September 18, 2008

Douching is Bad, Sex Toys are Good

Last week, some of us received PR materials for a “therapeutic vaginal cleansing system” (or douche) complete with a “just add tap water” headline. As we note in this piece on vaginal infections, routine douching isn’t recommended because it can upset the natural balance of your vagina. 4women.gov has additional information on why douching is a bad idea. Naturally, then, I approached this product, “WaterWorks,” skeptically.

The WaterWorks website is pretty much standard as far as selling products based on an idea that vaginas are somehow dirty. The site claims that “regular use of WaterWorks will safely and effectively reduce or eliminate vaginal odor,” and goes on to suggest that it may reduce the risk of infection, helping women to be “fresher” and “cleaner.” It also reinforces worries that vaginal odor is embarrassing and may affect women’s love, social and professional (?!) lives — along these lines, many of the testimonials report increased “confidence” with use of the product.

The company reports that the product is “FDA approved” and “clinically proven.” The device does have FDA approval, through the premarket notification system — this means that it was substantially similar to something already on the market and so the company is allowed to advertise and sell it. The description as “clinically proven” is apparently the result of one published study on the product — an open label, non-randomized case series, which means that there was no comparison group, and everybody knew what they were getting.

The study only included 10 patients who complained of strong vaginal odor, and they were instructed to use this tap water douche daily. At the end of the study (four weeks of using the product), there was no difference in vaginal pH or the level of healthy bacteria. Vaginal odor was measured according to the patients’ perceptions — whether they thought odor was reduced — and half the subjects thought their odor problem completely went away after using the product, but there were no objective measures to report.

In short, it’s a very small study with a fairly weak design, and yet is touted by the product website as having “astounding” results, with a pitch designed to play on women’s insecurities about their bodies.

What is it, though, really? WaterWorks is a stainless steel hose and nozzle that you hook up to your shower so you can squirt water into your vagina, and it looks like a dildo. No, really. When I did some online searching for this or similar products, I found that the majority of the hits were for online sex toy shops.

Perhaps, then, it’s approval as a “therapeutic” device through the FDA might allow this item to sneak past laws such as the one in Alabama, which forbids the sale of sex toys unless they have a “medical” purpose. It strikes me as rather along the lines of the “massagers” sold in department stores, and while the marketing is troublesome, the other possibilities of this device and others like it may be something else altogether!

The blogger at Body Impolitic also has a hilarious take on this product — check it out.


8 Responses to “Douching is Bad, Sex Toys are Good”

  1. Meaghan Edelstein Says:

    Just wanted to stop by and check out your blog, its great! Women’s health is a very important subject for me. I was 28 when I was diagnosed with 3b cervical cancer. Now I am 30 and a survivor! I never thought this could happen to me. Annual doctors appointments, normal PAPs every time, law school student-NO WAY I COULD DIE OF CANCER! I was wrong and now I am trying to raise awareness so that other women understand that cervical cancer is scary and it can happen to them. If you could help me raise awareness I would be so grateful. Please check out my blog. There are all sorts of posts including informational, personal and other women’s stories. The last couple posts are not so great cause I just had surgery and haven’t been able to see very well but I hope you get a chance to check out the good ones! Lets do for cervical cancer what women have done for breast cancer!

    Thanks so much

    Meaghan
    http://www.cancerlost.blogspot.com

  2. Lara Says:

    Yet another industry preying on female insecurities..

  3. Allison Says:

    Sex toys are considered ‘novelty’ items. Sex toy materials and chemicals are not regulated for health related risks because they are technically not intended for actual use. Many of the sex toys on the market are made from dangerous chemicals and materials that are hazardous to your health and the environment.

    http://www.karmasm.com is a good place to get healthy green sex toys.

    All phthalates and PVC free sex toys. Vegan lube, gels and more.

    somewhat relevant i thought. in case woman (and men) want to have a healthy sex toy option.

  4. Ebony Says:

    Tried it, loved it! it works! It took away odor and irritation! I wont go a day without it! water can’t be bad for your body! I recommend it to anybody who loves feelin fresh n clean!

  5. Nicole Says:

    To anyone who may not know the validity of Water Works, shouldn’t may such statements until knowing all the facts. I researched this company before buying MY Water Works and know that they held clinical studies in 4 USA States and had double blinded study. Meaning women did not know what they would get! Water Works or Over the counter douche. HMMM now isn’t that interesting!! I thought so and checked further. They have been in business over 10 years which 6 of those years where for per studies and then finial study for FDA. Bottom line is I have one and now I refresh after that time of the month and after my hubby and I have love. And well just any time I feel I need to!! I love it! Works for me and no chemicals! I just love that idea. Plain water… Water goes in the vagina if you take a bath and you sit in all that. But this runs up and right out Love it love it love IT!

  6. Ashley Says:

    I have a medical background (GP) and regular douching is typically not considered a healthy option. If a woman has a notable vaginal odor that persists and is not associated with menses then she would be wise to rule out bacterial vaginosis or gardnerella (associated with a fishy smell-there is a test your dr can run that is quick and inexpensive). Rinsing yourself out with water is not the answer. If people are really finding other uses for this dildo like apparatus good for them but from a health perspective advertising this as an appropriate treatment for a notable and recurrent vaginal odor does not seem like responsible advertising.

  7. Mia Says:

    I agree that women are manipulated, basically, into buying this item, out of their insecurities. The FDA is not even a credible source anymore… the government doesn’t care about us anymore.. the FDA approves vaccines and look how many diseased people and autistic children come out of them. Your body is designed to cleanse the bacteria out.. if it’s got odor, then change your diet. People who have simply stopped eating meat noticed a change. Putting water inside you is not bad? Well, no, not if you have a water purifying system in your home, and that will run you around $3,000! Who the hell would put fluoride up there?!? You all know your water is infected with fluoride. I am not a doctor but I have doctors in my family. Save your money.

  8. Janie Hayes Says:

    If you spend time with your battery-operated-boyfriend only when your real guy isn’t around, you’re both missing out: Forty-one percent of women and men have used a vibrator during foreplay, according to researchers from Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, and up to 37 percent of women and men have used one during intercourse. Thanks for sharing.

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