A new Indian commercial for a supposedly revolutionary product called "18 Again," described as a "vaginal tightening and rejuvenating cream," promises to make older women feel like virgins again.
The YouTube ad video shows a young wife walking out to the courtyard of a communal home, to her husband who appears about to leave for work. The woman croons seductively, "Oooh, I feel like a virgin." The husband responds, saying "Oh, yes it's true," and grabs his wife's waist. An old man, presumably the husband's father, spits out his tea and a young boy pulls out his smartphone and starts recording the action.
The couple sing and dance around the courtyard. The lyrics appear to have been adapted from Madonna's "Touched for the very first time." The poor distracted husband, having forgotten he was going to work, dances with his wife back into their bedroom.
A voice over tells viewers that everyone can share the woman's experience of feeling like a virgin by using "18 Again" vaginal tightening gel.
At the end of the ad, an aging woman is shown logging on to the product website 18Again.com. Her husband stands over her shoulders with an approving broad smile on his face. We may assume she is also looking to feel like a virgin at her first time experience.
According to Campaign India, the product was created by a pharmaceutical company Ultratech India. Rishi Bhatia, Ultratech India's chairman and managing director, says, "18 Again has the power and the potential to break the shackles and redefine the meaning of women empowerment altogether."
Campaign India reports that Priti Nair, director of Curry-Nation, the creative agency behind the campaign, commented on the "thought behind the campaign," saying, "This is a one-of-a-kind women-centric product, and the idea is to create a demand for such a product in the Indian market. Since the product is targeted towards concerns that are not usually talked about publicly, the challenges of creating a campaign for this is also higher. Since the product is primarily targeted at housewives with children, we wanted to create a film that is tasteful yet engaging.”
According to Tehelka.com, Curry Nation'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."
Professor Nivedita Menon of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, however, criticizes the ad as concentrating on the man's pleasure. Menon, according to Tehelka.com, says he finds the idea of a vaginal tightening gel both "hilarious and maddening." He says “the perversity of it all lies in the fact that the gel will be sold as a health issue, as something women ‘should’ do to take better care of their bodies."
Another ad-campaign veteran Prahlad Kakar, suggested that Curry Nation would have done better with a toned athletic woman in the ad rather than one in an Indian sari. He suggests, “possibly a gymnast on the bars, because a tight body automatically makes you think of a tight vagina."
While the ad is sure to go viral, Tehelka.com comments the product creators still need to rehearse their responses to queries about their product. For instance, in response to a question from Nishita Jha, Tehelka.com correspondent, whether clinical trials have been conducted for the product and about the product's side effects, a Curry Nation official reportedly responded that the reporter should "not to get clinical" because "the time is right for a product like this — women are looking after every part of their body, and looking after the vagina is the next natural step to being healthy and confident."
India News Site quotes some tweets in response to the ad campaign and comments they suggest the marketers still have a lot of work to do to convince Indian women that this a product they really need:
User @RonnieBarko tweeted with a direct reference to the product: “Can you get vaginal loosening cream? Asking for a friend.”
And user @DawnHFoster clearly thought the whole empowerment market strategy was a bust. She tweeted: “Is 18 Again vaginal tightening gel an important tool in female empowerment” CLEARLY NOT, FFS.”
“Hey, I’ve seen you on TV. You’re that girl from the vaginal tightening cream ad, right?” *awkward silence*
Retightal – Vaginal rejuvenation cream.
Instead of calling the vaginal rejuvenation and tightening cream 18 Again, they should have kept it simple: Mating Again.
Vaginal tightening cream- if you *really* don’t want to let go of the guy. #OverObsessedGF
According to The Huffington Post, products purporting to "improve" the female genitalia have raised controversy in the past. An Indian commercial introducing a vaginal lightening wash recently caused a furor. The ad showed a couple whose marital problems were solved when the woman used the wash to increase the whiteness of her vulva.
It is not only in India that women are encouraged through ads to "improve" their vagina. The Huffington Post reports that American women pay more than $10,000 for surgical procedures to "tighten" or "plump up their labias" or otherwise "trim them down."