologues, who was also at the launch, says, “A lot of research has been done before launching 18 Again. Those who are slamming the product needn’t use it. They are just smart Alecs who want to say something that sounds funny,” she fumes.

Are they really? For, the question being asked by most of these people is the logic of forcing — via a cringe-worthy ad campaign masquerading under the antiseptic smell of ‘family’ values — yet another set of abysmally consumerist, and sexist demands upon the Indian woman. Her desires be damned — her men need her to uphold the family honour, be pure virgins no matter how many people they sleep with, look beatifically perfect — and white and tight — while they’re at it.

Healthy and tight
Rishi Bhatia, chairman and MD, Ultratech India Ltd, the company that launched the product says, “This is a first-of-its-kind product for women from puberty to menopause. It is completely herbal. Out of the 250 women that were part of the clinical tests conducted over 8 to 10 weeks, 90 per cent were satisfied with the result.”

Just what are these results? The triumphant smiles that their fervid romps in bed — no doubt brought on by this miracle product and its resulting elasticity in their nether regions — plastered upon the faces of their male partners?

Sumit Chawla, director, Prolife Products Ltd, the company which manufactured the product, tells us, “18 Again removes dead tissues, improves blood circulation, hydrates the area with ingredients such as pomegranate, aloe vera, gold and Vitamin E.” He adds that the product is FDA approved. “The idea is to give the vagina a better tone and body.”

While Chawla and Bhatia said their piece, Rashmi Sarogi, a gynaecologist who was part of the panel that launched the product, went a step further, claiming complete ignorance about its contents. Her husband, also part of this informed group, said he was told that the gel was a formulation containing indigenous ingredients such as pomegranate, aloe vera, gold and Vitamin E. “The gel gives a grip to the vagina, keeping it soft and supple, helping it to maintain an acidic pH and reducing infections.”

Not to nitpick here, but how does any of that result in a tighter vagina, supposedly empowering women?

Surgery the only option
That is the question most city doctors asked us, when we approached them with the product’s claims. Dr Shyam Kulkarni, a gynaecologist from Fortis Hospital, said there is nothing like this in medical textbooks. “We conduct Lax Perineum, which is a surgery to tighten a loose vagina. In allopathy, we don’t believe a gel will work. We have medicinal drugs to loosen muscles, not tighten them.”

Infertility expert Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai seconds this. “In case of vaginal muscle loosening, which occur after menopause, or as a result of giving birth to a large baby, surgery is the only solution. After pregnancy, a woman will manage to lose weight, but the loose skin will never tighten. The product may be great for personal hygiene, but it is unlikely to be the answer to vaginal loosening,” says Pai.

A country of virgins?
Not so for the saree-clad woman and her mother-in- law who cook, clean, gossip and even tighten together in the advertisement for the product. She walks up to her husband in a sprawling courtyard populated by every member of her family, carrying a steel tiffin. Suddenly, instead of handing it to him, she runs a finger over his shoulder and breaks into a song instead — ‘Ooo, I feel like a virgin’ and some moves. He joins in, ‘yes its true, yes you do,’ while the rest of the family — jaws dropped — plays audience to their make out session. For, why should bedroom matters between a couple be private?

Finally, a younger brother-type points his cellphone at them to capture the act, at which point the couple, struck suddenly by shyness, snuggle coyly into a bench under a golden lotus. And since this is India, and the family that shares vagina dialogues stays together, her mother-in-law, egged by her excited husband, logs onto www.18again.com.

Oh, to feel like a virgin again. 

Twitter talkies
@Bhushankumar: Words fail me. 18 Again?

@ideasmithy: Vaginal tightening cream and women empowerment? pls explain.

@kiranmanral: A vaginal tightening cream. After a vaginal fairness lotion. Excuse me while I throw up my lunch somewhere.

@bpangti: Where the hell are we headed! Vaginal Tightening Gel — to empower women?

@news_houndz: Sexist Vaginal Tightening Gel “18 AGAIN” commercial claiming to make u virgin again

@Grammar_nazzzi: Mock all that you want, but this vaginal tightening gel will sell like hot cakes. Our society has some really disturbing notions.

@CharuD: Mary Kom &
Saina win medals; but real empowerment of women is provided by this Pharma product: 18 Again Rejuv Cream 

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