This Week in Sex is a regular summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.
Gwyneth’s Goop Fined for Promoting Stone Eggs as Down-There Panacea
Goop, the lifestyle website run by the much hated Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, learned an expensive lesson about why facts matter.
Goop was recently fined $145,000 in civil penalties for making unsubstantiated marketing claims.
Consumer watchdog Truth in Advertising said it found more 50 false or misleading claims on the Goop website that promises we can all be as calm, centered, and cleansed as its founder (even if we don’t have her fortune or household staff). That caught the attention of a task force of California district attorneys. The prosecutors investigated claims made about three products—a “flower essence” blend that said it prevented depression and two stone eggs that promised vaginal health.
We here at This Week in Sex are not surprised that at least one of the products being contested has to do with vaginas. Goop is a little obsessed with our nether regions, and Paltrow herself claimed to steam hers over warm bath made of mugwort, an ancient plant often believed to have healing properties. Goop’s wellness page sells lube, tampons, condoms, a variety of vibrators, at least two pelvic floor trainers, and a $673 pleasure puff ring that it describes as “a delicate feather tickler that turns into a cocktail ring outside of the bedroom.” Oh, and who can forget the gold vibrator with the $15,000 price tag?
The vag products in question, however, are stone eggs—one made of jade and the other of quartz—which Goop told shoppers to stick in their vaginas at home or on the go. The website once said that the $66 eggs would “balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles, prevent uterine prolapse, and increase bladder control.” Of course, there is no science to back up any of these claims. In fact, gynecologists warned that extended use of such eggs could cause issues with pelvic muscles or even lead to toxic shock syndrome.
It’s possible that Goop’s copywriters didn’t realize there’s a difference between promising your $27 psychic vampire repellent will “shield you from negative energy and safeguard your aura” (we’re not making this up) and making actual medical claims.
But the district attorneys were pretty clear on the line between creative writing and fact. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen summed it up, saying “we will vigilantly protect consumers against companies that promise health benefits without the support of good science … or any science.”
It seems doubtful, however, that this fine will fundamentally change Goop’s policies or products. The website is still selling the eggs with just a tweak to the product description and a warning to follow instructions.
For her part, Goop’s Erica Moore seemed unfazed by the fine or the negative publicity. In a statement to the media, she said: “Goop provides a forum for practitioners to present their views and experiences with various products like the jade egg. The law, though, sometimes views statements like this as advertising claims, which are subject to various legal requirements. The Task Force assisted us in applying those laws to the content we published, and we appreciate their guidance in this matter as we move from a pioneer in this space to an established wellness authority.”
It’s not the first time that Goop’s loose relationship with the facts has made headlines. A New York Times Magazine profile on Gwyneth and her brand explained that a recent partnership with Condé Nast ended when the magazine publishing giant insisted on fact-checking all claims. The article follows Gwyneth to a business class at Harvard where she explains that controversies were good for driving site traffic and sales. And she noted that “it’s a cultural firestorm when it’s about a woman’s vagina.”
Our bet is that Gwyneth will be back with something that we can dab on or shove into our vaginas before Santa leaves the North Pole this year. After all, you only have to sell 9 ½ gold-plated vibrators to cover most of the $145,000 fine.
FDA Issues Warnings About Vaginal ‘Rejuvenation’
Follow celebrities, and you might get the impression that everyone over 40 is having (or should have) their vagina rejuvenated. On her talk show, Jada Pinkett Smith told her mother that the three sessions she had made her “yoni … like a 16-year-old” and look like a “little beautiful peach” on the outside. And at least three “Real Housewives” have had the procedure, one on camera. But this summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that these procedures are untested and potentially dangerous.
Vaginal rejuvenation uses lasers and other energy-based devices to reshape the vagina. The manufacturers of these devices and the doctors that perform the procedures claim that they can cure some legitimate medical issues like incontinence and vaginal dryness caused by menopause. But they also make claims about improving sexual performance by “tightening” the vagina.
The first provider that came up in our Google search for the service in New Jersey is a board-certified gynecologic surgeon who explains that even years after giving birth a woman may notice changes to her body. “These can include a lesser tightened vagina, flabby loose labia, and reduced sensation or pleasure during intimacy.” But he continues that “through tightening, toning, and various other alterations, vaginal rejuvenation can correct many of these issues a woman in North Jersey may have.”
The FDA would like women in Northern New Jersey and elsewhere to be wary of these claims and manufacturers to stop making them. In July and August, the agency sent letters to seven device manufacturers noting that the agency was concerned with potentially deceptive marketing of unproven treatments.
At the same time, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a public statement that reads in part: “We’ve recently become aware of a growing number of manufacturers marketing ‘vaginal rejuvenation’ devices to women and claiming these procedures will treat conditions and symptoms related to menopause, urinary incontinence or sexual function. The procedures use lasers and other energy-based devices to destroy or reshape vaginal tissue. These products have serious risks and don’t have adequate evidence to support their use for these purposes. We are deeply concerned women are being harmed.”
Some providers, however, think the agency may have gone too far and ultimately confused women by lumping all vaginal laser treatments together. Dr. Hope Ricciotti, editor in chief of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, explained in a blog post that vaginal rejuvenation is an elective, cosmetic procedure without a clear medically defined purpose but that there are legitimate reasons to use laser treatment on vaginas.
She wrote, “I have concerns that the FDA, in an overabundance of caution, may limit availability of innovative therapies, which when used correctly may benefit women’s reproductive health.” But while she noted that laser treatment shows some promise as treatment for some conditions, she also said there is relatively little data on the topic.
The truth is that most vaginas don’t need rejuvenating—just like they don’t need to be douched, sprayed with special perfume that makes them smell like a field of wild strawberries, or vajazzled. They are fine just the way they are.
That said, if yours feels uncomfortably dry, is painful during or after sex, or has trouble holding in your urine, you should consult a gynecologist who is not trying to sell you any services.
Yoni Beer Debuts in Poland—and We’re A-OK With Not Trying It
We all know that beer needs a fermentable. But Warsaw beermaker the Order of Yoni is putting a new spin on this concept by using vaginal lactic acid in its brew. Not just any vaginal lactic acid, mind you—but the vaginal lactic acid of “hot underwear models.”
Yes, the brewery says it took vaginal smears from models Paulina and Monika (featured heavily on its site, mouthing beer bottles) and isolated the acid in a lab so as to prevent “potentially unsavory elements” from making it into the brew, which launched in July.
The manufacturers of the beer certainly have lofty (if not vaguely pornographic) ambitions for the drink: “Imagine the woman of your dreams, your object of desire. Her charm, her sensuality, her passion. Now you can try how she tastes, feel her smell, hear her voice. Now imagine her giving you a passionate massage and gently whispering anything you’d like to hear. Now free your fantasies and imagine all of that can be encompassed in a bottle of beer.”
Those who have tried it, however, are less impressed. Grzegorz Majewski, one of the first customers to sample the brew, was meh on the whole thing: “People will try it out of curiosity, but I don’t think it will be a regular addition on the table for beer lovers.”
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