Just last week, Inc.com originally introduced two startup founders who “previewed plans for a new probiotic supplement that will enable the way vaginas smell.” The product they announced is called Sweet Peach, and while it would also have practical benefits, like preventing yeast infections and other microorganism-based health issues, everyone seemed to focus on the more cosmetic side of the pitch: Making vaginas smell like ripe peaches.
The two guys, Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome — creators of the biotech startups Cambrian Genomics and Personalized Probiotics respectively — introduced Sweet Peach at the DEMO Conference in San Jose, California. But as soon as it hit the Internet, it was — perhaps expectedly — welcomed with a lot of criticism.
It probably didn’t help that these were two men presenting the product as its developers. It’s obviously not the greatest public relations move to have a couple of dudes trying to sell a product for women that suggests in any way that women’s parts shouldn’t smell like they do. It’s one of those delicate subjects that wouldn’t be a problem with any unisex product, but once you turn something into a gender issue, it’s bound to get a little ugly.
The irony of the whole thing? It turned out these guys weren’t the creators! Sweet Peach is a personalized probiotic created by a 20-year old woman named Audrey Hutchinson, whose intention when creating Sweet Peach has always been to help women manage yeast infections and UTIs. Hutchinson, a Biology student at Bard College and a self-described “ultrafeminist”, was not particularly pleased with the direction the press went with Sweet Peach and the feedback it originally received.
Heinz is actually a stakeholder, but only owns 10% of the company, and acknowledged he wasn’t even going to talk about Sweet Peach in that conference, but he added it to his presentation after he was told he had to fill 10 minutes on stage and his other presentation wasn’t long enough.
Of course, the name of the product is pretty suggestive and given that it’s a probiotic it’s easy to see why someone would choose that marketing angle. The guys went with it and never denied the possibility that could make it smell like a ripe peach. It also didn’t help that another product Heinz and Gome presented that day was a probiotic that made cat and dog feces smell like bananas; a much less sensitive topic, but one that adds confusion with all this fruit-based deodorant stuff.
However, it seems the whole smell thing was never even a goal for Sweet Peach.
“It’s nothing about scent,” Hutchinson told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “A vagina should smell like a vagina, and anyone who doesn’t think that, doesn’t deserve to be near one.”
But one thing this whole ordeal actually did was open the dialogue about the subject of vaginas, their odor, taste and appearance, and how much society shames certain natural things that should be celebrated and desired, not hidden.
Look, vaginas are an acquired taste; anything with a strong smell or flavor will always be an acquired taste. It’s a recognizable and unmistakable aroma. When you smell a vagina, you know it’s a vagina. It’s a powerful presence with a personality that shan’t be confused with anything else.
But while it’s noticeable and potent, there’s no reason why that should be shamed into a negative thing. Some of the best things in the world are not immediately agreeable to traditional taste. Beer and coffee, arguably the two most popular beverages in the world, come to mind. Most people don’t think they’re delicious at first, but soon enough they’ll joyfully have a beer or a coffee just to get through the day. Context also helps: If something offers us a great deal of pleasure, we’re bound to develop a craving for the smell of it. It becomes a Pavlovian motivation.
We also live in a world where people are constantly self-conscious about the way they look, smell, sound, taste or feel. It’s why there’s make-up, deodorants, perfumes, lotions and whatnot. People want to address what makes them feel less attractive and put a more ‘polished’ version of themselves out to the world. This is anybody’s choice, and it’s perfectly fine.
The reason this particular product has received some negative attention is that it can lead to shaming women about something very intimate and defining of their femininity. Why a straight man would ever try to bring any self-doubt into a woman’s freedom of sexuality is something I will never understand. We all lose with that, guys, we all lose!
As a heterosexual dude with a healthy appetite for vaginas of any shape, color or grooming style, I’ve always been puzzled by how self-conscious a lot of women can be about their vaginas. The look, the smell, whether they’re full-bushed, trimmed or shaved… And I wish I could do something to convey in a clearer way that: a) There is almost no possible deal-breaker at that point, and b) This is what they are! Yes, they have a strong characteristic smell and taste, but that’s become part of what we like about them. We associate that flavor and aroma with one of our unquestionably favorite things in the world. We don’t want it to taste like a peach. You know what I do when I want to taste a peach? I eat a fucking peach. And I’ll tell you this much: Even at my hungriest low-blood sugar moment, I’ll take pussy over fruit 10 times out of 10.