down there

That’s down there ‘male genitals, junk’, in this Facebook ad (hat tip to Victor Steinbok) for the Dollar Shave Club’s razor starter set — the razor handle, razor blades, and three accompanying products, called the scrub (prep wash), the butter (shaving cream), and the dew (soothing lotion):

(#1) The Dollar Shave Club offer; in a small space, the ad manages to proclaim the $3 offer three times

Now, I’m not really interested in collecting further terms for the male genitals — my 9/4/23 posting “From the genital junkyard” covers the territory, and I have no enthusiasm for foolish completism — but male-genital down there evoked two strong associations for me that I want to explore here: it’s routinely used as a polite reference to the vulva (so, female-genital down there); and an allusion to Christopher Isherwood’s 1962 novel Down There on a Visit, whose title combines locational down there with actually sexual (not merely male-genital) down there.

Before I take up female-genital down there and the Isherwood book, though, a digression to slag off the $3 offer from the Dollar Shave Club, as an example of deliberately impenetrable (and therefore misleading) sales pitches. The product would have to be truly fabulous — but how fabulous can a shaving-supplies kit get? — before I would engage with a company that advertises this way.

The verb slag off. From NOAD:

[V + Prt] verb slag off (slag someone off, slag off someone): British informal criticize someone in an abusive and insulting manner: she was always slagging him off | I don’t feel particularly comfortable slagging off underpaid public sector workers.

Deliberately impenetrable ads. A common ploy on the part of advertisers involves making it almost impossible to figure out how much anything will actually cost you (and often to conceal that you are making commitments to future purchases, via subscriptions to goods and services). Sometimes it’s extravagant “postage and handling” charges (a significant income source for many sellers). Sometimes — very commonly for household goods of all kinds — it’s multi-payment schemes that end up costing the buyer more than a one-time purchase price. Often, as with the dietary supplements Prevagen and Balance of Nature (savaged on various grounds in Doonesbury cartoons and on this blog) it’s a complex subscription scheme involving many repeated purchases, each of which looks cheap on its own. (With considerable difficulty, I calculated that the Balance of Nature pills will cost you $3 a day, which rapidly mounts to serious money.) For the Dollar Shave Club, it’s a trial offer that looks too good to pass up (only $3!!!) — until you discover what that trial offer actually gets you and realize that you’re subscribing to some steeply priced goods.

The trial offer gets you:

— a razor handle

— 2 6-blade razor refills

— the prep scrub

— the shave butter

— the post shave dew

I worked out that if you bought these from DSC separately, the package would cost you $39.50. Eventually, I discovered that, except for the razor handle ($7 if you could purchase it separately), the other components are not the items that you would purchase separately, but special trial-sized versions (only a few blades, the grooming products in tiny sample sizes), so that what you buy is (roughly) material for 3 shaves. So, a small bargain for $3. That $3 that gets you in the door.

The ads say that no membership is required. When you go to the site to see what’s involved with membership, you discover — whoa! — that there’s no section anywhere on membership, only on the products. But … to take advantage of the trial offer, or to buy anything whatsoever from DSC, you must register. And that registration appears to commit you to a subscription; I say “appears to” because the only way to discover what registration commits you to is to register. And that’s a snare.

Now, a subscription isn’t in itself evil; it just brings you regular refills on blades and grooming products, on (apparently) a fixed schedule. So it relieves you of having to order these things by yourself, but also removes all flexibility. That strikes me as a really terrible idea. It’s not as if quality razor blades, exfoliating wash, shave cream, and post shave lotion are hard to come by. There are drug stores with this stuff all over the place, and websites too. And every guy is likely to have his own preferences for all of these and his own habits about how often he uses them. So a rigid subscription service is probably not the way to go, even if it’s entirely transparent.

But enough slagging. On to the most common use of down there with a bodypart reference, for the female genitals. And then to a use of locational down there with (in context) male sexual content.

Female-genital down there. Two cites from around the world.

The Royal Women’s Hospital, Victoria, Australia: “How can I stay healthy down there?” (link)

From the Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland OH) site, in the article “Vaginal Odor”: Vaginitis is a common cause of unpleasant vaginal smells during pregnancy. Still, other factors may also make you notice new smells down there.

Then an on-line ad for goodwipes down there wash that runs through a series of other euphemisms for the vulva (with all vulvar references boldfaced here):

what it is: comforting and gentle ph-balanced aloe-based washes for the most sensitive areas, available in 2 scent combinations

did you know?: the vagina (internal) is a magical self-cleaning machine, but the vulva (external) is a whole other thing. but, using the right cleanser is super mega major key. the wrong soaps can throw off its natural ph, which leads to dry, itchy skin, utis, yeast infections, odor & more. hard pass[e]s – not today, satan!

fyi – your average bar soaps & body washes generally have a ph of 9!! this is way too high for hoo ha town. (the key is to match your vulva‘s natural ph – which is typically between a 3.5 – 4.5)

so, take our down there wash for a spin. it’s extremely gentle and will keep everything feelin fresh & fine as the ol sunshine. no itching, stickiness or burning, ever. just a happy, healthy little bajingo!

formulated to be hypoallergenic, paraben-free, alcohol-free, toxin-free, and ph-balanced for your most sensitive areas.

Instances of female-genital down there are all over the place; male-genital down there, in contrast, is a rare euphemism, so my first response to the Dollar Shave Club’s use of it was that it was (unintentionally) feminizing.

Background: locational down there. “Don’t make me (have to) come down there!” — the parental warning to misbehaving children. Now made into a serious song by Dolly Parton.

From the American Songwriter website: “Dolly Parton Celebrates Birthday with a Song Sent by God: “Don’t Make Me Come Down There”” by Tina Benitez-Eves earlier this year:

To celebrate her 77th birthday on Jan. 19, Dolly Parton shared a new song, “Don’t Make Me Have To Come Down There.”

“Somebody said, ‘What are you gonna get on your birthday?’” said Parton in a video posted on Instagram to announce the song. “I said, ‘I’m not gonna get, I’m gonna give.’ I’ve got a song that I’m dropping today on my birthday. It’s a song that came to me in a dream and I felt like it was worth putting out there. Something special. Well, it’s special to me.”

The song came to Parton in a dream where God spoke to her from atop a mountain. “I had a dream about God standing on a mountain, looking down on us, saying ‘Don’t make me have to come down there,’” shared Parton.

(You can listen to the official audio here.)

Two uses of locational down there in film titles:

— from Wikipedia:

Down There is a 78-minute 2006 Belgian-French English- and French-language independent documentary art film directed by Chantal Akerman.

The film … documents Akerman’s spending of a month in Tel Aviv-Yafo, in an apartment by the sea, contemplating her family, her Jewish identity, and her childhood.

–from Wikipedia:

Hello Down There (rereleased in 1974 as Sub-A-Dub-Dub) is a 1969 American comedy-adventure film starring Tony Randall and Janet Leigh that was released by Paramount Pictures.

… Plot: Fred Miller must prove that his new design for an underwater home is viable by convincing his family to live in it for 30 days. [complications ensue; the underwater entourage expands to include various others, including a live-in seal and a pair of dolphins]

Which brings us to …

The Isherwood book. From Wikipedia:

Down There on a Visit is a novel written by the Anglo-American author Christopher Isherwood and published in 1962. The title refers to a jibe fired at Isherwood’s protagonist by another character, Paul: “You know, you really are a tourist, to your bones,” laughs Paul. “I bet you’re always sending post cards with ‘Down here on a visit’ on them. That’s the story of your life.”

The character Paul, a male prostitute, is based on Denham Fouts. From Wikipedia:

(#2) Denny Fouts

Denham “Denny” Fouts (May 9, 1914 – December 16, 1948) was an American male prostitute, socialite, and literary muse. He served as the inspiration for characters by Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Christopher Isherwood, and Gavin Lambert. He was allegedly a lover of Prince Paul of Greece and French actor Jean Marais.

… Writer Glenway Wescott considered him “absolutely enchanting and ridiculously good-looking.”

… Isherwood described him as a mythic figure, “the most expensive male prostitute in the world”

Isherwood’s title combines:

— locational down there — with his writer character framed as a perpetual tourist, a visitor to distant places, a mere observer (from the first page of his 1939 novel Goodbye to Berlin: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive”)

— and a flagrantly sexual down there embodied by the character Paul / the real-life Denny Fouts (and in fact the real-life Christopher Isherwood).

As a result, if you know about Isherwood’s book, male-genital down there will probably not strike you as at all euphemistic, because it comes with a whiff of man-on-man sex.

If you don’t know about Isherwood’s book, though, euphemistic down there will probably suggest the female-genital usage, and so will be feminized (rather than sexualized).

Either way, down there in “shaving down there is a breeze!” (in #1) was probably not the best choice for hawking the Dollar Savings Club’s shaving kit. For bro appeal without actual crudeness, your stuff  (or the punchier your junk) surely would have been the way to go.



Leave a Reply