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Allison Martell writes about feminism and economics at Economic Woman, and is part of Feministe's 2008 Project Guest Blogger.
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28 Responses

    DEAF FEMINIST PUNK!!! July 15, 2008 at 1:29 pm |

    We definitely live in a society where people’s personal bodily functions are seen as “embarrassing.” Many people are DEFINITELY very insecure about sex, nudity, and anything related to sexuality.

    But mostly, I think women are made to feel ashamed of their bits down there. That’s how >>I<< feel anyway. Menstrual periods is such a risky topic and many guys don’t want to face the truth that women poop, fart, bleed, and pee.

    I don’t know if other females feel the same way, too.

  2. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale July 15, 2008 at 1:40 pm |

    According to a friend of mine who tested them out (research for work, but honestly if she hadnt’ told me about it, I might have been tempted to see what they were) says the “virgin drops” just make you dry, and therefore tight.

  3. Kelsey Jarboe
    Kelsey Jarboe July 15, 2008 at 1:41 pm |

    I don’t think it’s sexist, at least not against anyone more than anyone else. To me, it reflects a general societal attitude that bodies are dirty both literally and metaphorically, and admitting that you have to actually, like, buy things and do things to your body to make it fit a certain image of fit, healthy, and sexy is shameful.

  4. Roy
    Roy July 15, 2008 at 1:53 pm |

    “Do you think this is about sexism, or just a culture insecure about sex in general?”

    I don’t think that there’s a good way to seperate the two things. We (in the United States) seem to be a culture that is fascinated by, obsessed with, frightened of, and repulsed by sex and sexual imagery, and women’s bodies in particular. I think that the love/hate relationship that our society seems to have around sex leads to all kinds of fucked up, unhealthy attitudes about our bodies, and end up reinforcing sexism at the same time that they’re reinforced by it. I think it’s all tied together- the obsession with seeing women’s bodies and using them for advertising while avoiding male nudity to an absurd degree for fear of alienating (straight male) consumers… I think that it’s about sexism *and* some really screwy cultural attitudes about sex/sexuality and nudity.

  5. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe July 15, 2008 at 1:55 pm |

    Do you think this is about sexism, or just a culture insecure about sex in general?

    The second one.

  6. UnFit
    UnFit July 15, 2008 at 1:57 pm |

    Agreed with the above posters, I think this attitude concerns both genders, though I think it might hit women a little harder.

    And as a cosmetics manufacturer and someone who actually likes painful sex (call me weird…) I must say there are some components in those drops I wouldn’t want inside my vagina whatever for.

  7. Terry Kirkpatrick
    Terry Kirkpatrick July 15, 2008 at 2:05 pm |

    I think those “tightening” liquids contain Alum – not something that I want in my vagina!

  8. Miriam Heddy
    Miriam Heddy July 15, 2008 at 2:27 pm |

    The really interesting thing (at least to me) is the caped P-man who seems to be the Shopinprivate mascot.

    The letter “P” on his front ends right at the top of his underwear, and he’s posed on that box so as to give you a good look between his legs.

  9. Ellie
    Ellie July 15, 2008 at 2:28 pm |

    I agree with the above posters.

    We live in this weird culture that teaches us to be fascinated with what I like to call “the mythological ideal body” which constantly reminds us that our own bodies are not good enough. This feeling of self-contempt leads us to consume products like penis pumps, vaginal tighten drops, diet pills, surgeries and so on…

    Like UnFit has mentioned, I too believe that these unrealistic standards have hit women harder. As women have to deal with a plethora of double standards (i.e. being too loose, being too tight)

  10. Jenga
    Jenga July 15, 2008 at 2:40 pm |

    I definitely would say it’s a general insecurity about sex.

    But then you have to add in the “fact” that the vagina is dirty and gross, where as the penis is majestic…… So women get a double dose of BS, where as men only have to deal with one layer of the crap.

  11. Em
    Em July 15, 2008 at 2:55 pm |

    Agreed with Roy that these are not easily divisible subjects – just to use your examples, Allison, women are supposed to be embarassed about basic bodily functions such as menstruation (tampons, Midol) and simply having and enjoying sex (sex toys, condoms, pregnancy tests). Men are supposed to be embarassed about some sort of alleged deficiency -hair loss, premature ejaculation.

    So, yeah, an unfortunate situation for everyone due to puritanical cultural norms that effect women more than men. Sounds familiar.

  12. Kristen from MA
    Kristen from MA July 15, 2008 at 3:36 pm |

    I think Jenga (#10) and Em (#11) say it best.

    it sounds like a recipe for painful and unpleasant intercourse

    only for the woman. everyone knows it’s all about pleasing him (and his ego), right? /snark

  13. UnFit
    UnFit July 15, 2008 at 7:00 pm |

    Jenga, I don’t think it’s that simple.
    Penisses (what an odd plural) are pretty much only glorified in porn. Otherwise, they’re often viewed as embarrassing – wrong size, hard or soft at the wrong times, sperm is disgusting etc. – and men aren’t exactly encouraged to love their bodies the way they are.

    I think the difference between the genders when it comes to body norms and double standards is mostly a quantitative one. Yea, the double standards are different ones for men and women (stud/slut etc.) but in the end I think it mostly hits women harder because they’re indentified with their bodies more strongly.

  14. exholt
    exholt July 15, 2008 at 7:55 pm |

    Though I can see the case for arguing both, I would agree with those who said it was because our society’s (and many other societies) reluctance to talk about or discuss sex.

    I recall my first-time dealing with this very issue was when a few high school classmates active in promoting safe sex practices were handing out condoms to every student arriving in the morning when I was 13. Add to that the fact that discussions about sex were less open then than they are now and it is understandable how many did not take those condoms….and those who did hid them asap…including yours truly.

    Of course, being the lovable* 13 year old that I was, I ended up using that condom for more immature purposes…….as a free water balloon.** Only thing I learned from that experience is that lubricated condoms are not designed for that sort of fun.

    * That would be the last adjective many of my first year high school teachers would use to describe me.

    ** Hey, I was 13 and even the most immature of us need some fun in our lives. :)

  15. Dana
    Dana July 15, 2008 at 8:55 pm |

    I definitely would say it’s a general insecurity about sex.

    But then you have to add in the “fact” that the vagina is dirty and gross, where as the penis is majestic…… So women get a double dose of BS, where as men only have to deal with one layer of the crap.

    I agree entirely.

    UnFit, while men definitely catch shit too when it comes to penises, and it’s pathetic I really really don’t think it’s on a par with the attitude toward vaginas. Good point about women being identifid with their bodies more strongly though.

    Finally… a product that makes your vagina dry?? WTF? Frankly it seems likely to me that even entirely discounting (eugh) the woman’s comfort, a slightly “looser” vagina that’s well lubed is more pleasant than a tight, dry one!

    As a woman who really doesn’t self-lubricate enough, the whole idea really gets up my nose. I love vigourous penetrative sex, but need SO MUCH good-quality lube that it can be really frustrating :(

  16. timothynakayama
    timothynakayama July 15, 2008 at 9:22 pm |

    But then you have to add in the “fact” that the vagina is dirty and gross, where as the penis is majestic……

    Only large, big penises are considered positively, I would say. If a man has a tiny/small/below average/average one, well, then they’d better be prepared to be mocked by popular culture.

    While both are totally unnecessary, women do have the “option” of having breast augmentation (or reduction) . I don’t think there is a similar “penis augmentation” (or reduction) surgery. I am really unsure of how a “penis pump” works, and I’m not sure I want to know…it sounds incredibly painful….and probably temporary.

    Do you think this is about sexism, or just a culture insecure about sex in general?

    I’ve always wondered that since Americans use so much sex in advertising, you’d think they’d have a healthy attitude as well regarding sex, ie. sex is good!
    Clearly, they must be some schisms between different groups of people in the country regarding sex.

  17. exholt
    exholt July 15, 2008 at 9:40 pm |

    I’ve always wondered that since Americans use so much sex in advertising, you’d think they’d have a healthy attitude as well regarding sex, ie. sex is good!

    From what I’ve seen, it seems Americans seem to have an incoherent confused outlook on sex……talking and showing explicit idealized depictions of it on the one hand…..and being extremely prudish and squeamish about it on the other.
    I wonder how much of that is due to the Puritan influence on early American society…..combined with that of the Victorians….

    Did I miss anything?

  18. Jenga
    Jenga July 15, 2008 at 10:38 pm |

    What I meant, and probably should have made more explicit is “The Vagina” and “The Penis,” the essence of the organ, not the organ itself.

  19. Carmen
    Carmen July 16, 2008 at 3:58 am |

    I used to work at a sex toy store, and there was a glass case towards the front that I hated. It smelled funny, and was full of products like ejaculation delaying creams/sprays, “Long and Hard” herbal supplements, “Liquid Virgin” and variations thereof, and Anal-Ease.

    It bothered me, that case. It seemed that everyone who wandered to it was hell bent on making my feminist sensibilities squirm.

    One female customer: “My husband’s gettin’ out of jail soon, and I want him to remember what I was like when we first got married.” *buys Liquid Virgin*

    Another: “My boyfriend wants to try anal sex, so he sent me here to get some of that stuff to numb me up.” *buys Anal-Ease*

    Male customer: “I want to have butt sex with my girlfriend, but she doesn’t want to. Where’s that numbing shit?” *Anal-Ease*

    Another male customer: “My wife’s too loose. Don’t you sell something that makes ’em tight again?” *buys Liquid Virgin*

    Once, a girl came in asking for poppers. When I asked her why she wanted them, she explained that her boyfriend sent her there to get them so he could have anal sex with her. I helped her out (she bought a good silicone lube and The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women by Tristan Taormino, as well as a small talk on how, believe it or not, women can enjoy anal sex and no, you don’t have to be drugged or numbed), but after she left, I honestly wanted to cry. Who sent his nervous girlfriend alone into a sex toy store to ask for poppers – POPPERS, of ALL THINGS – for her FIRST TIME having anal sex? ARGGHHH.

    Sorry, I digress.

    The problem with the sex toy/product industry is that because it’s such a taboo for some, people can be jerked around by fear, misinformation, and preying on their greatest insecurities. People are afraid to ask too many questions or to question products. The very existence of a product like “Liquid Virgin” creates a question where there previously wasn’t one – “Am I too loose? Will he want me tight again? Is it better if I use it?”

    It hurts me, it really does. It may have made me happy to sell dildos and vibrators to people, and give out good information where I could, but those creams and pills and sprays just make me frustrated. It’s sexism, and it’s also a symptom of a generally sexually misinformed culture.

    *hops down from soapbox*

  20. lathan
    lathan July 16, 2008 at 8:05 am |

    Both penises and vaginas are seen as disgusting, but men are supposed to be disgusting and women aren’t (ie, ‘girls don’t poop/fart/etc’). Also, penises are a powerful kind of disgusting, like some kind of horrible but potent weapon. while vaginas are a weaker, more pathetic kind of disgusting.

  21. UnFit
    UnFit July 16, 2008 at 3:44 pm |

    @ Jenga: Yes, but I *still* don’t think it’s that simple ;)

    @ timothynakayama, re advertising: I’m German, and the other day I saw a bit on tv about the sexual differences between the East and the West.

    Before and immediately after the reunification, the East Germans reported to have way more, way better, more satisfying sex, and they were more open about it than the Western ones.

    And it seems that at least part of that comes from the fact that in the West, we had porn and sexualized ads very early, but had to fight harder to get birth control and comprehensive sex ed. While the East had no porn, hardly any ads, sexualized or not, but provided birth control, free daycare, comprehensive sex ed, and they had lots of nude beaches.

    So the Easterners who got their information about sex and the human body from real life ended up less prude, inhibited and ashamed than the Westerners who got the same “info” from idealized porn and ads. Makes sense to me.

  22. UnFit
    UnFit July 16, 2008 at 3:45 pm |

    And Carmen, all of that really does sound unsettling.

  23. Sara
    Sara July 16, 2008 at 3:57 pm |

    The virgin drops are not my favorite…. try China Shrink Cream…. it’s MUCH better. It made sex better for me and my fiancé…. I don’t think it’s sexist at all.

  24. timothynakayama
    timothynakayama July 16, 2008 at 10:17 pm |

    The virgin drops are not my favorite…. try China Shrink Cream…. it’s MUCH better. It made sex better for me and my fiancé…. I don’t think it’s sexist at all.

    It could be racist though….why is it called China Shrink Cream?
    Hopefully because it’s made in China.

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  26. R
    R July 18, 2008 at 2:34 pm |

    I don’t know, I’m all for Shop Private. I don’t think a reticence to talk about (or walk around with products to treat) essentially yucky things is a bad thing. I would prefer not to have to think about other customers’ downstairs parts while shopping, and I would prefer if they were ignorant as to the state of mine. There’s a certain degree of decorum that should be maintained – and I, for one, think there’s a point at which openness becomes oversharing.

  27. elalak
    elalak July 21, 2008 at 1:03 pm |

    my sexual world was turned upside-down when i dated a girl from eastern europe. she didn’t hold sex as a power trip, she wasn’t ashamed of it, it wasn’t taboo. it was merely something to be enjoyed by both people and often. it was so freeing how natural sex was, unlike it often is here in america.

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