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A vaginal tightening cream is serving an unintended purpose in India – rekindling debate about sexuality in a society of contradiction.
The oxymoron? The second-most populated country in the world puts social taboos on public discussion or display of sexual activities. So when a television commercial (watch video) openly talked about regaining virginity, it raised more than eyebrows.
The advertisement for 18 Again, a virginity cream that claims to tighten vagina, shows a daughter-in-law in an orthodox Indian house dancing to a tune declaring “I feel like a virgin again”. Her husband joins her, putting his arm around her waist, as the shocked in-laws look on. If this wasn’t enough, read on. The advertisement ends with the shocked mother-in-law logging on the website for 18 Again to order the cream, while her husband stands behind in a supportive posture.
The makers of 18 Again are marketing the vaginal cream as a product that empowers Indian women. Says Rishi Bhatia, the owner of Ultratech that’s making and selling the vagina ‘rejuvenation and tightening’ product: “It’s a unique and revolutionary product which also works towards building inner confidence in a woman and boosting her self esteem.”
Hear him further: he says the goal of the product is to “empower women”.
Defending Rishi Bhatia is Curry Nation, the advertising agency behind the controversial ad, which expected the ad to generate viral publicity. In an interview to Tehelka, the agency’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”.
Ultratech says the cream, selling for US$44, will take about three months of use before showing any results and contains gold dust, aloe vera, almond and pomegranate.
Launched by Bollywood actor Celina Jaitley, the product follows on the back of another product, which recently generated similar debate – a cream to lighten the vaginal skin, and was targeted at a market that still holds the view that fairer skin is better skin. Indian matrimonial ads still seek “fairer” brides.
So what’s the debate? First, the ad is ridiculous – a daughter-in-law dancing in front of her in-laws and announcing that she feels like a virgin again. The scene is far from common even in India’s modern cities.
Second, the use of the word ‘vagina’ is rare in mainstream television advertisements even in ultra-modern western countries.
But these are minor issues. Here’s a more serious objection – the objectification of women, disguised as their empowerment. Sure enough, there are numerous advertisements that objectify women, and I am not even discussing intercourse-related products.
There are ads that use women as an object to sell everything from soft drinks to cars. That’s indirect objectification.
Then there are ads for products, from fairness creams to weight loss tablets, that are sold to help women look more attractive. For who? Keep guessing.
However, this vagina tightening cream takes that exploitation to another level. It aims to create an inferiority complex among women who have, err, loose vagina.
Ask any woman who has lost virginity and you will know that it is a painful experience. To “feel like a virgin” is rarely going to be a pleasurable memory, at least for women. Then, for whose benefit is this cream really? Keep guessing.
For now, the land of Kama Sutra is witnessing a savvy businessman’s attempt to make a quick buck out of a deep-rooted mindset that does little to empower Indian women.
While many NRIs come to India looking for an Indian bride or groom, Indian women need to be aware of the finding of a recent study about the sexual preferences of Indian men.
As many as 25 percent men have committed sexual violence and 20 percent have admitted to have forced their wives or partner to have sex.
These are some of the disturbing results of a survey – International Men and Gender Equality Survey conducted by Washington-based International Centre for Research on Women and Instituto Promundo in Brazil.
Indian men have fared even worse than tribal-based communities of Rwanda. Less than two in 100 Brazilian males and less than 9 in 100 men in Chile, Croatia, Mexico and Rwanda have committed sexual violence, according to the survey of men in six developing countries.
The researchers interviewed 8,000 men and 3,500 women, aged 18 to 59, from these countries.
Only 17 percent Indian men qualified to the ‘highly equitable’ (gender-just) category, according to a report in the Times of India. The percentage was the lowest for this category among the six countries, the news report added.
Further disturbing findings about Indian men revealed that two in three Indian men believe that women should tolerate violence to keep the family together and that women sometimes deserved to be beaten, the news report added.
The survey also reveals an intriguing criminal side of Indian men. While Indians ranked high on the sexual and physical domestic violence, they were under-represented in crime in society.
Only 4 percent Indian men had participated in robbery and 7 percent had been involved in fights with weapons, compared to 36 percent men in Croatia and 22 percent in Brazil.
“Indian men are far more traditional, to put it mildly. Even young, educated men are not changing as rapidly as women. They are still living in the old ages,” Ravi Verma, director of ICRW’s Asia regional office in Delhi, told the Times Of India.
These findings are concerning for overseas Indians – both men and women, who often visit India for a suitable wife or husband.
That’s one of the main questions Indian women ask their doctor or gynaecologist. The answer is yes. No birth control method is fool-proof. Having sex while on the pill can lead to pregnancy, though the chances are very low. In fact, most contraceptive pills are effective about 99.5 percent of the time. Which means, only 1 in 200 instances of intercourse can lead to conception.
These statistics also mean that a woman can get pregnant even when she has followed all the instructions given by the pill-maker.
However, if you don’t follow the instructions closely, there are higher chances of you getting pregnant. This increases your chances of getting pregnant by up to 5 percent. In other words, 5 in 100 instances of sex can result in pregnancy. However, many studies show a varying degree of failure rate.
The bottom line is that you can pregnant while on the pill, and it may not be entirely your fault. Your husband, family or friends might think that you did not take the pills properly. However this is not the case.
Forgetting to take the pill is one of the surest way of getting pregnant on birth control. It is one of the worst side effects of the birth control pills.
This is particularly possible in the first few days of the cycle.
The second common reason is that the pill never stays in your stomach. You might be experiencing diarrhoea and the pill is thrown out of your body.
In such an instance, please check the instructions on the pill. You may want to opt for some other means of contraception in the meantime.
The third possibility is other medication. If you are taking other medication, it might affect your birth control and may get you pregnant.
Many Indian girls use birth control to stop period pain or migraines. This is not the best possible way to deal with period pain. Consult your doctor in such instances.
There are many ways to know if you are pregnant. However, the most common way is when you miss a period. That’s the first sign.
You might also experience symptoms of pregnancy, such as vomiting, camping and soreness in breasts.
There are plenty of home tests options available. Ask your chemist or pharmacist.
Editor’s note: This article is for information only, and should not be used as medical advice. Please consult your doctor