Each year the internet and social media come up with new and bizarre ways for women to clean and tighten their vaginas. From vaginal steaming, new products designed to make the vagina smell like “strawberries”, and douching, to the extremes of using spices and vinegar to tighten the vagina. Coming across new fads into cleaning the vagina always reeks of misogyny, and capitalism with a dusting of racism when you consider the bleaching conversations. It is bizarre that the focus on intimate hygiene only focuses on one particular type of genitalia and not all genitalia, and this isn’t by chance. It is rooted in the belief that vaginas are inherently dirty, or that women are dirty – or impure. It echoes back to conversations about how menstruation is unclean and therefore should be kept away from others. The irony that a vagina is a self-cleaning machine is not lost on me, the vagina is a force that manages to respond to changing needs, balancing its Ph levels and even releasing different types of discharge for different reasons. The vagina being self-cleaning and self-regulating is exactly why attempting to clean it with all kinds of harmful products is a bad idea. It is a fool-proof way to cause issues from unbalanced ph levels, micro-abrasions, yeast infections, allergic reactions and an array of other issues.
So, how do we clean our vaginas? We don’t have to, the vagina cleans itself and is the internal part of the vaginal area. What we do have to consider cleaning, is the vulva – the outside part of the vagina. All you need is water and mild unscented soap. The idea that we need to use anything harsh to cleanse our vulvas, more so than any other part of our bodies to remove sweat and dirt from the day is ridiculous. Your vagina is also not supposed to smell like strawberries and cream, it is not an ice cream parlour. Your vagina should smell like a vagina, each one is different and may have a different scent, the only scent to be alarmed by is when the smell suddenly shifts and becomes unpleasant. In this case, you should consult your doctor to get down to the cause.
The misinformation surrounding intimate hygiene and vaginas, in general, is dangerous and informs the way we view ourselves and the rhetoric we are willing to accept surrounding our bodies. Even though the concept of tightening vaginas is dangerous and causes harm, the vaginal wall is a muscle – it can expand when necessary, for example, to give birth or for sexual pleasure. It is not meant to be tight during intercourse, and expecting it to be for a man’s pleasure is startling, tightness does not indicate purity. Vaginal tightness could point to bigger issues such as not being sufficiently aroused, vaginismus, menopause or vaginal dryness. Adding irritants to one’s vagina to create a reaction that causes micro-abrasions to mimic “tightness” to please someone else is outlandish. Sexual health and pleasure should be enjoyable for everyone involved and not just the man in the equation. It should be mutual and we all should be able to have an enjoyable experience that includes adequate lubrication and arousal.
Cleaning your vagina is simple: all you need is mild soap and water. You can simply use your hands or a cloth and clean your vulva daily, you do not need to clean the inside of your vagina – it does the job for you. You don’t need special soaps, gels, powders or douches to cleanse your vagina. Vaginal wetness and elasticity are normal and healthy, and it allows for sexual pleasure, cleansing and even just overall comfort. Buying additional products is not only an unnecessary expense but also rooted in misogyny and stigma around the bodies of women. I cannot stress this enough, all we need is soap and water.