Canesten, the intimate health brand expert, has launched a new iteration of the ‘Vagina Academy’ - its global brand social purpose platform to help set people free from shame and discomfort - in the UK with ‘The Truth, Undressed’, an education-at-scale programme showcasing the truth about vulval and vaginal anatomy and health.
‘The Truth, Undressed’ teaches the reality of how our bodies look and behave, with unprecedented access to the naked truth, helping young people become more informed and better armed to spot and address concerns to their own intimate health.
The programme includes a dedicated educational microsite and social media awareness videos created by Canesten, plus free, comprehensive lesson plans that have been developed in collaboration with national body The PSHE Association, which teaches 11–18 year olds about vulval and vaginal anatomy and health.
Available for the first time as a UK national curriculum resource, the new content includes accurate, diverse and non-sexualised photography of vulvas, pubic hair and true-to-life depictions of vaginal discharge intended to break down stereotypes and stigma and free people from shame and discomfort.
The collection of photographs were captured by photographer Sophie Mayanne, best known for shooting Mothercare’s award-winning ‘Beautiful, isn’t she?’ campaign and personal project ‘Behind the Scars’.
Canesten’s www.TruthUndressed.co.uk contains informative editorial articles, photography and illustrations of vulvas and vaginal discharge that allows young people to access reliable, trustworthy and affirming knowledge about intimate health. It also features members of the public giving real descriptions of their bodies and experiences, to reassure and inform readers of the variety of experiences that owning a vagina brings.
These educational materials are being launched in response to recent research that revealed only 6%1 of UK women (aged 18-24) found out about intimate health conditions through school and university education and just under two thirds(1)(60%) only found out about vaginal infections when they first experienced them.
Research also revealed that 462 of UK women are worried about the appearance of their vulva and 67%2 admitted they would change something about it if they could. This can lead to feelings of shame, with over half (55%*2) admitting that they avoided going to seek medical help due to feeling embarrassed to discuss the issue or show their vulva.
Short form social video ads have been developed by Canesten to drive traffic to www.TruthUndressed.co.uk, by spreading awareness of the missing information around vaginas and vulvas and its potential consequences. On TikTok, the ads show what can happen when people can’t find answers to their questions, or worse still, harmful misinformation. On Instagram, the ads use common visual metaphors for vaginas, vulvas and pubic hair to drive home the ways that nothing compares to reality when you’re trying to learn. All social elements have been developed to respect the rules and regulations of the platforms.
Daria Costantini, brand lead for Canesten, Bayer Consumer Health UK said, “The truth of the female anatomy is dressed up in a societal culture of sex and defined as explicit by default. We live in a world where porn is readily available on the internet, yet many young people don’t know the first thing about what kinds of infections there are or even what the vulva is supposed to look like.
“We hope that through this programme we can start to move imagery of real vulvas away from a sexualised depiction and into an informative, educational space to equip young people with the essential information they need to better understand their bodies as well as normalise conversations.”
Bayer Canesten partnered with AnalogFolk London to develop and execute the core concept, strategy and creative for ‘The Truth, Undressed’. The vulva and discharge stills, and portraits accompanying the campaign were produced by Untold Fable, including diverse casting, photographers and intimacy coordination.
‘The Truth, Undressed’ campaign is part of Vagina Academy, the global education activation Canesten and AnalogFolk first launched in February 2021 in pilot market Brazil with the campaign Intensivão da PPK, the world’s first digital school of intimate health. Intensiavão da PPK was launched on TikTok where its videos were viewed 43 million times and reached over 200K subscribers, equating to filling 17.5K real-life classrooms. Vagina Academy has since rolled out with hyper-local execution in Italy and Australia.
Amandine Fabian, creative director, AnalogFolk London said, “No one should feel ashamed of having a vulva or a vagina or just saying these words, yet a lot of women find it hard to even talk about vulval and vaginal health issues with their doctors. That’s why we’ve created The Truth, Undressed: to cast shame and taboo aside. We used a bold look and feel and real photography that inspire self confidence and empowerment to send one message across: vulvas and vaginas are just like any other part of the human body. The Truth, Undressed goes beyond a simple advertising campaign — it’s a shift in mindset.”
The teaching materials created by The PSHE Association in collaboration with Canesten include four age-appropriate lesson plans for key stages 3-5 and will be available to teachers for use in all UK secondary schools from 11th July 2022. Teachers have the option of choosing versions of lesson resources with photography, realistic illustrations, or without imagery. A supporting teacher guidance document on whether and how to use these visual resources is also provided.
Liz Laming, The PSHE Association says: “The lesson plans will support schools to teach this important health topic effectively and appropriately. Until now, it has been difficult for young people to learn the facts about their bodies and understand vulval and vaginal health when historically the vast majority of images of vulvas represented in porn and other forms of media and popular culture have been both over-sexualised and depicting a societally ‘perfect’ body which is not representative of reality.”
As part of the teaching materials launch, The PSHE Association enlisted the support of two academics, Dr Ester McGeeney and Dr Elly Hanson; specialists in youth centred research on relationships and sexualities, to help develop the educational programme.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Elly Hanson said: “Research shows that negative feelings and inaccurate understandings about the vulva and vagina are common and can have hugely detrimental consequences especially for girls and women. Given this, it is vital that young people are supported with education that increases their understanding and helps them take an affirmative approach to their bodies.”
1. 1,600 women, Canesten WIH Path to Purchase study, conducted by Truth, 2019