Sunday, November 23, 2014

Start Up Sets to Make Your Vagina Smell Like Peaches: A Feminism Issue & Then Some

There's too much brandishing around about how feminism is obsolete (apparently by women -and men- reaping the benefits of a good 3 decades of women's rights advocates fighting the cause) but some piece of news crops up and makes you rethink things. Yes, if you haven't guessed by this introduction, I'm irate. A start up is asking for funding on Tilt (their Kickstarter campaign was denied because the fund raising platform doesn't accept biotechnology projects) to market their product "Sweet Peach" which is a probiotic meant to change your vagina's natural smell into that of a ripe...peach.

A probiotic making your lady parts smelling of peach like a Bath & Body Works shower gel. OK, get me the barf bag now!

Gustave Courbet, L'Origine du Monde (1866) at Musee d'Orsay 

The project is undertaken by scientists Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome, of the biotech startups Cambrian Genomics and Personalised Probiotics respectively. Sweet Peach will use Genomic's DNA printing technology into manipulating the odor made by micro-organisms that live in the vagina of a woman. They state the practical benefit of avoiding yeast infections but they also state this controversial claim: "The idea is personal empowerment" as "all your smells are not human. They're produced by the creatures that live on you. We think it's a fundamental human right to not only know your code of the things that live on you but also to write your own code and personalize it." And they continue by stating that "The pleasant scent is there to connect you to yourself in a better way" (but it also serves as a sort of function indicator). 
Which makes me so very surprised to see that they're also partnering on Petomics, a probiotic for dogs and cats that would make their feces smell like....bananas! 

Right, because pet's feces's odor and the odor of a healthy woman's vagina are on the same plane of values. 

The fact that the two scientists are male did raise a feminist antenna or two. Why not focus on something more universal, dudes? Like feces? Everyone poops, after all. The explanation was that the gut micro-biome is more complex, whereas the vaginal one is stabler, being upset via the period's "interference" only once a month (Hmm, hey guys, I have news for you!). 

But apparently the story is even more fucked up!  

The founder of the company, a 20 year old woman (and a "ultrafeminist" as per own her claim), Audrey Hutchinson, says that the vision of the product was totally different: aiding women to manage their reproductive health without the need of doctors or clinics (or even help the microflora fight HIV, as one company envisions this whole new frontier!). The male dudes, Heinz and Gome, collaborate on Petomics, while Heinz is only a 10% share holder in the Sweet peach project, which he unveiled in a public forum at the San Jose DEMO conference without quoting Hutchinson and even without notifying her beforehand!

But the thing isn't whether the dudes made a publicity blunder and a PR screwup which had the Internet up in arms about  it. They unquestionably have. 

But Gome has been put into record talking about hacking the micro-biome to "make her vagina smell like roses and taste like Diet cola". And Heinz had also explained his general logic by saying "We think on an airplane you're breathing 90 percent farts, right? So it'd be good if they were good-smelling." Talk about "la negation de la mort par le fast food". 

The thing is that there still are straight men out there who believe a healthy, average woman's vagina smells bad. Makes one nostalgic about the 1970s when American Cosmopolitan advised its sexually uninhibited readers to put a drop of vaginal juice behind their ears to attract a mate...

And there's this small little detail too: Nazi-odor-selection. Peach...bananas...coke. Who decided only fruity or edible scents are good smelling?

Long time readers remember our articles on Perfume Shrine which focused on how the industry shaped the market by hitting them on the head with fruity scents for at least a decade, mainly through the abomination of Bath & Body Works synth flavors incorporated into body products such as deodorants, shower gels, body lotions etc. 

If perfumery has long tried to emulated the odor di femina, with all its loaded innuendo perpetuated in literature, the arts and philosophy, such as in Shocking perfume by Elsa Schiaparelli or Ambre Sultan (Lutens) technology is reversing the tables by subtracting it and adding something totally inhuman. I'd say, get these start-ups some odor specialist and call it a day. 


  1. Anonymous18:48

    OMG. Words fail me.

    Greetings from Vienna

  2. I am not a fan of the odour of unwashed people of either sex (DEODORANT ≠ SOAP AND WATER), and I am a big fan of the art of perfumery, but the notion that a normal, healthy, clean woman somehow smells bad because she is female, and that therefore she must alter her bodily chemistry to eradicate that normal smell, is monstrous.

    But there's money to be had, and ethical behaviour and good taste never stand in the way of that.

  3. Once I get over being pissed off about the implications, the thing that amuses me is that perfumers frequently use compounds that mimic vaginal odor.

  4. Anonymous21:02

    I fail to see what the big fuss is about. Who are you to tell a woman what she can or can't do with her vagina? Or to tell her she's wrong? If she wants to trim it, shave it, make it smell or look a certain way then more power to her. Is a woman wrong for wearing deodorant to cover up body odor? Is she wrong for wearing face concealer to hide blemishes? There's nothing "nazi" about it.

  5. Terribly sad really. I was recently reading an entry I guess it was in fragantica, I dont remember, and they were talking about a perfume that smells like a women's vagina: most men were surprised, entertained, and wanting to have some of that for themselves, while others were happy and proud of never ever having even been in the same room with a vagina (another story, of course). So, for whom is really this peachy thing? who is it addressing? Whose desires, really? Human smell, sex smell are all part of sexual desire and are inherently part of proximity, intimacy, and arousal. I do believe that feminism still has much to do not only for women, of course, so I won't even venture there, and I love peaches, but I want my vagina to be left alone. a lot of water, a daily shower, and other personal grooming are all I need.
    Nazi odor selection is hilarious, by the way, and true, oh so true.
    Thanks for this article.

  6. Since they are at it, could they also produce a vanilla smell? And strawberries and cream? Pretty please??!! ROTFLMAO!

  7. Bloody hell !
    We have people right now that complain about someone wearing perfume in the office and that perfume is sprayed on the neck etc.
    I can see the anti- perfumer people screaming -
    " OK ... my allergies are acting up !! WHO HAS CRAPPY PEACH PERFUME ON THEIR LADY BITS??? "

  8. um, no. just NO. no fucking way. not bleaching, not having surgeries, not mimicking porn actresses, not doing scent-altering probiotics. they can sod off. if i want to smell like something, i will choose a congenial perfume or oil and go about my business as usual. i'm aware of the historical precedent in harems, and don't care to participate in this...

  9. Why aren't they busy coming up with peach scented things for assholes?

  10. Miss Heliotrope05:36

    I've found a market for scientifically trying to produce brains for those who were born without one...

    In the meantime, easy way to distinguish between men (or indeed women) with whom one interacts, or whom one can just run down (blame it on unreconstrucked hormones).

  11. I can't add much more to the aforesaid comments except that I am stunned and yet not completely surprised at the comments on this so-called fragrance. It's just another money-making ploy and of course women are the target. No one has any control over being born a "natural" male or female but we all have control over being an "ass hole"--pardon my "American".

  12. C,

    this is a very valid preference and one for which one can't blame you. Cleanness is a good thing. But beyond that? As you say...

    One thing that is crucial is that the whole message of the company was twisted thanks to the asinine messages of the two guys: the woman introducing the concept was not aiming for changing the odor but of controlling the micro-biome for better health, with the odor acting as a control signal (they could have picked a normal "vajay" odor, I suppose, though, no?)

    But yes, ethically, there is a sort of exploitation going on, since they're promoting it like that.

  13. Laurie,

    indeed! But one never says so. Or not beyond our very own microcosm, at least. (And to be honest, this is no longer existent in mainstream perfumery, only in niche/ultra-modern and vintage)

  14. Anon,

    I believe everyone knows who I am. I write under my own name.
    The thing is: who are you? :-)

    PS.You misunderstood my Nazi implication: it's about the odor choice itself, which is very particular, fishing out of a minuscule pool.

  15. WFTG,

    thank you, glad you enjoyed!

    That's very interesting what you say there, because through discussion and various views something interesting always transpires. I suppose the idea of a thing is more terrible than the thing itself, so that might explain the thread on Fragrantica? I should check it out probably.

  16. Alex,

    ha ha ha, indeed....

    It's funny how they're thinking that some edible smells are panacea.

  17. M,

    perfect point!!!

    I imagine women sneaking into the toilets to try and imbue the little prebiotics pills in secret, so they can't be blamed, and covering up with "soapy" perfume!!!
    "Me, I'm only using soap and water?"

  18. NFS,

    it's a bit funny since you bring in the harems (in which the habit was meant to give pleasure to the men using the women of the harems) that these 2 men are probably actually repelled by the natural vaginal odor to want to emphasize the odor facet of the product instead of its regulating the micro-biome, which was the initial aim. Isn't it terribly interesting and ridiculous at the same time???
    I bet Heinz and Gome won't get too many lays that way.

  19. Liz,

    most perfect comment EVAH!!!!!!
    Thank you :-D :-D :-D

  20. MH,

    indeed, perfect. Comes with its own little advantages (NOT!)

  21. Phyllis,

    your American is perfectly fine and indeed totally applicable to this instance!

  22. Eva H.08:40

    I have never read you swearing...and I love it!
    I completely agree. What a fucked up idea.
    I hope the crowdfunding tanks and can be re-started with the original idea...

    Dear Anon: it´s always great to share your POV anonimously. Takes real cojones!
    The problem here is the implication that the vagina is inherently bad-smelling...and that the natural odour has to be covered up (just look at the amounts of (harmful) deodorant you can buy for that part of the female far as I know there isn´t any crotch spray to make our male counterparts smell different) or changed from the get-go.
    Eeh, thanks. I´ll pass. I certainly don´t want my vagina to smell like roses, peaches or - ick - diet coke.
    Oh and regarding the "Nazi" comment: which culture do you think the scents mentioned agree with most likely?

  23. I'm all for people doing whatever they want to do with their bodies. I may not like it but it's not my body. But I hate the argumentation.

    "To better connect with myself" if I smell of peaches? Like... wtf? I'm not worthy because my body does the bodily functions? What's next, colouring one's blood pink because it's more feminine and what if someone saw me with a paper cut oozing this agressively red liquid?

    The other thing that annoys me: if my ladybits (or any other bits, for that matter) start smelling funny, it's doctor time. Trying to fuck up the microbiome on one's skin, mucosa or any other surface sounds terribly risky. The medical science knows a bit about this and admits that there's much more to find out yet and holding hopes that some probiotics, food for probiotics and whatnot will solve all the troubles because there may be connection between microflora and immune system (or something else) is quite far-fetched. The last time someone around messed up their microbiome ended up in a nasty Clostridium difficile infection with diarrhoea and then antibiotics at $1800/day and an exciting stay at ICU. Just sayin'.

  24. Anonymous13:22

    Great article Elena.

    I'm just wondering how I'd feel if a man I'd just met told me he liked to neutralise his crotch odour with mint-scented deodorant. He'd not get anywhere near my vagina with that attitude.
    That level of squeamishness about one's body is not only extremely unsexy it's also just plain stupid!

    I agree this is a bad idea health-wise too. In a similar way to antibiotics, which kill off all bacteria but destroy the healthy bacteria that our system needs.

    By the way, since we're all happily discussing nether regions here. I can reveal the ultimate cure for candida albicans (thrush): Cut out all sugar including natural forms (fructose, lactose, dextrose - fruit, milk and wheat products). Thrush thrives on sugar so if you have no sugar for two weeks, not only do you look incredibly healthy, you also destroy candida albicans without destroying healthy bacteria.

  25. Anonymous17:43

    You've heard about the vagina bleach they came up with and that is advertised on TV in India right? So now your vagina can be perfectly pink and peachy smelling. Also, get some liposuction done on your labia if they're looking a little flabby okay?

  26. Deep sigh (insert very loud deep sigh..) It is just such a shame that vagina's don't have teeth.... to chew Juicy Fruit Gum of course... what were YOU thinking!

  27. Whoops. Sorry about the possessive vagina!

  28. Pipette02:50

    Once in a blue moon you can use something like this:

    otherwise - leave well enough alone.

    I mean "well enough" because nature has designed the body wholesome and functional.

    They just want to make money.

  29. New technology, but no new function. Barbara Herman, in her book Scent and subversion, comments on two 1970s ads:
    (raspberry. champagne as well...)
    (one should start worrying at about 8:22 am)

  30. Funny thing is- I will feel quite disconnected from 'myself' and a bit alien if I were to go hoppin' around with my girl smellin' like a georgia peach! I hope I never have the ill fortune of meeting the monsters that proposed this horror.

  31. Oh! LOVE the painting, by the way.

  32. Just so much wrong with those damn broholes!

    What kills me though is that they actually think someone wants their vagina to taste like diet coke! I mean I am completely offended on so many other levels and pissed for the actual scientist, who happens to be woman, who appears to actually trying to create something that is good for women. But WTF planet are you coming from when you consider diet coke to be a good flavor that should be replicated?! I mean it just showcases what a bunch infantile group of "men" these guys are.

    I have a feeling their sexual partners are made of plastic and doused in peach schnapps.

  33. Eva,

    it's not something I indulge to that often, but oh when I do....!!!! Thanks for the encouragement. I found the whole thing infuriating on multiple levels. (not least of all that the original idea is a solid one)

    Lady bits deos are there since forever (well, since advertising and marketing began) but I do think they aim at the uneducated and the easily manipulated. Surely anyone with a basic grasp of anatomy knows the vagina is a self-cleaning system.

  34. Liisa,

    obviously people are free to do whatever they want to with their bodies, they're their own.
    The implication however that a new "trend" will begin that aims at manipulating the purse strings is what gets to me most. The argumentation reeks (hehe) of exploitation and mental rape. (I may be using too strong words here, forgive me, I'm irate with this whole thing).

    Love your analogy with the pink blood!!!!!! ROTFLMAO!

    You're absolutely right in what you say about the medical community and the risks involved in messing up with something working as it should. The infectious or unbalanced states of one's system are another thing. We'll be holding out for more solid research and for less patronizing argumentation behind it.

    Hope everything turned out for the best and the clostridium is eradicated for good!! :-)

  35. Roses,

    ah....I don't know, I'm of your own school of thought. The fact that men shave down there (and their chests) sorta leaves me apprehensive too. This mania for a smooth view feels like a trend more than hugiene (or even heightened sensitivity, which one could argue for concerning one's genitals, but really, why don't they shave off their asses and perineum too then?)

    Candida is a bitch and cutting all sugary goods out more difficult than it sounds. (Darn sugars are in everything). But yes, your argument is totally correct! Need to remember it.

  36. Anon,

    I believe many things in India are advertised with an aim to "blanche" skin because it is considered a sign of being upper chaste. Far East countries are also analogous, so it doesn't have the racist implications that it has in the western world. It's more analogous with tanning vs. pale as a sign of economic affluence in the first half of the 20th century.
    The fact that they advertise that genitals bleach as peachy smelling is funny in a twisted way, especially in view of the fact that that bleach can be used anally too. ("Come on, make your peach peachier!")

    As to labia surgery, don't get me started. A big portal locally is relentlessly running "editorials" promoting it as something that "helps women" feel better about themselves, easier and more comfortable. Of course it's promoted by paid advertisers who are gynos doing the procedure! (a doc's name and link is always included) WTF??? How is this even passable in the laws of journalism?

    I will only leave you with one thought: One of their articles started by saying that 50% of women have some malformation to their labia. (!!!!???) I mean, Jesus, if it's 50% it means it's totally normal. Isn't that self evident? Apparently not to the young fools who do as they're told because they read it someplace.
    Luckily the economic crisis doesn't allow for these being performed en masse, so there's small consolation in that.

  37. Ann,

    vaginas dentatas are a great fantasy!

  38. Pipette,

    that was my thought as well. Money. It's also a shame they twisted the founder's idea that stemmed from something rather different.

    Every single doctor I have talked to recommends against vaginal douches. Only after a serious incident (a tampon forgotten and removed by the doctor) should anyone attempt it, exactly as you say. The natural flora is depleted and it shouldn't be.

  39. M,

    indeed older adverts do compound the "freshness" of a woman into their message. I had heard of a Listerine solution being introduced as a feminine hygiene method. There are also pantyliners with a tag line of "keeping odors away", but thankfully these do not do harm, so it can pass.
    The second add on Flickr is so laughable it should be framed.

  40. AllGirlMafia,

    that whole line about "feeling connected to yourself" is incomprehensible. If it doesn't bother most women (from what I read and hear), then it doesn't make you feel connected to yourself, it is something that makes you think that men will react to better and you're just sugar-coating it to make it sound like it's your decision. Correct?

    The painting is really saying it all. Hairy bits and all too!

  41. J,

    hahaha, yup, that too!
    In a Greek site where this was posted as well someone commented "are we going to perform cunnilingus or make a fruit salad?" ROTF!!!

    I'm pissed for the woman scientist too: it's unforgivable to twist one's concept, without credit, without consulting with them first, and make it sound idiotic when in fact it began as something else.

    The two guys sound like they are VERY noli me tangere. Possibly dreadful in the bag! LOL

  42. Elena, I just finished reading a scifi/fantasy book and the hero's blood turned purple after being infected by intravenous parasitic mushrooms. I'm simple like that. (Actually, I started translating the whole five-volume saga into English but I'm still around page 50-ish. Takes time and energy and I lack either.)

    The clostridium case ended up pretty well, it's an old story; the other point would be If you have a terribly terrible diarrhoea, don't try to wait it out for a week or two. The friend thought that if yoghurt worked for just about any food-related problem, it should stop the runs, too (for those of twisted thoughts: yoghurt administered via the oral route, aka eaten. Yes, you with the dirty thoughts, I know about you) and when she caved and drove to the ER, after the basic tests, they told her that by driving in such a wretched state, she endangered everyone she met on the road. Crazy and stubborn. She says that this and love of yoghurt as an ultimate treatment for everything comes with the Bulgarian genes.

    But, back to the point. I really hate how the media would like to manipulate our bodies (and minds but that would be too much of a digression). Real people don't come photoshopped within inches of their lives. I've read a study that people are increasingly frustrated by the discrepancy between media portrayal of people and the reality; that they somehow expect that they should have a partner who looks like Halle Berry or Brad Pitt and all they find is the next door guy/girl who is just plain... but real. It is quite probable that the alternative reality of media that adds to the prevalence of eating disorders. The beauty ideal is so disconnected from real world that it's barely possible to achieve it even if a person did win in the genetic lottery.

    And then we're told to do what we really want, what our inner selves tell us. Phew. My inner self was replaced by depression and tells me that it wants a bottle of champagne and not getting up until at least 2016 unless it's loo time or more champagne. My eating disorder which sometimes subs for depression says that I should eat all the things and at the same time, that I shouldn't eat at all and if champagne, then brut because less sugar. Nothing in my head calls for the peach-flavoured genital deodorant but if there is someone who thinks it's the next best thing after sliced bread, let them have peachy groin, even if the advertising prompted them.

  43. Miss Heliotrope06:02

    I had sent this to a friend, who after some spluttering responded in kind: she lives in Iceland, where apparently it is difficult to buy sanitary pads without "odour blocking technology," which dear friend says amounts to chemical smells pretending to be a nuetral perfume.

    The bit that really gets her, is that (at work) she can smell these nasty chemicals that are meant to stop people knowing that you are a grown, healthy woman. She quite likes perfume, so doesnt bother when people wear that, but this is something new.

    Of course, she (has anyone?) never used to be able to smell when someone else had her period, but now they're blocking the smell she can...

    If noone can buy others (dont know how carefully she's studied shops) it's ridiculous. But anyway, whose idea was it to sell the idea that having your period is a nasty stinky business that you need chemical warefare to hide.

    I have always fantasied about sanitary ads when someone chucks a giant bucket of blood all over the white coated fool...


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