Madura sticks are harmful and violate women’s rights, experts say.
Sellers of Madura sticks promise the cigar-shaped products will do everything from revitalize a woman’s genitals to nearly restore her virginity. But experts have warned the devices are similar to “cigarettes for the vagina,” and “a scam.” What’s more, the sticks encourage gender stereotyping with the belief that women must do anything – even put themselves at risk health-wise – to please men. The objects (named after an Indonesian island) release a mixture of ingredients after being inserted, which experts say could be harmful and are likely to have no benefits at all.
However, Sarifah Nurhayati, 27, who lives in the Indonesian city of Depok, is among those who swear by them. Five months pregnant, she plans to use them after she gives birth to get her vagina “back in good shape to keep my husband happy.” Her husband sells the sticks at his store in Depok and claims he sells up to eight every day. Nurhayati has used Madura sticks for years. She added, “One stick can be used up to twenty times. When used regularly, it will make you feel like a virgin again.”
Nurhayati said of the contents, she believes, “everything is natural.” Her husband Reno Waldi said he sells the product for $3 to $30, stating the cheaper ones might break and adding, “You don’t want that to happen while using it.”
Health experts warn that there is limited information regarding what is actually in the Madura sticks and insist there is little evidence that sexual intercourse loosens a women’s anatomy. What’s more, inserting and reinserting the same stick could lead to an infection.
Professor Linda McGowan of the University of Leeds and a researcher at the charity Well-being of Women said, “Talking about sex in Indonesia is still very much a taboo. Women may discuss these matters with their closest friends but not sisters within the family network.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) published a study in 2012 on Indonesia, Thailand, Mozambique and South Africa vaginal practices including inserting powders creams, herbs, tablets, and sticks in an attempt to tighten it and concluded that this makes women more susceptible to infections. Dr. Jen Gunter, a gynecologist, obstetrician, said, “Madura sticks contain astringents which cause dryness” and this is “physically harmful.” She insisted the sticks could easily make it painful to have intercourse, too, which violates women’s rights, “playing off patriarchal tropes.” She also said they could be “medically harmful.”
Dr. Amanda Selk, a gynecologist and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, Canada, warned, “The vagina does not stay stretched out after sex and you can’t tell from muscle tone whether someone has ever had sex. With childbirth there can be some weakening of the pelvic floor that can be strengthened with pelvic floor exercises. Madura sticks are being marketed to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. Sex should be pleasurable to both people or there is a problem. Different people find different aspects of sex pleasurable. Good communication between partners is the key to good sex not spending money on unnecessary products.”