Over the course of my twenty-three years I have received a very slow trickle of information about keeping my vagina healthy; but I’ve never really been informed, point blank, of how best to maintain a clean cunt.
I remember being very small when my Mother told me to use a flannel with soap for my body, but always just water for my “front bottom”. At some point in my teen years I heard tell of a sanitary towel that made you bleed slower and for longer – so that you would have to buy more. (I’ve never seen any concrete evidence for this, and I’m not sure which brand it supposedly was, but it certainly seems feasible in a world where everything is geared towards making money.) A few years after that I was standing in the staff lounge at my first full-time job, discussing with my female colleagues how you are supposed to wipe your vagina front to back, rather than (what seemed to me to be) the more natural option of back to front. Last year I was listening to a podcast and I heard the vagina described as “the perfect ecosystem”. And finally over Thanksgiving dinner this year, I was informed that women ought to bathe fairly regularly (rather than always showering) in order that the water might cleanse whatever it could reach.
Whilst my Mother’s first piece of advice has served me very well, it seems wrong that I should have had to wait two decades to get just five pieces of information about my own body. Furthermore, for several years during my childhood I had cystitis and due to the lack of information about vaginal health, I still don’t know why. But suffice to say the experience was traumatic and left me with a lot of fear for a long time.
It would seem that people still need to be told; it would seem that even women older than me are unaware of just how simultaneously delicate and yet robust the vagina is.
The truth is that it IS robust! Extremely. It has to be: it’s designed to push babies into the world! And it is also “the perfect ecosystem”. But it is not an ecosystem you want to unbalance. The vagina is self-cleaning. White or clear discharge is completely normal and healthy. It is your vagina’s way of cleaning itself. The amount and consistency of this discharge will usually vary during your cycle, but basically, if your knickers are a little – or even a lot! – damp, it is a good thing. However, in order to maintain this cleanliness the vagina contains a lot of (good!) bacteria, and the PH balance is not something you want to mess with. All wet wipes and similar products contain chemicals that your vagina does not need or want. Upsetting the balance of the lovely ecosystem between your thighs is not a good idea. In fact I believe there is a brand of sanitary towels who provide little wipes with each pad: I haven’t looked into this in any depth, but I would suggest you do if you ever consider using them. Similarly with vaginal douches: even if you fill the douche with clear water only, it’s still not ideal. Some natural inflow is fine – you certainly don’t have to worry about keeping it out! – but your cunt does not need to be cleaned intensively by you: it’s doing it just fine by itself.
As the title suggests, the Pussy Pride Project is about finding love for and confidence in your vagina, and in a society that is hell bent on promoting only the most narrow-minded, perfectly tucked, tight and – of course – waxed cunts, it can be extremely difficult to love what may be the different picture between your legs. The Pussy Pride Project was started in response to the rise in labiaplasty, and I believe the main imperfections women see in their own anatomy are to do with how the vagina looks. Things like the Pussy Pride Project and The Great Wall of Vagina do wonderful work helping to dispel the myth of the ‘perfect vagina’ when it comes to aesthetics. But actually, when I was a teenager I used to read what I now think of as teen-tabloids – they contain the same kind of trivial yet dramatised pieces – and I remember reading many letters from teenage girls who were concerned about the smell and the discharge from their vaginas, not the way they looked. Given how prevalent an issue this was for younger women, it seems likely that it is also a concern for us as we get older; and if we can only talk about cunts aesthetically because porn has forced us to look at ourselves, I should imagine we are still fairly uncomfortable discussing smell and discharge. Not least because this mixes the ideas of sexuality with medical matters and seems to infer STIs. In fact, I’m willing to bet that for women who feel they smell different, this may be a greater concern than the aesthetics, but one we are far less likely to talk about.
The truth of the matter is, cunts come in all shapes and sizes with varying amounts of discharge. The vast majority are completely healthy and normal; and when there are problems they are usually very simple and easily treatable. If you think there is something not quite right, go and see your doctor. Infections are relatively common and – as I say – usually very easily treated.
If you go to the doctor and discover there is nothing wrong, but what’s going on in your knickers is still knocking your confidence, there are things you can do, and in fact they are pretty much the same things that are suggested for all health issues: eat well, exercise, and get some air. Exercise tones your pelvic floor muscles, making your already robust vagina even stronger. And, of course, eating well affects all the chemicals in your body, and may have a positive effect on the smell of your cunt. But the chances are, your cunt is as healthy and smells as natural as it should. Remember: if it was supposed to smell of perfume, it already would. As for the air, your cunt should not be in your knickers at all times. It needs some air and there is no reason to sleep with your cunt clothed. In fact, it also hadn’t occurred to me until very recently that the notion of wearing knickers all day every day is completely socialised and often unnecessary. There is no real reason that you need to have knickers on under your leggings or jeans, or whatever else you choose to wear. (However I do understand that some of us – myself often included – need the security of this.)
To sum up, when it comes to the health of your vagina, here is what I would like to pass on, from my twenty-three years on this planet, various conversations, and a little research:
- Your vagina is a well-balanced ecosystem, equipped to look after itself, as long as you don’t disrupt it!
- Be careful when buying sanitary towels and tampons: you should know what’s in the things you press against/insert into your cunt.
- Same goes for condoms and diaphragms, lubricants and spermicides. BUT – don’t take this as a reason not to use protection: just do your research.
- Even water can wash away the bacteria in your cunt: vaginal douches are unnecessary, and potentially damaging.
- If you really think there is a problem with your vagina, go and see your doctor: infections are common and usually highly treatable.
- If you’re still dissatisfied with how everything is working, take a look at your diet and exercise.
- And let your cunt get some air as often as possible.
I really would like to see these issues raised more often, because I have a sneaking suspicion this is the part of vaginal health we are least willing to discuss. But the chances are that 1) you are perfectly healthy and 2) if you happen not to be, it is still no big deal.
Be sensible, do your research, and let your cunt take care of itself.