'This Smells Like My Vagina' - what Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop candle reveals about the world's conceptions of lady bits
There have been many unlikely scents that we've been offered in the form of candles in recent times, but none that could have prepared us for a vagina candle - celebrity v-jay-jay or otherwise.
In case you missed it on social media this past weekend, Gwyneth Paltrow's alternative wellness company Goop, launched a "This Smells Like My Vagina" candle at the price of $75 (approximately R1000), and it sold out within hours.
The contentious candle is described on Goop's website as one with a "funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected scent." Its notes include "geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with Damask rose and ambrette seed to put us in mind of fantasy, seduction, and a sophisticated warmth."
Look, the packaging is great. I might have even bought this candle if I stumbled upon it during a casual peruse through this wellness site. Not to mention, the olfactory journey you might experience when you light this candle seems pretty promising. Who doesn't love a bit of bergamot in the air?
Screenshot from Goop
Besides, this wouldn't be the first time candle companies sold off the wall scents to us - in 2019, KFC UK announced a limited edition KFC gravy scented candle that was up for grabs in a competition.
The Stinky Candle Co. also offers 'Body Odour', 'Money', 'Vomit' and 'Leather Jacket' candles. It is called the Stinky Candle company, after all, so these are hardly surprising.
But back to the vagina candle (now there's something I never thought I'd say). While this scented candle is a glow up from the decades-long stigmatisation of the natural odour of female genitalia, does this candle's success indicate another side of the coin? That people - subconsciously or otherwise - still think our lady bits should smell like sunshine, roses, pineapples, and... geranium?
Or are we overthinking it and when Gwyneth Paltrow stated that this was a joke that surprisingly ended up doing exceedingly well as a product, that's all there is to it? Mere short-lived capitalist internet hysteria.
The same capitalism that still creates feminine hygiene products despite multiple warnings from medical professionals about how harmful vaginal douching products can be. In a previous W24 article it was noted that "feminine hygiene products may use ingredients that are known or suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals, carcinogens or allergens."
The article also further warned that what this means is that your body becomes vulnerable to disturbances in the nervous and immune systems, abnormal growths, and your risk for breast cancer and fertility issues increases, citing a report that said “The vaginal ecosystem is more sensitive and absorbent than typical skin.”
Okay, but that's not what Goop's intentions were with their "This Smells Like My Vagina" candle. Rather, the above is reiterated here to highlight that ideas about vaginas smelling fruity and floral are not only rooted in sexist standards of hygiene, but they create scope for unhealthy hygiene habits as well.
Habits that could result in thrush, bacterial vaginosis (very difficult to treat and break the cycle), and depending on the toxicity, chemical burns on the vulva and vagina, according to Johannesburg-based general practitioner, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng.
Luckily, even would-be consumers of this candle have been potentially deterred from purchasing this candle should Goop decide to restock it, as Business Insider reports that critics said that "it doesn't smell anything like a real vagina."
So what's the deal with the people who did spend R1000 on a vagina candle? A genuine curiosity about an A-list actress' aroma? Or research into what the "ideal" scent of a vagina is? To each their own, we suppose.
Also, there's no universal scent for female genitalia, and if there were, it's highly unlikely that it would be Damask rose and her friends.
What are your thoughts on the candle? Would you have purchased one? Share your thoughts with us here.