Body-shaming douche ad, 1932

This 1932 douche ad does some Astaire-grade hoofing around the idea that "your vagina smells bad and you should be ashamed of it," dancing right up to the phrase without ever uttering it. It's a perfect satanic miracle of gendered body-shaming.



    1. This is actually one of the reasons these ads disturb me. I can’t help but think of all of the women who quietly suffered cervical cancers, infections, and illness with shame and degradation, making things worse for themselves by putting god knows what inside of their vagina.

  1. I thought it was well known that these ads were nudge-nudge wink-wink ads for contraceptives, in a time when contraceptives were illegal, but couples were desperate to avoid the expense of another child that they couldn’t possibly afford.

    The worst part is that the products didn’t even work: they were lying to their customers but could get away with it because no one could call them out on the lies…

    1. Eh… people from this generation are still alive. From my family this isn’t so much the case. I think it’s probably just hard to imagine, kind of like segregation.  Lots of witch doctor crap to try and keep from getting pregnant, including poisoning yourself which was more common from what my mom tells me (one of her friends did it and died).  Douche was also used as a cure for STDs, which also didn’t work. Basically, anything that was “wrong” down there no matter what it was they’d try douching with whatever. 

      I don’t think it’s easy to say anything was well understood in a climate of utter ignorance when it comes to women’s bodies.

  2. Every time I see one of these vintage douche ads I have to wonder how many women became convinced their men were avoiding sex due to stinky ladyparts when the real issue was that their husbands were gay.

    1. As a matter of fact, it does look like he is headed out to work on his “wide stance” at the Greyhound station.

      1. Options were few back then. I mean: bus stations, the Ramble, or figure out that frigging handkerchief code and hope that you were a) in the right “gentleman’s club” and b) not broadcasting to everyone In The Know that you enjoyed being hung upside-down and pissed on because you had the wrong color kerchief in the wrong pocket. I’d take the bus station over getting queer-bashed in Central Park or having a dreadful misunderstanding in some stranger’s apartment after a few drinks at the club.

  3. And I’m sure the gent abandoning the house due to lady-stank has never spent enough time in the garage tinkering with the Plymouth on a hot summer afternoon that his junk smelled like a baboon’s been nesting in his pants for two weeks. Time to rinse with SCROFRESH(tm) brand sack cleanser!

  4. Although I sometimes find historical sexism quaint and amusing, this is one of those times I want to kick the guy’s balls.

  5. Sound advice for this couple, which is also sound advice for every teenager: If you’re not comfortable talking about sex with somebody, maybe you’re not ready to be having sex with them. 

      1. The average birth rate for a Puritan woman in the new colonies was eight children–they took go forth and multiply very seriously and knocked buckled shoes every chance they got, because God told ’em too (see 1 Corinthians 7, for starters).


        1. Yeah, but if they’d waited until they were comfortable talking about sex they never would have got around to docking the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, as it were.

    1. I’ve had no problem talking sex with my intimates, but weeeelllll… I’m not sure how I’d bring this topic up with someone. Only happened with one person and I wasn’t seeing them long (for other reasons).

      More recently, it took my girlfriend months for her to tell me I had stinknose. I was mortified.

    1. All I can see when I look at that ad is


      That’s the only thing my eyes will focus on. I’m thinking about having it translated into Latin and put on my family crest.

  6. I’m having a problem figuring out just *what* ZONITE is supposed to be used for… she’s supposed to squirt it in her ears, right?

  7. From the 1980 Steve Martin “All Commercials” TV special, ad for “You-Know” feminine product (wish I could find a clip):

    “Ladies, there is now a product on the shelves that does away with that embarrassing… you know. It gives a girl confidence when her… you-know-what… needs a… you know. Whenever she sees the first tell-tale signs of… whatever… You Know. It’s easy to… you know. You just… you know. It comes in eight exciting flavors, and now it comes in three wonderful new scents, that smell like Pine, Evergreen, and new Natural, which smells like… you know. You Know comes in decorator boxes, so now you needn’t worry if your You Know is left out on the coffee table when you-know-who comes over for you-know-what. New You Know. The one product for everything that’s wrong with women.”

  8. “an odor so apparent to other people”

    If your hoo-ha is creating a cloud around you then you may be decomposing. 

    Maybe they were just referring to those embarrassing orgy moments?

    1. I have heard tell from my younger, brasher female acquaintances (no, not that kind of acquaintance) that they do, occasionally, detect…you know…from other women. I myself cannot.

      Probably because I’m a man who’s not locked in the basement of a psychiatric hospital.

  9. “I love you honey, but you really need to wash out that cooch. You know what I’m saying?”

    I don’t see why this has to be so hard.

  10. I did a quick google search. This product is still sold (who knew?). Apparently the problem persists.

  11. So “quiet night at home” is a euphemism for “have sex” and her cooch smells soooo bad that he put on a suit to go out and get away from it? Sheesh. Step one, open a damned window. Step two, talk to your wife.

  12. I don’t see much Astaire-grade hoofing. They use the words “douche” and “period”, both of which tend to be absent from such ads today.

  13. “For charm”. Priceless. I can put my penis in it, but Heaven forbid if I actually talked to her about that thing. That would be too personal.

  14. The two ideas I have to make the ad better:

    1) “How do I tell her that her feminine odor turned me gay?”

    2) Have a crowed of people seen through a window chanting, “Shame on you! Shame on you! The whole world is watching!”

  15. Apparently, some of you don’t know a Gynecologist or haven’t noticed the lack of hygiene in men and women.  A guy asked how great it was to see all those women in stirrups, all spread out.  The Gynecologist replied, “If you’d seen what I have, you’d swear off it.”

    Then there was the story of the dead frog.  Seriously.  On the other side of the coin, there was the ER story of the man and the 60 Watt light bulb.  Again, seriously.

    1.  You should tell everyone who that gyno is so we can make sure he stops having work to do, eh?  If it’s not just a stupid misogynist joke, which it is.

      1. Oh lighten up a bit, how’s that any different from a podiatrist telling anonymous non specific horror stories about poorly considered toe-nail hygiene?

        1. How’s it different?  Let me think…

          Okay, here are a few ways.  Toenails aren’t a private part of the body.  The ownership of toenails doesn’t distinguish one group of people from another.  People with toenails have not been systematically discriminated against, and their toenails are not cited as a reason for discrimination. 

          But most importantly in this case, to have your toenails examined, you don’t have to be incredibly vulnerable and have a very, very invasive procedure done.  If the doctor examining your toenails is an asshole you might feel a little bit bad.  If the doctor examining your vagina is an asshole, it can be a source of trauma akin to rape.

          So I’m not going to lighten up, because I think if someone doesn’t have basic respect for the people he examines he shouldn’t get access to them when they’re vulnerable.  And there is nothing gross about vaginas.

          1. You forgot to mention the line we were all supposed to take as normal about seeing all those women spread out like that. Even going to the doctor is apparently a sex act for women. You know, because that’s what I was thinking when I got my biopsy: I hope this gives him a boner!

  16. In 1932, Americans bathed once a week, whether they needed it or not.  And probably in a tub, not a shower.

    Thank God for the modern shower wand that lets us get all up in there.

  17. I don’t imagine that Zonite was terribly good for maintaining the natural pH balance of a vagina, probably causing more problems than it solved. But that’s good because then you need more Zonite. Isn’t this ad the essence of what advertising is all about – creating a problem where none exists, making someone feel insecure or afraid in order to sell a bogus or useless product.

    1. What’s the big deal? Lysol, before you get your 101 flavors and being marketed for use on hard surfaces, was an antiseptic that was also used on the skin. I imagine with the proper dilution that it wasn’t any worse than any other douche (though now, as I understand, most Drs. recommend against them).

      1.  By “most” you mean “all,” right?  Douching is almost always a bad idea.  A weak vinegar solution can be okay, particularly if vaginal pH is too high.  Most other things are bad, and a high-pressure douche can (depending on the time of the month) force fluid through the cervix.  The resulting infections can be deadly.  Literally deadly.

        The vagina is a self-cleaning organ.  Rinse with water on the outside, let it be on the inside.  Anything that kills bacteria in the vagina or vulva is *going* to cause a yeast infection, because the friendly lactobacilli are what keeps candida in check – and before you get grossed out by that, it happens all over your body, not just in women’s crotches. 

        Sometimes I just really wish men had any body part as awesome and vulnerable as a vagina, so I could convince them to quit acting like they know what’s best for those of us who do.  The vaginal environment is a delicately balanced mix of flora.  The vagina itself is strong, elastic, really kind of amazing.  When all is well – a woman is healthy – she’ll have her very own unique odor and flavor.  Sometimes when two women pair up they end up sharing vaginal flora, eventually smelling and tasting alike.  That’s fun. :)

        If people don’t like the way healthy vaginas smell, they should consider not having sex with women.  And a very strong or unpleasant odor probably means she has bacterial vaginosis.  Which can be caused by using “feminine hygeine” products.

        ANY desire to “sanitize” a part of the body that isn’t actually dirty is just gendered body-shaming, as the post mentions.

        1. Thank you so much for your excellent post. Massengill commercials, a culture simultaneously fascinated and fearful of sex, and ignorance have convinced many women and men that a healthy vagina should smell of peach melba or sacher torte. Yet they have no idea of the danger or consequences of douching, even periodically.

          Chocha is supposed to smell like chocha, not chocolate cream pie.

  18. If poor Bill can smell it from across the room, I can’t blame him for grabbing his hat and heading for the door.

  19. ‘Satanic Miracle’ is a bit bastardly, BB.

    LaVeyan Satanists encourage women to ignore these kinds of products in favour of their natural scent, which is much more alluring.

  20. Martha Stewart suggests a sprig of rosemary, tastefully woven into the pubic hairs, to draw attention from the offensive odour.

  21. That reminds me of a comedian I saw at the Comedy Cellar last month: So I get into an elevator and I turn to this woman and ask, “Can I smell your vagina?” She replies, “you most certainly cannot!” So that’s when I say, “I guess it must be your feet.”

  22. I was trying to wrap my mind around what it would be like to be one of these writers of such evil untrue shaming.  Then I remembered there is a word for them: douchebags.

  23. And not one comment on the “sensitive young wife”? 
    Women are too fragile even to discuss their own problems with?
     Better to run out the door than risk a chance of her getting the vapors if you (gasp) mention personal hygiene to her.

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