When boredom strikes, many millions of people often turn to social media for a quick fix of entertainment. Well, TikTok is the latest platform to get in on the action and somewhat predictably, outrageous challenges feature heavily. However, one particular women-only dare comes with a health warning from a savvy gynecologist.
In recent months, millennials the world over have gone crazy for TikTok. Now, for those who don’t know, TikTok was launched to a global audience in August 2018. Ostensibly, it is a video-sharing platform, but if you dig a little deeper you will find its capabilities reach far beyond record, upload and share.
You see, TikTok was intended to create short entertainment videos. Users are able to lip-sync to their favorite songs, or emulate snippets of dance routines in clips of three to 15 seconds in length. However, the app’s lip-syncing capabilities extend further than music, and the platform has created some celebrities of its own.
Inevitably, TikTok’s most popular users are fun, energetic and easy on the eye. Furthermore, they can inspire crazes that are often perceived as a little strange. It is, after all, the weird fads that usually garner the most attention. Well, the Ice Cube Challenge is one of those bizarre trends that have captured the imagination of users.
One specific angle to the Ice Cube Challenge appeared to be all the rage for a weekend in early April 2020. However, it’s not the first time social media has provided a platform for bored teenagers utilizing hashtag trends for clicks. For instance, you may remember the Tide Pod Challenge in early 2018?
Now, it appeared that the Tide Pod Challenge began due to the laundry detergent’s resemblance to 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 teenagers. 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.
Consuming laundry detergent can, of course, be deadly. However, while YouTube’s Tide Pod Challenge was a highly dubious one, other viral challenges have carried only a slight risk. One such example is the Shell-On Challenge that circulated on Snapchat in April 2019. And, while not as dangerous as the Tide Pod Challenge, it nonetheless became highly questionable.
You see, the Shell-On Challenge involved mostly teenagers eating foodstuffs without removing them from their outer coverings. Now, this would usually involve eating, say, a banana or orange without removing its peel. But it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was that straightforward. And so some participants ramped up the dare factor a little.
For instance, for the Shell-On Challenge, the “shell” of a box of crackers could be its cardboard box. Meanwhile, the “shell” of a Twinkie might be its plastic wrap. There are even some foods, such as cereal, that might utilize both. And so participants would film themselves taking bites out of packaged food for the sake of video shares. Or so it seemed.
However, like the Tide Pod Challenge before it, the Shell-On Challenge was to some extent a hoax. That’s to say that while participants filmed themselves biting into packaged foods, videos typically ended immediately afterwards. Any chewing and swallowing, then, was left entirely to the imagination, even with harmless unpeeled fruit. These controversial challenges, though, are the exception.
Indeed, most social media challenges are intended to be entertaining rather than dangerous. For instance, the hot-pepper challenge involves the participant filming themselves eating nothing more than, say, a scotch bonnet, ghost pepper or habanero. And while the heat from spicy peppers can cause extreme discomfort, their consumption is ultimately harmless.
Some challenges, though, go viral for a good cause. Many will remember the Ice Bucket Challenge from the summer of 2014. 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 that many celebrities got involved. Indeed, participants were required to nominate more challengers once they had performed the dare. Therefore, once one famous personality got involved, it soon spread among their equally well-known friends.
A couple of years later, celebrities then 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 user @pvrity__ and garnered several thousand likes and retweets in a week. 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 entertainment world 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. Then, perhaps most famously, a challenge featuring Ellen, Robert DeNiro, Tom Hanks, Bill Gates and many others emerged from the White House.
TikTok, however, was created with movement in mind. The idea was for users to produce brief dance videos mimicking an artist’s dance routine, lip-syncing and comedy sketches, or for showcasing other dynamic talents. It’s a platform that some celebrities have embraced as an opportunity to connect with fans and offer a small glimpse into their home lives.
Indeed, TikTok’s purpose might be lost on the less tech-savvy celebrities, so it can be useful for them to get their kids in to explain it. For instance, actress Reese Witherspoon invited her son Deacon on to a video to explain TikTok to her. Mother and son have since posted a clip of them taking a dance challenge together.
However, one celebrity who has found a seemingly natural home on TikTok 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 dropped in the room. A dazed and confused Smith then said, “I guess I’m on TikTok now.”
Meanwhile, one celebrity who played on the spirit of TikTok was actress and singer Jennifer Lopez. Indeed, after her triumphant half-time show with Shakira at the Superbowl LIV in February 2020, the performer set a challenge for her TikTok followers. They were tasked with recreating 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. And for the most part it’s teenagers and young adults who use the platform most regularly. And where there are young people, there can sometimes be a certain amount of peer pressure, even online.
Moreover, when peer pressure is an influence on participating in dares and challenges, it can be hard to say no. You see, an engaged audience can add an extra level of thrill to the task. It might even result in more followers and likes, particularly when the challenge catches on and goes viral.
Now, the Ice Cube Challenge may invoke memories of the Ice Bucket Challenge. However, 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 a medical professional caught wind of it, she felt she had to speak up.
The Ice Cube Challenge may have started innocently enough. By all appearances, TikTok users were invited to place a piece of ice in an orifice about their person, be it an ear or their mouth, and film their reaction. However, some female users have taken the idea to its furthest extreme.
Indeed, for some women, the Ice Cube Challenge has become, well, X-rated. That’s right, certain females on TikTok have taken the dare to its extreme and have been apparently 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 reaction 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.
Now, 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. Of course, one interpretation of these clips is there’s some acting going on: 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.
So it’s true that there’s some ambiguity over exactly what’s going on down there. Some of these clips may seem like hoaxes, just as with so many of the Shell-On and Tide Pod Challenge videos before them. However, just like the two risky stunts that went before it, some are concerned enough about how far participants are going to speak up about its dangers.
Indeed, not only have girls filmed their reactions to placing ice on their delicate areas, but they have also been reporting some rather dubious health benefits. They include a “tightening” of that area and the ice cube’s ability to “help” infections. In fact, these claims are so far-fetched that gynecologists have felt the need to respond.
For instance, 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 washing with water only anyway. However, the difference in acidity levels between water and the vagina could actually have a detrimental effect on intimate health.
Meanwhile, fellow gynecologist Dr. Jennifer Lincoln had a lot more to say on the subject. She had seen some of the claims that some TikTok users had made about personal use of ice cubes. So she also 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. 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.
You see, ice can be used as a stimulus during foreplay. Some women, then, can be aroused by the application of ice around such a sensitive area. The gynecologist’s response to that was essentially, “Hey girl, whatever gets you off.” However, such exploits should be practiced with care as ice can have sharp edges that may inflict cuts to sensitive tissue.
Furthermore, Dr. Lincoln highlighted an idea she had seen relating to the Ice Cube Challenge in that the exploit can relieve mental health issues. She 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 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 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. 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 at 32°F.
Indeed, Dr. Tanouye says that water has a neutral pH value of 7 compared to the vagina’s far more acidic pH of 4. And if that acidity is altered, it could leave women more prone to infections rather than curing them. She 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.”
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 dangers from performing the Ice Cube Challenge. Furthermore they have leveraged their viral videos to educate their followers. With almost a million followers between them, the gynecologists are using the platform as a fun way to educate girls on feminine health.