I’ve written very recently about genitalia (my article on labiaplasties here), and here’s another little article for you, one about a product that claims to be about the ‘feel’ and not the ‘look’.
What now seems like many, many years ago, Madonna sang that she felt ‘like a virgin, touched for the very first time’. Couple years later, the genius Weird Al Yankovic parodied this and made ‘Like a Surgeon’. Both of these are relevant to this issue. First, watch this lovely, lovely ad, which is a masterpiece, even more romantic than the Raymond’s ads with random hot twirly dancing couples.
Once you’ve gotten over that (which may take a while), let’s talk virginity. By ’18’, these people are implying ‘young’, ‘fresh’, ‘tight’, ‘virginal’. First off – for some reason, in India, virginity is an ‘asset’, something to be prized, a ‘gift’ to be given to the future husband – I must remind you, of course, that for these people, the guy’s virginity doesn’t matter at all – virginity =tight hymen. So many people write into ‘ask the Sexpert’ columns (yes, I shall refer to them continually because they need to be referred to) asking Mr. Sexpert WHY their ‘wife didn’t bleed on their wedding night’. I remember reading one that said he ‘felt cheated becausemy wife is not a virgin’. Cheated of what, exactly?
To begin with, I think the concept of ‘arranged marriage’ is disgusting. It makes me want to throw up, hit someone, murder somebody else, and all of those simultaneously. Get married IF YOU HAVE FEELINGS FOR SOMEONE AND WANT TO GET MARRIED, not because you’re ‘of a certain age’ and need to prove something to the world (and in the process, to yourself). It is NOT important to find someone to saddle yourself with – if you crave companionship so much, find a friend. Date. If you don’t want to, find a friend with whom you are mutually agreeable to having sex. Have protected sex with a prostitute if you must. But for a lot (and I mean a LOT) of Indian men, getting married merely implies access to regular sex. That is NOT what a marriage is for, (except to these people).
Before I rant any more, let us discuss the actual advert. A woman, who looks to be only 30, is hanging out with her husband, in their fancy, open Indian style home. Like a ‘dutiful bahu’, she brings hubby dearest his dabba for the day. The in-laws are there too, doing in-law stuff. What I’m assuming are husband’s little brother and sister are on deck, too.
Suddenly, the woman begins to dance (inexplicably, the flamenco, which has naff all to do with India anyway). A soundtrack begins to play in the background – what is supposed to sound like flamenco guitar, while a woman makes oohs and aahs and other (what the makers of the ad think are) sex sounds while singing “I feel like a virgin”.
No, it is not in tune.
They begin to dance as she ‘tickles’ him and sings, and the creepy little brother begins to record this courtesy the camera on his cell phone. They then dance whatever their dance is around their compound and he lifts her romantically and dips her.
“Feels like the very first ti-i-ime”, the singer croons, lustily.
The dancing finally comes to an end, as does the ad, with mother- and –father in-law at a computer, MIL going clickety-clack at the keyboard – “18 again dot com?”. They grin at each other, and then an announcer comes on and in the same lusty, whispery voice tells you what the product is, which is (or at least claims to be) a ‘vaginal rejuvenating gel’.
I’m not sure what the scientific credibility of that statement is, but in all likelihood, it is marketed, useless spiel, like all the other ‘rejuvenating’ rubbish in the market that promises to ‘erase laugh lines’ and ‘make wrinkles disappear’. Our society (all over the world, not just in any one country) seems to think ageing is the worst possible thing that could happen. It’s not natural to age, is it? Must. Fight. Urge. To. Inject. All. Sorts. Of. Crap. Into. Face. Lest. I. Look.My.Age. What is wrong, exactly, with looking however old you are? I look at it as an extension of some constant, innate desire to feel attractive to everyone else, when what really matters is being attractive to YOURSELF. But of course, that is never enough.
The company claims the product is to help women experience better sex. Obviously, the only way for her to do that is to ‘tighten’ her lady parts, not by any extra effort on the part of the man. No, the way to remedy sexual issues is not by going to a sexologist/andrologist/gynaecologist, but by buying something they advertise (and rather badly so) on television. What this brought to mind was the fact that we so badly need sex education in India, but our lovely higher-ups in the government seem to think that this will make us imbibe ‘western culture’ (a term that angers me immensely, what is Indian culture anyway??An article on this soon) and ‘make young children sexually promiscuous’. That’s like saying if you were to send a teenager to a driving school, they’d crash the car. If anything, sex ed classes would help them understand sex better, and then have it only when they are mentally and physically ready, as opposed to becoming sexually active to be ‘cool’, or trying to fit in because being a virgin is not what ‘popular’ people do. I have seen children as young as 12 and 13 bragging on Facebook about their sexual prowess and conquests. Incredibly weird.
At an age where their bodies are only just beginning to mature, I wonder how physically ready they really are. The really sad thing is that they grow up this way, learning their ‘moves’ from porn, which we ALL know is of course completely realistic, right?
So instead of having 30-plus-year-old men write in with puerile, borderline insane queries about their wives’ virginity (or lack thereof), maybe we could educate young kids so they don’t grow up into the sort of idiot that would buy into the ideal of an ’18 Again’ cream.
The product makers claim they’re ‘breaking new ground’ by being willing to talk about ‘women’s intimate health’. No sir or madam, you are not. Just like the morons who marketed the ‘intimate wash’ by saying it was a ‘fairness treatment’ for your nether regions (more on my views on fairness here).
If we go by today’s average Indian 18-year-old, being ’18 Again’ simply means being completely unaware of sex, intercourse, foreplay, or even what real genitals *look* like, but doing it because you think you’re cool.
But hey, the shoe fits.
This evening, on my usual trawl of the internet, I came upon an article and some lovely animation, a trailer for a documentary called Centrefold, by two filmmakers named Ellie Land and Siobhan Fenton, and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust:
It certainly isn’t a new thing, and neither are a LOT of surgeries related to female genitalia. There are labiaplasties, vaginoplasties, hymenoplasties and probably a handful of others I’ve never even heard of.
In India and other South-East Asian countries, hymenoplasties are said to be the ‘bestsellers’ of the plastic surgery world – specifically because of their obsessively patriarchal, misogynistic societies that somehow put a value on a woman’s purity and virtue by her virginity, or lack thereof.
I have written and ranted excessively about how disgusting, archaic and retrograde I find the entire concept of ‘arranged marriage’, [because, yeah, instead of being in love and in a relationship and knowing somebody, let's just look through a bunch of photos and a CV of sorts to decide with whom who you must have sex and spend the rest of your life, BRILLIANT!] but the fact of the matter is that it continues to happen. Somehow, the people entering these marriages seem to think somebody else’s past is their business.I cannot locate an online version, but I read an article in last Saturday’s edition of a local paper about men ‘breaking off marriages’ with women after ‘finding out their past on Facebook’. The writer also very kindly mentioned in his closing paragraph how ‘women who are looking to get married, beware of what you post online’.
There seems, somehow, to be a price on a woman’s virginity here, something that people think needs to be preserved, as some sort of gift to a man. People have varying views on the whole virginity issue, but in my humble opinion, if you are mentally and physically ready (read – not an underage, pre-pubescent young child looking to have some sort of cool ‘experience’), it is nobody else’s business who you sleep with and why. It does not matter whether you are in a relationship with this person or not. By all means, if you are not in a monogamous relationship with somebody else, and neither is your sexual partner, do what you may.
Nobody has any right to call you anything – a slut, a hussy, or if you’re a guy, a ‘man-slut’ or a ‘man-whore’ or any of the many eloquent terms people come up with. It does not matter if it’s a ‘one-night stand’, a ‘two-night stand’, or a ‘one-hour stand’ even.
If you want to wait until you’re married to somebody you love and then have sex with them, that is, again, your own business and nobody else’s – this only holds true, however, as long as the views are your own, and not some ideal society has somehow indocrinated into your head or conditioned you to believe.
Sadly, in these cultures, it is not just the men who believe the women they are going to marry need to be, um, pure. The women do, too:
Why should it ‘soil her married life’???
Not sure what is sadder here, the girl’s attitude or that the man answering these queries calls himself a ‘sexpert’ – he has also advised homosexual people to ‘get married if you think you can satisfy a woman’. ‘Expert’ advice indeed, good sir.
That was just one small example of genital surgery, which in itself is not really ‘small’ at all. The latest craze on the block is labiaplasty – as the name suggests, it is surgery to improve the appearance of your labia. What they essentially do is chop off the skin you think is ‘extra’.
There are women who have genuine congenital defects, like problems with their uteri, fallopian tubes,vaginas – issues that affect their reproductive systems and/or general health. Most women who opt for labiaplasties, however, do not fall into this category – instead, they do it to “enhance the beauty of their vulvo-vaginal complexes.”
These women are unhappy with the way their bodies look, which is not exactly a new thing. Entire industries run on insecurities – cosmetic industries, clothing industries, food industries, slimming products (I could go on and on and on).
The focus is always on female appearances, and less about the internal workings of anything at all – more than half the adverts out there for weight loss involve liposuction and/or some sort of invasive or non invasive surgery, body sculpting, fancy lasers or whatever the hell they use, or crash dieting. If you really ARE overweight, it is less about dropping ‘x’ dress sizes or inches and more about being healthy, which is less about having a tiny waist and more about having the stamina to exercise, and not having the cholestrol clogging your arteries as thick as the Berlin Wall (and they demolished that). It’s about feeling strong and energetic and generally being able to function better. If you feel like your looks matter to you and they’ve improved, good for you, added bonus.
Except the priority is ALWAYS how it looks and not how it works. Suddenly, the focus seems to have shifted from beaten-to-death body parts like faces and tummies and ‘stumpy legs’ and ‘saggy breasts’ (those products will be around as long as humankind is), and is now on genitals.
A recent ad in India advertised a feminine hygiene wash, which for Indian markets is a rarity. Vagisil and Summer’s Eve are two products I have never seen on Indian shelves. Lubricant, too. Come to think of it, there’s only the one brand of tampon sold, too. I’d love to know if this is an economics/import issue (which I sincerely doubt, as I see all sorts of products imported from all over the world in stores two minutes down my street), or just the fact that India seems to have an issue with anything sexual. (Because our 1.2 billion strong population got there without the assistance of any sexual organs whatsoever.)
The latest craze is having your labia snipped and stitched to your specifications. After all the images of the Klums and Bundchens and Kerrs and Crawfords with their flat stomachs and gravity-defying breasts, our attention must now be focused on the women in porn, the women who are supposed to be our ‘ideal’ for what our genitalia look like. Whatever you do not possess naturally, a surgeon can give you, no?
It’s not about how the sex is, or whether they’re affecting your health, but only that they do not ‘look right’.
Just in case there was an insecurity that wasn’t already being preyed upon, we’ve got a new one. There is a problem with your bits, ladies. Unlike the men, who are told their bits are not ‘big enough’, we’re told ours are too big!
Don’t you shudder to think what might happen if you don’t have ‘perfect looking genitals’, whatever those are? You might not look like a woman on the centrefold of a men’s magazine.
You might actually be with somebody who cares about you for YOU, and not what your nether regions look like.
Who wants that, though?
Of course, this also has to be hairless. We must subject ourselves to hot wax and lasers or any other way is there to get rid of it because being natural is absolutely terrible. (And a million other reasons I will delve into – they deserve an entry all their own.)
So on one hand, there are young girls and women all over the Middle East and Africa, and some immigrant tribes around the world, who are forced to undergo various degrees of genital mutilation, the most common of which is also by far one of the most gruesome, depressing, inhumane things I have ever read :
Type III mutilation involves removal of all or part of the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound, leaving a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood—the fused wound is opened for intercourse and childbirth.
On the other hand, there are women who will pay through their noses to voluntarily have this done, in their quest for a ‘designer vagina’.
Meanwhile, I (and several others) are still waiting for a world where people are identified for who they are, and not the genitals they possess, irrespective of their shape or size.