A Rose is Still a Rose: A Comparative Look into the Perceptions of Men and Women's Genitalia// LaToya Hampton

Photo Credit: alive.com

Have you ever walked into a department or grocery store and noticed there is an aisle dedicated to feminine hygiene products, but there is not an aisle selling male hygiene products?  Now I’m fully aware that women need products to maintain proper care during menstruation cycles, however those aisles are filled with many other products. Women are constantly subjected to ads, commercials, and even conversations about the care and maintenance of their genitalia. However, I have never seen a commercial attempting to persuade men to make their penises smell spring flower fresh. Although male genital hygiene products do exist, those items are only found online and or in high-end specialty shops.
            According to a report published by Allied Market Research, feminine products are expected to reach a revenue of $42.7 billion dollars globally between the years of 2016-2022. Additionally, North America is the largest consumer of panty liners, sprays, and internal cleansers (www.prnewswire.com). So why is there such an emphasis on feminine genital care? Well, it seems that since antiquity and throughout the Renaissance period, female genital organs were defined as “lesser” than male organs due to size, complexion, and orientation. During the fourth century B.C., Aristotle stated “man contributed the form of humanity through his semen, while woman contributed only brute matter -- a substance less pure and less sanctified than semen itself (www.web.stanford.edu)." So it appears that women and her genitalia have been insignificant and judged for quite some time.
Now as we fast forward to present day, there appear to be several conversations that address female genital odor and appearance. As young girls are educated on proper hygiene during their menstrual cycles, many of them are also taught that their vaginas should smell “fresh” and “like flowers.” However, the truth is that women have unique pH levels and hormones that cause her vagina to have a distinct aroma. Although the pH changes throughout the month, women are taught that their scent should remain pleasant and appetizing to their partner. However, if a woman notices a significant change in her vaginal scent she should consult a physician to determine if medical attention is warranted. Nonetheless, the assumption that she is to always smell like a meadow of wild flowers is obscene.
In addition to hundreds of products that claim to make a woman feel “fresh,” women are also expected to have pretty vaginas. Services such as vaginoplasty, vaginal peels (often combined with bleaching cream), vaginal lasers, vajacals, vaginal steaming, waxing, and vajazzling proclaim to improve the appearance of vaginas. These services can be both painful and very expensive. Some services can cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Some companies also lure consumers by preying on their confidence with promises of making women “feel confident in their bathing suits and in the bedroom.”
Although some products and services such as “manscaping” are focused on the care of men's genitalia, they are difficult to find and considered taboo. Though these products claim to make men feel cool, refreshed, and odor free, they are not easily accessible. In contrast, feminine hygiene washes, sprays, and wipes are found in every grocery and department store. Women are constantly scrutinized for their genital scent and appearance, while their male counterparts are given a “take it or leave it” pass. Other than manscaping, services to improve the appearance of penises do not exist.
Despite the pressure to have a floral scent or have a “perfect” vagina, some women refuse to give in to the pressure. A survey from Vice magazine reported that almost all of the 60 women that they survey stated they were “wild about their vaginas.” Maria, a 27-year-old from London shared, “Nowadays I’m far more outwardly celebratory about having one, and I think that ties in with being more shouty and positive about being a woman (www.vice.com)." It is imperative that women are able to live in a world where they can be free to love their bodies in entirety. Overall, men are not subjected to the same societal pressures to present a “perfect” body nor aroma. For centuries women have been made to feel a sense of shame for their bodies and its natural processes, however the time has come for women to find comfort and acceptance for the beautiful masterpieces that we all are!

Written by LaToya Hampton


Heisey, M. (2014, Aug. 27). We Talked to Women About Their Vaginas. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/exmme7/we-talked-to-women-about-their-vaginas-827

Skin Care for Your vagina: Why We Do It and Why Women Love It. Retrieved from http://womenswellnessinstitute.com/blog/skin-care-vagina-women-love/

World Feminine Hygiene Products Market is Expected to Reach $42.7 Billion by 2022. (2016, Apr. 13). Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/world-feminine-hygiene-products-market-is-expected-to-reach-427-billion-by-2022-575532151.html

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