**TW: mentions of rape**
There are a wealth of products designed specifically for genitals. Some for aesthetics, some for convenience, some for hygiene, some for pleasure. It’s certainly true that there needs to be less stigma around products to help with basic bodily functions and/or sexual pleasure. Take the stigma surrounding period products for example – literally decades of advertising aimed at showing us how unacceptable and dirty periods are. However, not all products are equal. Some things that are sold to help your genitals are unnecessary or problematic. Here are four of (what I think are) the worst!
Femfresh (other brands exist).
Femfresh is a range of products for ‘feminine hygiene’ – e.g. washes and scented wipes. The vagina is self cleaning and the only thing you need to use to keep a vulva clean is warm water and unscented soap. However Femfresh and its ilk push an agenda that they are vital, with their vagina friendly pH balance giving them the edge over soap (which is the same for water, which is free and comes out of the tap). The Femfresh website promotes the products using a smiling face of a gynaecologist, ‘Dr Sara’, with a list of advice on how to ‘care for down there’. Much like the period adverts, euphemisms abound – the implication being that your vulva is smelly and dirty and only buying this type of product can fix that. The branding is phenomenally successful. As a facilitator for Sex Ed classes to young people, I am often asked about this product, by name. It can be quite difficult to assert that it is unnecessary and a person’s genitals are completely normal and healthy in the face of such advertising and branding.
Like Femfresh, but super-charged! Vaginal douches are devices and products that ‘flush out’ the vagina – unfortunately taking all of the natural bugs and secretions that keep the vagina health with them. Just say no!
The Consent Condom
This is definitely one from the ‘road to hell is paved with good intentions’ department. Sold with the tagline ‘consent is the most important thing in sex’, this is a condom that requires two people (or at least four hands working together) to open the packet. It received quite a backlash when it came out. People were quick to point out that flaws – such as rapists not necessarily caring about using condoms, or having the ability to work in pairs. The consent condom also implicitly buys in to the idea of consent as a single moment of ‘yes’/ ‘no’. Consent should be reversible and always up for discussion. Even if you’re in a long term relationship and sex is something you do regularly. Even if you said ‘yes’ at first and then changed your mind. Even if you helped someone open a condom packet holding two of the four pressure points.
This is underwear marketed as only being able to be removed by the wearer. It is reinforced to prevent cutting and tearing off by an attacker. Originally designed and crowdfunded by a victim of sexual assault, this is probably again something made and marketed with noble intentions in mind as well as profit margins. Given the state of the world, fear of sexual assault is very understandable. However, I just don’t want to live in a society we focus our efforts on designing things to make people less rapeable. We need social and structural change, not ‘rape-proof’ clothing. Additionally, anti-rape wear reinforces the idea that sexual attacks are committed by strangers when a person is out and about in the world. In fact, most victims of sexual assault know their attacker – be it a family member, friend or partner. It is hard to see how anti-rape wear will be of much use unless it is worn at all times and in all places – except for those brief moments when you need to either pee or have penetrative sex with someone and definitely won’t change your mind at any point (which we’ve already established you have a complete right to do).
These are my four. Tweet me if you think of any more or disagree – @squisquasque…