Vaginas. Vagines. Hootenannies. Pussies. Twats. Beavers. Cooches…and plenty of other words that I’m absolutely not going to type. I’m talking about the female “personal area” - 50% of us have them, 100% of us didn’t get enough education about them. Fact.
It’s absolutely bonkers how uninformed we are about something that half of us deal with every day (and a big chunk of the other half wish they dealt with every day - hiyooo. I’ll see myself out). For example, a lot of people don’t actually know that the vagina is just the name of the opening itself - vulva is a better word for the entire package (the mons pubis, the clitoris, the urethra, the labia minora, labia majora, and the perineum - if you're wondering.) Honestly though, if you didn’t know that, you’re not alone. To say we didn’t get a decent sexual education growing up in Ireland is an understatement (if your school had a class beyond the basic ‘birds and the bees’ talk, you’re lucky) - and the media is rife with mistruths about both the vulva and how we should be taking care of it.
I’m sure you’ve heard about some of the more notorious vaginal care trends over the last few years - vaginal steaming, vagacials, jade eggs that you stick inside yourself and even Kardashian approved vaginal lasers amongst them.(I don’t know about you but I clenched up like a clam just writing that!) But even some of the more mundane vaginal health tips out there are really not great for your bits. I’m of course talking about douching.
Douches are devices with a spray nozzle filled with a liquid that you squirt into your vagina. They're normally a mixture of things like water, vinegar, baking soda and iodine - and possibly a strong fragrance. They're sold on normal pharmacy shelves like they’re a necessary health item for women. They’re absolutely not.
Now don’t get me wrong - I’m not ragging on optional douching for sexual purposes if that’s what you want to do, and there are some medical conditions that might require a woman to douche on doctors orders (which sounds kind of like the start of a porno - pizza delivery men with extra sausage are so 2018!) But selling douches as something women need to do in order to have a healthy vagina is just plain wrong.
Our vaginas are self cleaning (like the eyes) and are meant to have a slight odor. They also have a very delicate PH balance designed to keep the good and bad bacteria in there in harmony. Douches completely mess up this balance and make you at risk for a myriad of diseases, more susceptible to STIs, more likely to have problems with vaginal dryness and are even linked with problems during birth like ectopic pregnancy. However, this is super convenient for people selling vaginal douches, because the user may then buy more to combat the symptoms of the issues caused by douching in the first place!
Ultimately these ‘feminine hygiene’ companies are capitalizing on the shame women feel about their private parts, as well as our lack of education about the vulva in general. Nobody wants to be the smelly girl and if you’re not taught whats normal or abnormal for your body then why wouldn’t women fall into the trap of trusting a product that’s sold to them as necessary for good vaginal health?!
Truly the best way to take care of your vulva/vagina is to pay attention to it. Get to know it’s cycles and keep an eye out for things like itching, new smells and abnormal discharge. Change your underwear regularly. Wash the vulva with gentle soaps and keep chemicals out of the vagina for the love of god! When it comes to sex - condoms and lube are a must in keeping your vag happy and healthy (I’d also recommend a good sex toy of course!) And finally, the golden rule of having a vulva - pee after sex EVERY. TIME. If you don’t already know why this is important, you will after not doing it.
The takeaway from this is; love your vulva - shame is what left us uneducated about sexual things in this country for so long and losing that shame is the first step towards a happy, healthy vulva - and a better sex life as a result!