Nowadays, that familiar feeling of boredom can be cured with a quick scroll on social media. The latest platform to reap the benefits of providing people with easy entertainment is TikTok. However, given the nature of the content that is shared, it’s unsurprising that people have now started posting videos of themselves performing somewhat outrageous challenges. And when a gynecologist noticed users taking part in a bizarre women-only dare, she felt she had no choice but to speak out with a warning.
In recent months, millennials all over the world have gone crazy for TikTok. Now, for those of you who don’t know, the platform was launched to a global audience in August 2018. And it is, essentially, a video-sharing channel. But if you dig a little deeper, you will find that it allows its users to do far more than simply recording, uploading and sharing their content.
Originally, then, TikTok was intended as a means for people to create condensed entertainment videos. For instance, users are able to lip-sync to their favorite songs or emulate snippets of dance routines in clips that last up to 15 seconds in length. Since the launch of the app, the options available to users have grown – and like YouTube, the platform has even created some celebrities of its own.
Inevitably, TikTok’s most popular users are usually fun, energetic and easy on the eye. They can, it seems, inspire crazes that can sometimes be perceived as being a bit strange. It is the weird fads that usually garner the most attention, after all. And the Ice Cube Challenge, being no exception to this rule, is an example of one of those bizarre trends to have captured the imaginations of users.
Indeed, in early April 2020, a particular interpretation of the Ice Cube Challenge came to be all the rage. But this isn’t the first time young people have taken part in strange challenges online in the hope of getting extra likes or views. You may remember the Tide Pod Challenge craze from early 2018, for instance?
Apparently, you see, people cottoned on to the fact that Tide Pods look a bit like candy. Their pliability, too, perhaps gave the capsules a gelatinous feel. And while YouTube seemingly exploded with videos of teenagers who appeared to scoff the tabs, most were merely pretending to consume them.
According to the political magazine the New Statesman in January 2018, Tide Pods were only ever eaten by 86 young adults. Nevertheless, many more participated in the charade – and it was enough to prompt many news outlets into condemning the fad after repeated shares. Tide Pods’ owner, Procter & Gamble, was even forced to respond, too.
That’s because consuming laundry detergent can, of course, be deadly. But the dangerous fun didn’t end there, as other challenges involving eating the inedible went on to go viral, too. One such example is the Shell-On Challenge that circulated on Snapchat in April 2019. And while it arguably wasn’t as dangerous as the Tide Pod Challenge, it became highly questionable nonetheless.
The Shell-On Challenge, you see, mostly involved teenagers eating foodstuffs without first removing them from their outer coverings. Now, this would usually involve scoffing, say, a banana or an orange without discarding its skin. But some individuals seemingly felt they wanted to take the dare a little further.
Some people thought, for instance, that the inedible packaging around crackers or a Twinkie counted as a “shell.” Yes, even if the product was wrapped in plastic or cardboard, people still seemingly took on the challenge. Participants would film themselves chowing down on packaged food for the sake of video shares – or so it seemed, anyway.
It transpired that the Shell-On Challenge – like the Tide Pod Challenge before it – was to some extent a hoax. That’s to say that while participants filmed themselves biting into packaged foods, videos typically ended immediately afterward. Any chewing and swallowing, then, was left entirely to the imagination – even with harmless unpeeled fruit. Thankfully, it seems not all social media challenges are this controversial, though.
Indeed, most are intended to be entertaining rather than dangerous. Take the hot pepper challenge, for instance, which involves the participant filming themselves eating nothing more than, say, a scotch bonnet, ghost pepper or habanero. While the heat from spicy peppers can cause extreme discomfort, their consumption is usually harmless.
Some challenges, though, go viral for a good cause – like the Ice Bucket Challenge from the summer of 2014, which many will remember. The idea was for participants to dump buckets of iced water over themselves to raise awareness of (and money for) amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – also known variously as ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and motor neuron disease. It captured people’s imaginations and drew more than $220 million in donations.
What probably helped propel the Ice Bucket Challenge to being such a monumental success is the involvement of many celebrities. Participants, you see, were required to choose more challengers once they had performed the dare. So, once one famous personality got involved, it soon spread among their equally well-known friends.
And a couple of years later, celebrities caught on to the Mannequin Challenge. The trend appeared to start in October 2016 when a group of high school students were filmed holding stock-still poses. The clip was posted on Twitter by a user called @pvrity__, and it garnered several thousand likes and retweets in a week. Then, when the video was shared on other platforms, its exposure increased to hundreds of thousands of views.
Over the next month or so, many sports stars and celebrities from the world of entertainment created their own mannequin scenes. Participants included sports teams from the NFL and famous soccer players from various European squads. Singers such as Adele, Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney also took part.
Unlike the Mannequin Challenge, TikTok was created with movement in mind. Indeed, the idea was for users to produce brief videos mimicking an artists’ dance routines, lip-syncing to their songs or performing their own comedy sketches. It is also seen as a space for showcasing other dynamic talents, too. And some celebrities have even used the platform as an opportunity to connect with fans and offer a small glimpse into their lives at home.
It seems, however, that TikTok’s purpose might be lost on the less tech-savvy celebrities. Take, for example, actress Reese Witherspoon, who invited her son onto a video so that he could explain the platform and its purpose to her. The mother and son have since posted a clip of them taking on a dance challenge together.
However, one celebrity who has seemingly found learning the workings of TikTok to be a total breeze is Will Smith. For his first post, the actor collaborated with FX guru Caleb Natale to depict the A-lister being plucked from his phone and plonked down in the room. A dazed and confused Smith then said, “I guess I’m on TikTok now.”
Meanwhile, one celebrity who showed that she understood the spirit of TikTok was actress and singer Jennifer Lopez. After her triumphant half-time show with Shakira at the Superbowl LIV in February 2020, the performer set a challenge for her followers on the platform. Yes, she asked them to recreate a snippet of her half-time show medley.
With its engaging format and easy-to-absorb content, then, TikTok has proven to be a huge hit in recent months. For the most part, it’s teenagers and young adults who use the platform most regularly. And as we’ve already touched on, where there are young people, there can sometimes be a certain amount of peer pressure, even online.
What’s more, when peer pressure is an influence on participating in these viral challenges, it can be hard to say no. And an engaged audience can sometimes add an extra level of thrill to completing the dare. It might even result in more followers and likes, particularly when a given craze catches on and goes viral.
The Ice Cube Challenge, it seems, may invoke memories of the Ice Bucket Challenge. But this one is for kicks rather than charity, and while it started off innocently, it eventually took a path that was NSFW (Not Suitable For Work). Furthermore, it was so dubious that when medical professionals caught wind of what was going on, they felt they had to speak up.
To begin with, then, the Ice Cube Challenge involved TikTok users placing pieces of ice in orifices about their persons. This could be their ears or their mouths, for instance. And they then had to film their reactions. However, some female users have taken the idea to its furthest extreme.
You may have guessed it, but for some, the Ice Cube Challenge has become, well, X-rated. Various women on TikTok have taken the dare to its extreme and have apparently been inserting pieces of ice into their nether regions. The mind boggles… especially, one imagines, for those actually taking part!
Now, of course, part of the original premise of the Ice Cube Challenge was for these brave or foolhardy women to film their reactions while taking part. But such a course of action is not without its logistical challenges. Not least of which are questions of taste and decency.
While the idea might at first seem extreme, nothing X-rated is ever shared on the social media channel. That’s to say only the girl’s reaction is filmed. And one interpretation of these clips is that there’s some acting going on. Yes, perhaps for some, it’s an illusion – as was likely the case with certain other previous social media challenges.
However, while no videos ever show what happens down below, some of the women’s neck-up reactions seem too expressive to seriously doubt. And just like the two risky stunts that came before it, some are concerned enough about how far participants are taking the dare.
Not only have girls filmed their reactions to placing ice on their genitalia, but they have also been reporting some rather dubious health benefits, too. Some have claimed, you see, that doing this will help tighten their private parts, and others have suggested that the ice can help infections. But these claims are so far-fetched, in fact, that gynecologists have felt the need to respond.
Yes, gynecologist Staci Tanouye hijacked the Ice Cube Challenge hashtag to address the dangers involved. The doctor explained how using ice cubes externally was fine, particularly as she advocates only washing with water anyway. The difference in acidity levels between water and the vagina could, however, have a detrimental effect on intimate health.
And fellow gynecologist Dr. Jennifer Lincoln had a lot more to say on the subject. She had seen some of the claims that TikTok users had been making about the personal use of ice cubes. So she, too, utilized the Ice Cube Challenge trend to address the myths some girls were perpetuating.
Dr. Lincoln’s initial advice remains in line with Dr. Tanouye’s comments. She said, “Ladies, it’s two o’clock in the afternoon and you’re bored and you haven’t left the house in a week. You want to put an ice cube in your vagina. Sure, that’s fine.” However, she then stressed that her aim was to debunk a few misconceptions doing the TikTok rounds.
Ice can sometimes be used as a stimulus during foreplay, meaning that putting it on such a sensitive area of the body can cause some women to become aroused. And to that, the gynecologist’s response was, essentially, “Hey girl, whatever gets you off.” However, such exploits should be practiced with care, as ice cubes can have sharp edges that may inflict cuts to sensitive tissue.
But Dr. Lincoln had also seen people claiming that the exploit could relieve mental health issues – and she wanted to debunk this myth, too. The expert said, “According to what I’ve seen on TikTok, girls are claiming that it helps with depression and anxiety.” Then, in a blunt rebuttal she stated, “No, it [doesn’t].”
However, while ice cubes in themselves won’t cure mental health issues, self-pleasure can be of some merit. According to the medical website Healthline, “Masturbation has many positive benefits, including stress relief, better mood and greater relaxation.” Even so, don’t expect the Ice Cube Challenge, or self-gratification for that matter, to be a miracle cure for depression.
The next claim Dr. Lincoln addressed was that ice cubes can cause the vagina to become tighter. Perhaps, then, this is a development of the idea that male reproductive organs contract in cold temperatures. However, addressing female genitalia, the gynecologist said, “How? [Ice is] not going to freeze it into a tighter shape.”
TikTok users were also perpetuating the idea that ice cubes can treat warts. To this claim, Dr. Lincoln simply said, “It doesn’t do any of that.” And while freezing regular warts can be a method of removing them, doctors use liquid nitrogen for the treatment. You see, at a range of -320°F to -346°F, liquid nitrogen is far colder than ice, which is 32°F.
And it was Dr. Tanouye who elaborated on the myth that ice could help treat health problems down below. She reminded people that water has a neutral pH value of 7 compared to the vagina’s far more acidic pH of 4. If that acidity is altered, it could leave women more prone to infections rather than curing them. The medical professional said, “If you’re doing [the Ice Cube Challenge] for pleasure, by all means, that’s fine. But don’t do it regularly to try to treat anything.”
Then, Dr. Lincoln playfully concluded, “I think ice cubes are great. For drinks and smoothies, that sort of thing. [But] let’s not forget in pre-school when Johnny stuck a bead up his nose. And then Timmy did it because he thought it was cool. And next thing you know Billy’s in the ER because he’s got two beads stuck up there. Let’s just stop and think before we do crazy stuff.”
Dr. Lincoln and Dr. Tanouye have amassed around 15 million views of their TikTok videos warning participants of the dangers from performing the Ice Cube Challenge. And they have leveraged their viral videos to help educate their followers. So, with almost a million followers between them, the gynecologists are using the platform as a fun way to educate girls on feminine health. This, then, is arguably a much safer way to enjoy the increasingly popular social media platform.