By Gurleen Nagpal:
Ancient India has always been celebrated for its openness, modernity and inclusive attitude; but in one aspect, it has remained rigid: the need for women to be virgins. Chastity had little to do with waiting for the right man or exploring one’s sexuality and everything to do with preserving racial purity, for only virgins could hope to attain the aspired status of wife. Considered to be a spiritual obligation, Hindu wedding ceremonies even today centre round the Kanyadaan, which literally translates as the gift of a virgin. Today, many young Indians are sexually active before marriage and owing to the sexual discrimination, males are condoned but females bear the brunt of losing their virginity before marriage.
As an individual, it is a woman’s right to have sexual relations whenever she wishes to but in a country like ours, virginity is still prized and with products like “18 Again” coming up we don’t hope to see any transition in the sensibilities of people. What needs to be changed here is the mentality that ostracizes the so called “unchaste” women instead of getting in vagina tightening creams that would reinstate the widely held view in India that pre-marital sex is something to be ashamed of, a taboo which is even seen as sinful by some.
“It’s a unique and revolutionary product which also works towards building inner confidence in a woman and boosting her self-esteem,” says Ultratech’s owner Mr Rishi Bhatia, adding that the goal of the product is to “empower women”. The cream is not “empowering” women in anyway but is perpetuating the patriarchal notion that men want all women to be virgins until their wedding night. Even today the most popular question of a man seeking a bride is “How do I find out if she is a virgin or not?” owing to their invincible desire of marrying a virgin woman. Giving in to the demands of her groom, the most common question of a to-be bride who is not a virgin is “what would help me hide the fact that I am not a virgin?” In our society where children are brought up being told that “sex is a vulgar thing”, it’s taboo to have sex before marriage. The stigma attached to it makes women give in to these products because they believe it would save them from being condemned and ostracized at the hands of the society.
Abiding by these patriarchal norms is not in any way liberating the women but further worsening their condition by strengthening the patriarchy all the more. These kinds of products are all about giving men control over how a woman should behave or look. “Men have so many products they can buy to enhance their sexual pleasure, this is just putting sexual enhancement in the hands of women” says Mr Bhatia. But only if it was to increase the pleasure, the product would not attract so many customers in India because here, contrary to the States where such creams are known to exist since years, it is more about covering up than about being unabashedly open about it. Women are subsumed and indoctrinated by patriarchy and are conditioned in a way that shall keep them subjugated. Such products come along with a social understanding that women must constantly live up to the high standards of femininity and beauty. Women have been objectified and such products would take the objectification to another level altogether, subjugating rather than empowering and uplifting the status of women.