/ A New Bloom?

A New Bloom?

May 16, 2013

Calling all women! — those who have given birth, premenopausal and postmenopausal, young and old. For just $44 USD (or £28), you can be a virgin again! All it takes is a little bit of aloe vera, almond, pomegranate and of course, gold dust.
How could we possibly forget the gold dust?

Mix it all up into one giant virginal concoction and there you have it, the 18 Again vaginal tightening and rejuvenation cream.

I can’t decide what’s more laughable: The statements made by Rishi Bhatia, owner of Ultratech, the Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company that founded this cream, or the awkwardly embarrassing advertisement for this razzle-dazzle, like-a-virgin-touched-for-the-very-first-time product? Let’s go in order.

“It’s a unique and revolutionary product which also works towards building inner confidence in a woman and boosting her self esteem,” Bhatia says explaining that the goal behind this product is to empower women.

While I’m more inclined to believe Lindsay Lohan really will walk an honourable path one day or that Lance Armstrong is genuinely sorry, let’s say for argument’s sake that female empowerment really is Ultratech’s true intention. Whether or not their intentions are pure (mind the pun), there are a plethora of people who just don’t seem to be buying into this born-again virgin magical cream.

Annie Raja is a member of the National Federation of Indian Women, an association that stands up for women’s rights in India. She explains that this cream will not empower women at all, in fact, in a BBC News article, she explains that “the cream will do the opposite, by reaffirming a patriarchal view that is held by many here — the notion that men want all women to be virgins until their wedding night.”

“This kind of cream is utter nonsense, and could give some women an inferiority complex,” Raja says. Valid point. Doesn’t the very presence of this cream on the market scream the message that virgins are desirable and that women who have already engaged in sexual activity are not as pleasing? If so, we’re left with a group of women suffering from severe self-esteem issues and a group of men who have convinced themselves that they must set out on a virgin treasure hunt, discarding all other potential treasures they meet along the way. Think I’m exaggerating? Dr. Mahinder Watsa, a gynecologist who writes a sex column in the Mumbai Mirror and the Bangalore Mirror doesn’t seem to think so. He explains that men often ask him for tips on how to find out if their soon-to-be wife is still a virgin, and women often ask how to trick their soon-to-be husbands into believing they have never engaged in sexual activity.

Towards the criticism of this product, Bhatia firmly denies allegations stating, “We are only saying, ‘feel like a virgin’ — it’s a metaphor. It tries to bring back that feeling when a person is 18.” Fair enough. But I’m still rolling my eyes.

Supporters of this cream may argue that there are already many types of creams like this on the market in North America and Europe, so what’s the difference? The difference is mindset. This is the first product of its kind available in the Indian marketplace. So how will this new toy affect the mindset of Indian consumers?

Here’s how I see it. There has been an existing tsk-tsk mentality on premarital sex in India for eons. The introduction of this cream simply reinforces all of those notions that premarital sex is wrong, bad and even sinful. It implies that once you engage in premarital sex you are not pure anymore and you are physically less desirable, so you definitely need this cream. Instead, what needs to be done, specifically in India, is the exact opposite. We need to create a sense of awareness about sex in India, talk about it, and bring it out in the open. Sex is not discussed in schools, definitely not discussed in most households, and more often than not, women do not have this conversation with each other. Perhaps if this happened, men and women wouldn’t hold on to this ridiculous notion that virginious sex is the only sex. If that’s not an oxymoron, I don’t know what is.

The outcome from all this hush hush on the S-E-X topic? “The Indian mindset is in a state of turmoil,” says Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, a general practitioner who advises on sexual health for the medical website www.mdhil.com. “The young generation wants to be hip and cool and try out sex before marriage, but they’re still brought up in the traditional set-up where it’s taboo to have sex before marriage. This leads to a lot of confusion in many teenagers.

“On one hand you’re supposed to be the traditional demure Indian bride, but on the other hand, you don’t want to have to wait for sex because people are marrying later. Temptations are coming their way and people are no longer resisting.”

Celina Jaitley disagrees with me. In fact, this Shimla-born Indian actress and former model takes the exact opposite stance. At the official launch for 18 Again, Jaitley, who has given birth to twins, explained that she is a fan of the cream, especially for use after giving birth. She makes it clear that while she is not an ambassador of the brand, she does recommend it to any woman who has “intimate concerns.” She also believes that a cream like this will spark conversations, awareness and perhaps some form of comfort to talk about sex and fight the taboo that surrounds it.

Fair enough. But I’m still rolling my eyes.

If you don’t understand why, I suggest you watch the advertisement for 18 Again and see for yourself. Jaitley may have a point in that this cream will spark conversation, but is it the right conversation? The whole point was to get away from the notion that you must be a virgin in order to be considered attractive and desirable, yet the advertisement begins with a married woman caressing the neck of her husband as she coos, “I feel like a virgin.” And make no mistake, she most definitely is not one. The husband and wife then twirl and dance to the music while the husband sings back “Oh yes, it’s true! Oh yes, you do!” In unison they exclaim, “Feels like the very first time!” Throughout this dance routine, a wide-eyed audience with their jaws dropped, forms as they relish in this whole virginous sultry spectacle.

So? Did you roll your eyes?

How does this cream even work? After reading the information on Ultratech’s website, this product sounds like a scientific miracle, up there with the likes of penicillin and antibiotics. It claims to rejuvenate and tighten the vagina, to improve vaginal grip and delay the effects of ageing.

Wow, I haven’t heard of anything that magical since Jack and his magic beans.

Regardless, a cream like this will definitely spawn sales in India. “Tightening the vagina is done by the vaginal muscles, so I don’t know how a local cream can do the job,” Dr. Nakhoda says. But she believes it has the potential to do well in India because even though practices are changing, attitudes are not catching up as fast and some people would try anything to cover up any hint of their actions.

While this product is the first of its kind in the Indian marketplace, it is preceded by another product that really isn’t that different — the vaginal lightening wash. It also creates stereotypes in the minds of Indian consumers as to what is and is not attractive. It can create inferiority complexes for women and it has an equally ridiculous commercial. It’s also equally deserving of that eye roll. Proof?

The advertising tagline for that product is, “Life for women will now be fresher, cleaner and, more importantly, fairer and more intimate.” The commercial paints a picture of a marriage that transforms from obviously stressed to one of bliss and happiness; all based on the fairness and whiteness of the woman’s vulva.

We can only hope that the day will come where open and healthy sexual dialogue can take place in households across India. But have no fear because until that day comes, at least we have Ultratech — a company that has made scientific history in transforming sexually active women back to virgins. A company that allows men to continue believing that sex with a virgin is the only way to go and then they too, can pass this notion on to their sons. Until we reach the day where this sexual discrimination is destroyed, I encourage you all to openly and passionately, roll your eyes.



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