The marketing of a cream which claims to make women feel 'like a virgin again' has sparked a debate over the value of women in Indian society. Indian bloggers discuss the cream, virginity and society in general.
In India, where the three letter word 'sex' is still talked about in whispers, the Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company Ultratech has introduced its new product - a vaginal tightening cream called "18 Again." The makers claim the cream can rejuvenate the "virginity of a female."
The television commercial, which can also be viewed on YouTube, shows an Indian woman in her mid 30's dancing with her husband in front of her in-laws and singing 'I feel like a virgin' in Bollywood style, with the husband singing, "yes you do!" At end of the spot, the aged mother-in-law is seen happily logging on to the product's website - presumably to find out more information for herself.
A virgin bride is still very significant in Indian culture
In an interview with the BBC, Ultratech's owner, Rishi Bhatia, said 18 Again was a revolutionary product in India which would "empower women." He also explained that the cream would not actually be able to restore a woman's virginity, but that instead, it would make her feel like a virgin.
But soon after the cream came out on the market, it was lambasted by a number of social media users and feminists as well as doctors.
Many bloggers voiced opposition to a cream that claims to be a tool for the sexual enhancement of women.
Author Shubnum Khan in her blog poses the question, "Empowering women, how exactly? Most women never enjoyed their first time anyway. Let's cut past all the dancing and singing and female empowerment wrapping and admit (again) that this product is simply for the (perceived) male's pleasure."
Voicing a similar opinion in the blog, "The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker," a blogger asks rhetorically how the cream or virginity can possibly "empower women" and how the empowerment of women in general is at all possible in a "country where women's safety, life and happiness is valued less than their virginity, should be really empowered?"
Iva Roze Skoch, GlobalPost's global sex correspondent, in her blog Wanderlust writes, "No woman in her right mind … would volunteer to buy a product that would make her feel like she's being deflowered every day of her life. Not by her very same old husband!"
In India, also known as the land of Kama Sutra, sex is still a hush-hush affair
She says that marketing a vaginal tightening cream to women was a bit like "marketing vibrators to men … somehow I don't see that happening. Definitely not in India."
A relationship's strength
Earlier this year a feminine hygiene product named "Clean and Dry Intimate Wash" - which claims to lighten the skin on which it is used - was launched in India.
With reference to both products, Shubnum Khan writes, "Why are we even commercialising a thing like vaginal tightening and whitening? By putting it out in the public … we are making the concept acceptable. We endorse that a woman is best presented and happiest as a virgin and that a relationship's strength simply rests on her genitals."
Author and blogger Shobha De in her blog poses the question in her blog, what happens if the cream doesn't work? "Will crestfallen hubbies demand their money back and send the bride packing? Pay close attention, girls: the future is bright only if you are white and tight where it matters."