Canesten - ‘The Truth, Undressed’ Vagina Academy educational platform

Analogfolk has created a new campaign for Bayer's Canesten brand of thrush medication. 

On their website, they showcased it under the headline: "Stripping away shame and over-sexualisation through boundary-pushing education". Now, boundary-pushing would not be my choice of words when you're describing a campaign that is about genitalia targeted at children.  🚩

How is it targeting children? I'm glad you asked. You see, this is part of an educational platform, launched in Brazil last year, called the Vagina Academy. It's not just a website and some fun Instagram/Tiktok ads. It includes comprehensive lesson plans that have been developed in partnership with The PSHE Association in the UK, and these lesson plans will be handed out to the 50,000 school teachers and members to use to 'battle porn unreality,' according to The Times.

The idea is that kids aged 11 and up will be able to see these photographs of normal female vulvas and learn that they all look a bit different from one another. Battling porn imagery by showing more nudity-- for pre-teen kids--might not be the best way to go about doing this.

Would it not be better to remove porn altogether and prevent children from seeing it as a whole?

Something like having to enter one's ID to access these porn sites (and denying anyone underage) would help. Along with the ID, the sites could also send a sort of confirmation to the owner of the ID preventing it from going undetected if kids use their parent's ID to log in. Just like how we have two-step verification for grownups.

Analogfolk is trying to look virtuous when really they're just selling thrush medication to children. And they are exposing them to sexual imagery while they are way too young in the process.

Not every child--emphasis-child has seen porn and genitalia yet. Some of us have responsible parents who prevent us from exploring the internet forest without supervision. And the children who have will not benefit from seeing a "real" vagina along with confusing terminology about trans people because the terminology is changing from week to week.

I'm sixteen years old and can tell you in no way would I respond positively to this.

When I was eleven and in sex ed, I and all the other kids, did not respond well to this kind of imagery. In fact, I think the sex ED encouraged many of us to actively search for porn because as children we were curious about it and Googled it on our own.

I know far too many in my generation who are scarred and desensitized to pornography. We even have memes along the lines of "you're a man of culture if you know where this girl is from."


Mary Harrington writes Meet the new ethics teacher: Canesten thrush cream

An unambiguous position of this nature might trigger a backlash or negative associations with the commercial sponsor, who (let’s not forget) is flogging thrush cream. Rather, Canesten simply implies that porn is like the weather — something that just is — and concludes limply that the pornographic firehose of distorted, commercialised images of naked women may be mitigated (as a brand-building exercise for thrush cream) by showing children slightly less distorted and commercialised images of naked women.

But alongside the moral cowardice you’d expect from a brand sponsor, we also shouldn’t forget that in this case they’re not paying to place the resulting content in an industry sector magazine or employing some harried twentysomething to sell it into a newspaper. They’ve found a captive audience: children legally obliged to attend compulsory education in schools.

But that's not all that's a bit morally ambiguous here. Since this has been developed as a tool to educate children, I'm surprised to notice the words on the website. When you load (warning, graphic content, totally unretouched photographs of vulvas) you will find the Who has a vagina? section, and shortly below that: 

Some transgender women choose to undergo ‘bottom surgery’, which is when a surgeon constructs a vagina for them. These are sometimes referred to as neovaginas and are often constructed using skin from the penis and scrotum, or part of the colon.

Below that, we're introduced to "vagina myths" - myth one being that vaginas need special care products and wellness treatments. They don't, because they are self-cleaning. But that is where this is all confusing, are neovaginas self-cleaning too? If this is meant to educate children about the vulva specifically, why bring the neovagina into it? Do neovaginas get thrush? WHY DO I HAVE TO LEARN ABOUT NEOVAGINAS!? I was born with a vulva and a vagina. If I want to learn more about this, why are you showing me something else?

But wait, there is more:

People with DSD (Differences in Sex Development), sometimes called intersex people, are born with reproductive organs and genitals that are different from what’s expected of their chromosomes. For example, they have XY chromosomes, usually associated with being male, but their genitals may look different than expected or have characteristics that are associated with being female.

That's Swyer syndrome, a rare genetic condition, are we studying chromosomes now? Really? After bringing genitalia to children you will now also introduce the idea that anyone can buy a made-to-order naughty bit? And people wonder why my generation is angry and confused. Is this legal? 

Ad agency: AnalogFolk London

Creative Director: Amandine Fabian

Photographer: Sophie Mayanne

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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PollyEster's picture

This is shocking. Advertisers should definitely not be in charge of creating educational material.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

"made-to-order naughty bit" 🤣

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

I may be an adult now, but I remember what is was like when I was a teenager and I don't understand how this helps girls to be less self-conscious of how their bodies look like. Of all the insecurities I recall, what my vulva looked like was not one of them. There is something very wrong with a society where preteen girls need reassurance that their vulvas look normal. I don't think a parade of vulva photos will make this less of a problem, but introduce more insecurities.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

We had illustrations when I was in school, and that was enough for us to learn about various functions and body development. We also had illustrations of male and female body development through puberty to their 50s, there will be more hair, more fat etc. As I recall we only worried about breast development, because we could see in gym that everyone was different. Different size and shapes on everyone, different size and color on nipples, everything. But on the billboards, fashion magazines and in shampoo ads all the women's breasts looked the same. That was enough for me to deduce that all vulvas probably looked different too, and not to be bothered by it. I had enough to be self conscious about. I don't think photographs should be used at all in young children's education.

Sport's picture

It's interesting to hear a teenagers point of view on this campaign. You should review some more campaigns targeted at your age group, I like to learn what you think about them.

Andreas-Udd's picture

The website looks like the 90s "coming soon" pages had a baby with the "Saved by the bell" motion graphics and then threw up on it.

Welcome to adland @opopotan. You should absolutely do more of these reviews.