Of all the ways women are made to feel shame about their bodies—oh no, your boobs are sagging, your arms have developed bat wings—the worst one in our minds is the age-old lie that our lady parts are malodorous and therefore must be doused with fruity or flowery fragrance to pass the smell test. Just walk down the feminine hygiene aisle and you’ll swear you’re in a lavender field. Where’s the equivalent scrotum scrub with the aroma of a Northwest evergreen forest?
This is why we’re glad that in a new ad campaign, Love Wellness promotes its pH balancing cleanser by stressing that your natural scent is plenty clean and should be plenty alluring.
Where’s the equivalent scrotum scrub with the aroma of a Northwest evergreen forest?
“There has been a lack of honest and open conversations around vaginal care. This often fuels the misinformation that leads to people feeling ashamed about their vaginas and vulvas,” said Lauren Bosworth, founder and CEO of Love Wellness, in a statement. “Education paired with products that actually work make up the core of Love Wellness, so our hope with this brand campaign is that we can help reduce shame and stigma around vaginal care, and encourage people to realize that there is nothing wrong with their vulvas.”
This viewpoint is particularly refreshing after many of us have spent decades worrying about how we smell down there–so much so that some women say it’s ruined any pleasure from oral sex.
The Language of the Vulva
We remember using aerosol sprays on our vaginas when we were younger and hadn’t built up any confidence to resist the terrible Madison Avenue messaging. Even today, Summer’s Eve vaginal spray uses this language in its copy: “Armpits aren’t the only area of a women’s body that sweats. [No shit!] So we created Summer’s Eve Freshening Spray- perfect for whenever you need a boost of freshness.” The directions for use also contain this bit for maximum insult: “For extra protection, spray panties and feminine liners. Repeat as needed to feel shower-fresh all day long.” As if an OCD action plan is your only hope. But then in the product warnings, we are told that the chemicals they want us to put on our most delicate skin is flammable. “Do not use product near fire, flame or sparks,” the manufacturer advises. Or what? Does you vulva explode? This is simply terrifying.
The message reminds consumers that their bodies aren’t meant to replicate an ocean breeze or a midsummer night’s dream.
In contrast, the campaign by Love Wellness, which cheekily calls itself a Pubic Cervix Announcement, is all about the natural. Over images of women of all sizes in their underwear a narrator makes statements like, “A vanilla cupcake is a dessert, not something you should smell like.” The voiceover goes on to say that “Intimate products that use scents don’t make sense. They harm good bacteria and sensitive skin.” The spot ends with the line, “The cleanser that doesn’t change you.”
“The message is meant to empower the viewer, reminding consumers that their bodies aren’t meant to replicate an ocean breeze or a midsummer night’s dream—whatever that means,” writes Shannon Miller in Adweek. She sees the new campaign as part of a trend where brands are encouraging viewers “to use direct terminology when discussing the vagina instead of infantilizing names that hint towards unnecessary shame. Now, marketers are working towards removing the stigmas that surround the bodies of people who aren’t cisgender men.” Hallelujah.