Vintage Douching Ads and Scare Tactics, Courtesy of Zonite

Cristen Conger

In the Stuff Mom Never Told You episode on douching, Caroline and I discussed the advertising history of feminine hygiene products that revolved around scare tactics. In those early days, Lysol and Zonite pushed their wares as feminine hygiene products by convincing female consumers that if they didn't douche, their husbands would lose sexual interest.

Women! Did you know "there's a womanly offense worse than body odor and bad breath? All you need is some Zonite to replenish your post-menstrual "charm AND health."

But of course husbands couldn't ask their wives to "put Zonite in her fountain syringe for hygiene." No, no, douching was a lady secret passed along from mother to daughter. Mothers might've recommended it as a hush-hush form of birth control (note: douching does not prevent pregnancy), as well as a recipe for a healthy marital sex life.

Once birth control pills became widely accessible in the early 1970s, douching ads became a bit more straightforward. And the recent (and controversial) "Hail to V" Summer's Eve campaign marks an interesting shift toward empowerment, rather than shame. Granted, that's empowerment via douching, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services highly discourages. But somewhere along the line, all of that advertising has worked because 20 to 40 percent of women 15 to 44 in the United States douche -- who knew?

To see more vintage feminine hygiene ads, Ad*Access over at the Duke Library System has an impressive collection.

*Source: John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History