The Perfect Ecosystem: a Pussy Pride Piece

IMG_0383Over 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.

Pussy Pride


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17 Responses to The Perfect Ecosystem: a Pussy Pride Piece

  1. fridayam says:

    Speaking as a man, I would point out that some fabrics or combination of fabrics do not help vaginal health, but otherwise I love your erudite and well-informed post. Thank you;) x

    • Harper Eliot says:

      Ooh! That’s very true. Some washing powders too. Thank you for adding that!

  2. Twisted Angel says:

    When I began my period I was dealing with a mom who had no clue about pads or tampons or anything of the sort. She had basically worn rags that were for that purpose solely held on by a belt system and they washed them out when full and hung them out to dry. She believed in douching and everything else. I hate underwear and only wear them when I am on my period or when I have a bad cold and heavy coughing leads me to pee with the severity of it. I quit douching when I had 2 abnormal pap smears following the birth of my first child. Resulting in having a cervical freeze. I learned really quickly that it may not have been needed because it may have been caused by my douching right before my appointment. No powders no lotions nothing. I think it is awesome that you are promoting the truth about our pretty pussies. Regardless of what the world thinks they are beautiful, powerful and the entry into life.

    • Harper Eliot says:

      Yes, see – people just aren’t informed about this stuff, and it seems like such a trial-and-error situation, wherein people only find out what they need to know when they happen upon it, or when something goes wrong. It’s just not goo enough.

  3. Yes, THAT Tonya (@TisforTMI) says:

    This is an excellent post!! I remember a long time ago when I was in my early twenties I was sitting around with a bunch of my guy friends who were talking about girls and the smell of their pussies. They were discussing douches and advocating for them so girls wouldn’t be fishy. I was a bit horrified. Even back then, I was quick to jump in and educate about sex, sexuality, and our bodies. I began very provocatively, “Hey, do you want to know what *my* pussy smells like?” And of course, being guys in their very early twenties, they very eagerly leaned forward and replied that they did. I laughed and answered, “It smells like pussy, because that’s what pussy is supposed to smell like!” I then proceeded to give them a good lecture about why women shouldn’t douche and what a woman should do to take care of herself. I’d say their minds were fairly blown. I can only hope that maybe they carried it forward into future relationships.

    This reminds me that I took some photos not long ago specifically for the Pussy Pride Project and completely forgot about them. I need to get that done this week!

    • Harper Eliot says:

      That is a fantastic way to address female bodies to men! You know, it’s funny, but despite women’s fears about how men might feel about their bodies, I rarely hear any complaints from the fellas. BUT – if I ever do, I will be quick to stamp it out, just like you did.

  4. Molly says:

    Thank you for joining in with the Pussy Pride Project. This is such an excellent and well balanced piece. I am a big advocate of not wearing panties all the time, I joke about it but in all seriousness I really think wrapping it up all the time if just not good for it. You need to let the kitty breath now and then.

    The other thing that your post got me to thinking about the horrible rise in panty liners that have a ‘fresh clean’ scent to them… just to make sure that you smell like a lavender garden in your knickers. NO! This is wrong….. please don’t ever put these horrible things anywhere near your beautiful pussies.


    • Harper Eliot says:

      Hear hear. When it comes to anything with a strong scent – be it pantyliners, fabric conditioners, or wipes – it’s a pretty safe bet you should keep it a long way away from your cunt.

  5. Curious Muse says:

    When I was a teenager tampons were not the norm, not least because of expense. To my lovely, simple Ma they were also considered invasive in virgin territory. I got my first ones by mailing for a freebie from an ad in Jackie magazine. I do however remember a great deal of publicity around TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) and that was even before tampons were doused in moisturisers or deodorant scents. I think the modern obsession with synthetic scent in all aspects of life is gravely concerning since the long term impact of the absorption of these chemicals is unknown.
    So whilst I love that you are promoting natural health and an understanding of what is ‘normal’ vaginal function, what I think is missing is the awareness that actually sometimes your body can let you down. Sometimes it doesn’t work a you would wish and sometimes interventions are relevant. And sometimes this really does fuck up ones feelings about the body as a sexual place. Not because of some naive preoccupations with society’s prejudices, nor because of porn or stereotypical marketing, but just because when the body gets it wrong, ones sense of self can be utterly thrown out of balance. So yes, education for young girls to ensure they know what is normal is always going to be needed. But as a woman heading towards menopause I am aware that our bodies can challenge us all our lives with their uncooperative and unhelpful mechanics.
    A number of male friends have recently had the snip. It is amusing to me that for many men they will reach their mid 40′s and this is the first time since childhood that they have had to have an intimate medical examination or be handled in a medical context by a stranger (oh and those bloody student spectators!). As a woman this is an indignity we experience and/or endure our entire adult lives. To have a balanced and equable relationship with our bodies can, at times be an act of sheer bloody wilfulness.

    • Harper Eliot says:

      I completely agree. And that was the one struggle I had, writing this piece: how do I talk about real problems and the fact that, of course, our bodies can let us down? In the end I decided it didn’t have a place here, because I’m trying to promote confidence. But I’ve also carefully not given too much research material here because I think what’s really important is that people find out for themselves. Women (and men when it comes to their genitals) ought to be encouraged to do their own research.

      But I’m really glad you’ve mentioned it here in the comments, because of course, there is always another side that should be considered.

      • Curious Muse says:

        I think the other side is relevant simply because confidence is not only to be found by suggesting things will always be rosy. And yes, I think it’s for another place but boys and men have their own set of hang ups and health issues that are woefully under-acknowledged which is why the Sledgehammer campaign is so fantastic.

        • Harper Eliot says:

          No, but it is true that if there is a problem, chances are it will be relatively easy to treat. Which I have said. And as mentioned above, I really just want to encourage people to find out for themselves.

          • Curious Muse says:

            As a piece that simply seeks to encouragesyoung women and girls to be relaxed and confident in the normal function of their vagina then it’s a lovely piece. I am perhaps not the target reader. So I’ll just shut up :D

  6. Scarlett DuBois says:

    Lovely post! I began to really love my cunt only a few months ago. I did some research on how to take care of it, and what foods to eat or avoid to enhance the taste of my secretions. I have learned more about my vagina, and now I think she is pretty, and I would definitely eat her if I could. ;-) xxx

    • Harper Eliot says:

      Haha! That’s such a good measure of cleanliness: would you eat it? If yes, get out there. Lovely! And yes – the food thing helps in so many areas.

  7. C.A. White says:

    Lovely post! I’m going to join the Pussy Pride Project!

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