Women continue to believe the shriveled fruit will turn back the hands of time and give them tighter, more youthful vaginas. Doctors and sexologists say our obsession with the mythical tight vagina may say as much about our understanding of basic anatomy as it does about the times we live in.
The women swear that the fruit – usually a dried, preserved sour plum – is a must-have sexual aid as they claim tightens their vaginas.
Often called “lengangajane” or “punani fruit” in the Free State, the fruit can also be found in Chinese supermarkets where packets of the fruits list ingredients as plums, sugar, ascorbic acid, salt and flavouring.
In China, the fruit is a traditional snack and is allegedly used by some as an old remedy for motion sickness and nausea.
Driven by the popularity of the fruit, some street vendors in Bethlehem are making their own.
Mannuku Moloi is a street vendor in Bethlehem, Free State about about 90 km west of Harrismith. When Moloi saw how well the fruit was selling in Qwaqwa about 80 kms away, Moloi began making her own.
“We use peaches, bananas and apples and dry them by the sun to turn them into dry fruits and sprinkle them with our own ‘muti,’ said Moloi.
“You just eat it then drink lots of water it will then do its job by making your vagina tight and it also helps with discharge.”
Nthabiseng Mofokeng who lives in Qwaqwa regularly buys packets of the fruit.
“I eat it every night and it helps a lot for me when having sex with my husband,” said Mofokeng. She also claimed the fruit has had additional benefits in the bedroom. “In the past, my husband would complain about my vagina being dry and would not enjoy sleeping with me.”
She added: “Now, we both enjoy.”
Melita Mnguni said she is also an avid believer in the fruit.
“Believe in me, it does work,” she said. “My husband was so glued to me and he didn’t want to leave me and we slept (together) the whole day.”
“That’s when I was convinced that it does really work,” she added.
But Bethlehem gynaecologist Dr Solomon Speachot said no amount of fruit or muti is going to change a woman’s vagina.
According to Speachot, the vagina is a lot like an elastic, stretching and contracting but resuming its normal size and shape after sex. Having sex with many sexual partners also doesn’t change the size or shape of your vagina.
“No muti can make help with tightening the vagina because it will always go back to its natural form,” Speachot said.
Cape Town sexologist and psychologist Marelize Swart said that “punani fruit” is just another money-making gimmick feeding off women’s desires for not only a better sex life but also perhaps to confirm to unrealistic notions about sex propagated by the increased availability of porn.
“I have clients who just beg me for a pill or anything that will improve their sex lives,” she said.
While some clients may be battling a medical condition like erectile dysfunction, some clients are hoping to pop a pill to cure the cause of a lot of bad sex – a lack of emotional intimacy, Swart said..
Meanwhile, many women and men may feel increasingly self-conscious about not sexual performance and anatomy in an age where porn is more readily available.
“A lot of insecurities come from male comments and, with so much porn available, reality has been distorted for some,” Swart cautions. “If a woman had to go to any doctor and ask about the size of her vagina they would probably tell her it is just fine.”