Selling vagina insecurity

“A clean beaver always finds more wood”. “A polished knob gets more turns”. These are not as it turns out, taglines from the triumphant 21st century return of the Carry On franchise, but actual advertising copy from Playtex’s latest invention, Fresh ‘N’ Sexy wipes.

http://images.dailylife.com.au/2013/02/10/4020287/playtex2.jpg?rand=1360449258905

These adults only Wet Ones are “designed”, as you might have gathered from the “suits you, sir” copy, for people to tidy up their bits before and after they love each other in a very special way.

Playtex’s press release put it this way: “[A] brand new before-and-after intimate wipe specially designed to help couples feel confidently clean every time they engage in sexual activity.”

Confidence! As you might already be aware, vaginal “cleanliness” is key to confidence, if we are to believe products like Summer’s Eve, which cheerfully advised women everywhere to douche in order to get a raise.

More from the press release, which reads increasingly like an Onion article the further you get into it: “The brand's tagline: 'Clean where it Counts' came out of the strategic insight that sex is more fun when you're confident. "Because when you're clean where it counts you're ready for anything," Ms. McCormick ads.”

http://images.dailylife.com.au/2013/02/10/4020289/playtex4.jpg?rand=1360449267816

Well gosh, Johnny, I didn’t think I was ready for that vaguely terrifying sex sling you’ve constructed from kitchen utensils and inner tubes, but now that my vag is confidently clean, I’m up for it!

If we’re clutching at straws, and other phallic allusions, at least the boys have been included in this latest witch hazel infused volley from the dark ages of sexual puritanism. Grab a cup of tea and we can unpack what’s wrong with the campaign: the idea that vaginas and penises (penii?) are unclean, the idea - by extension - that sex is dirty, the idea that clean vaginas are sexier...

Sex isn't always a planned event that can be prepared for. With Fresh + Sexy wipes, couples now have a way to be clean and ready for even the most spontaneous moments. They can be ready for intimacy whenever - and wherever - the mood strikes."

You beaut! I was concerned that I wouldn’t be ready for intimacy when I finished scaling K2, but I brought my Fresh ‘N’ Sexy with me!

Whatever happened to the innocent days where a couple would leap in the shower together? Are we expected to retreat to separate corners of the room and fiddle with little foil pouches until we feel sufficiently “confident” to return to bed for a play-by-play?

http://images.dailylife.com.au/2013/02/10/4020288/playtex3.jpg?rand=1360449263443

Now, I’m not interested in getting high and mighty here: criticisms of products like Summer’s Eve are too often less about attacking the retrograde marketing strategies that invent the “need” for the products in the first place, and more about attacking the sorts of silly women who think their vaginas are unclean. I don’t need to trot out the same old “the vagina is self-cleaning” line (even though it’s true) that we’ve been spinning since Germaine Greer had a crack at feminine hygiene way back in Oz in 1970 in her essay, The politics of female sexuality.

(And gee, I wonder why - bombarded as they are by fragranced tampons and nonsense like Fresh ‘N’ Sexy - women might start to wonder if their vaginas are unclean?)

The use of the things is up to personal choice; I’ve been known to pack a few off-brand vag wipes for a long-distance plane trip, or a comic convention where I’ll be spending over eight hours in spandex. Plenty of people will stow a package of vag wipes’ less politically charged relatives, Wet Ones, for a camping or road trip.

No, the marketing is the bad guy here. At its core, it’s insidious shame-based nonsense; it follows that the thought process in the consumer is “Wait, if there’s a cleaning product available for this body part, it must be dirty”.

http://images.dailylife.com.au/2013/02/10/4020286/playtex1.jpg?rand=1360449252818

Few people are interested in a heady whiff of l’eau de tang, but if it comes down to it, as it were, surely most adult humans would rather smell or get a mouthful of actual human body rather than “natural botanicals, like cranberry, chamomile, and aloe”?

My “peach” may be unclean by Playtex’s 1950s standards, but at least it doesn’t smell like a peach. And that, believe it or not Playtex, makes me confident and ready for anything! Even s-e-x.

36 comments

  • Amazingly, this isn't new. I was commenting to friends after looking at the number of vintage ads featured here (http://thevine.com.au/life/thoughts/sexist-vintage-ads/gallery/0?utm_source=FD&utm_medium=rainbow&utm_campaign=sexist-ads), which dealt with the same issue, that the smell MUST have been awful at that time that a market existed. However, sadly, then like now it is all about playing on insecurity.

    Commenter
    Geemacaitch
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    February 11, 2013, 10:32AM
    • That's right - those vintage ads - like the ones for Lysol douche - can you imagine??? Although the clean pecker one above seems to maybe be aimed at men? Missing half the market - why not make everyone insecure about their crotches = more $$$

      Commenter
      me
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 11, 2013, 12:12PM
  • This is the worst incarnation of female-bashing we have ever seen - there are currently ads on TV for washes, wipes and deodorizers. Can you believe it?? Another part of our bodies to fixate on, compare to unreal ad campaign, AND pay money to correct. All this for a perfectly functioning 'self cleaning oven'. There is no shame to being natural and having the aroma of a healthy, happy woman. Boycott these products ladies, and lads, don't fall for the message. Ad agencies - you should hang your heads in shame. Talk about a vestige of the 1950s.

    http://health.yahoo.net/experts/womentoday/vagina-doesnt-need-be-deodorized

    Commenter
    jb
    Location
    gc
    Date and time
    February 11, 2013, 10:43AM
    • I think a lot of this rubbish is coming from American owned companies who have not done their market research and so do not understand that Australian women don't as a personal habit douche or need to wipe themselves with scented cleaning products.
      If you are about to hop off to bed and get lucky, then a quick shower is the usual method of cleaning onself. I know the sound of the shower being turned on by husband a few minutes before bedtime is a sure sign of things to come. (pardon the pun).

      Commenter
      teresa
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      February 11, 2013, 10:58AM
    • The worst female bashing you have ever seen is an ad campaign aimed at BOTH MEN AND WOMEN? The fact is that after a long sweaty night or day your bits can be less than fresh. A lot of people use baby wipes. They are for that market.

      Commenter
      missxiola
      Date and time
      February 11, 2013, 1:59PM
    • You missed the point - this is just ONE of many new products aimed at correcting the smell of a woman's nethers. If you read women's mags in the 50s, 60s and 70s you would have seen a ghastly array of products for that purpose, not emphasising convenience or portability (the guise of this new generation of fragranced female - and male - fresheners) but playing on women's fears of losing their man to a better smelling vagina. THERE I SAID IT! Other than camping or in a clandestine cupboard at work, where the hell are you that you can't have a shower to freshen up before a quickie? These are just stupid at best and insulting that they imply we're dirty down there.

      Commenter
      jb
      Location
      gc
      Date and time
      February 11, 2013, 2:12PM
  • Sarah Silverman has had the last word on this topic. (its on youtube)

    Commenter
    mint slice
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    February 11, 2013, 11:08AM
    • Which one! I have wasted/enjoyed much of the morning watching her on YT. What a hoot! All of them.

      Commenter
      jb
      Location
      gc
      Date and time
      February 11, 2013, 2:17PM
  • What a crock - these 'feminine wipes' are up there with the talking bra ads. Another great article Clem.

    Commenter
    LucyX
    Date and time
    February 11, 2013, 11:18AM
    • Clem/Lucy - I'm not sure I understand the outrage here.

      We're saying that we acknowledge this is a useful product - But we will not be told that it is so by the advertisers?

      Is the only 'correct' way to sell these products by saying 'Not that we think you need it, but if you ever do feel like using a wipe, try ours...'

      Commenter
      Steve
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 11, 2013, 1:25PM

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