This Vagina Smells Like My Candle
What do vaginas smell like?
In 2020 Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous wellness company, Goop, debuted a $75 candle with the inscription, This Smells Like My Vagina, scrawled in large, chic font across the front. It was instantly engulfed in a wave of media attention and think pieces, internet humor and criticism. I think this is partially due to the fact that anything with the word Vagina meant to be displayed prominently on a coffee table is thought of by a lot of people as a taboo. Goop opted not to use a vaginal euphemism and for that I do respect the effort.
However, the other side of the coin and, I think, the real reason why it lit a flame of internet fury, is that one would be hard pressed to find any vagina in the world that actually smells like this candle. Per the product description: “With a funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected scent, this candle is made with 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.”
I don’t know anyone who owns this candle nor was I about to purchase it at that price tag research purposes. Bad journalism? Perhaps, but based solely on the product description and the bold inclusion of floral scents, I can already tell you that getting a whiff of this candle would rub me the wrong way. It’s not that I believe Gwyneth and her collaborators at perfumer, Heretic, actually think this is what a vagina smells like. It’s that there is an ever-looming cultural pressure for a vagina to smell not like vagina but like a flower, specifically (walk down the aisle of any store that sells vaginal washes to see how deeply ingrained this floral-vagina concept is). The makers of this candle are feeding directly into this flower-spiracy by selecting the scent palette that they did. Vaginas are not a “fantasy,” though the culture at large treats them as such (not to reference my own writing…but I’m about to reference my own writing). They do not constantly exist in a state of “seduction.” They are, in fact, lived all day everyday by the people who have them.