Lately, our current socio-political climate has been, to say the least, a little hectic. One subject that has been getting people a little more excited than usual is that of vaginas, specifically, vaginal health. Whether you are marching for them or shaking your head at the people marching for them, any person who owns a vagina should know as much as they can about them in the wake of new legislation, because modern sexual education can be a bit…patchy.
Do not wash your vagina
Vaginas are awesome for many reasons, but they were never meant to smell awesome. They are not supposed to smell bad, but you could eat all the pineapples in the world and your vagina will still not smell like pineapples. There is certainly a stigma surrounding vaginal smell. An especially bad, “fishy” smell. People with vaginas may feel the need to prevent this occurrence the way we are all taught how to keep parts our bodies from getting a little funky: soap. In the case of vaginas, soap can do way more harm than good, and could cause some unhappy vaginas. Vaginas are naturally acidic, and using anti-bacterial soap offsets the normal pH within vaginas by killing the bacteria that helps maintain it.
“Through commercials and ads, our culture has taught women that they are dirty and smelly and need scented products,” said Laurie Borthwick, a nurse practitioner and health provider at Colorado State University Health Network Women’s Clinic. “But vaginas are designed to work well if we leave them alone and wash the vulva with water everyday.”
The best way for vagina owners to be nice to their vagina is by not douching, but rather cleaning the outside of it. This includes washing the vulva and labia with warm water, and by staying hydrated.
In the case of penis-vagina sex, penises can throw off the pH in vaginas because penises have their own pH balance. Wearing a condom can help prevent this.
Discharge is natural and healthy
Perhaps you are a vagina owner yourself, and when you were 11 you experienced something that no one ever told you would happen. Sixth grade is hard enough, now something mysterious is happening in your pants. It was not your period, and also…it never stopped happening. Vaginas are self-cleaning machines, and require the simple aforementioned care to remain clean. Keeping this in mind, vaginal self-cleaning results in everyday discharge. That is right, despite the stigma around discharge, including the silly and unsuccessful “Panty Challenge” that briefly circulated around the internet encouraging people with vaginas to show off their spotless undergarments, discharge is actually expected, healthy and completely normal. Many vagina owners may assume this discharge means they have a yeast infection and they should book a trip to the doctor. This is only the case if the discharge is abnormal, and those who are not experiencing discharge are the ones who really should be seeing a doctor. If your panties from Victoria’s Secret survive the day, it may be time to call up Borthwick.
Pee after sex
As discussed, bacteria is good for vagina health, but only when that bacteria is supposed to be there. Bacteria from other parts of your body is not supposed to come in contact with your genitals. Unfortunately, sexual intercourse can transfer bacteria and cause Urinary Tract Infections, which are tragically more prevalent in people who have vaginas. Peeing before sex, and promptly afterwards, has been proven to prevent such instances. Unfortunately, every time vagina owners get down they are somewhat at risk for infection. Nothing sucks more than crying in the King Soopers bathroom because it hurts to pee while waiting for your prescription to be filled that turns your pee orange. So love yourself, and go for a painless pee right after sex.
All vaginas look different, and that is OK
The inside of vaginas usually look about the same, though vaginal outsides, including the labia, clitoris and perineum, can have varying appearances. Just like penises, vagina owner’s genitals can vary in size, color and shape. Although they may not point in a certain direction like penises, the outside of the vagina is usually asymmetrical. Labia can be super there or barely there, clits can be big or small and all parts can be completely different colors. Basically it is a skin-toned rainbow in your pants. Despite porn’s portrayal of vaginas being tiny, hairless, one-toned and consistent from person to person, this is not the case.
So why have you never of heard these facts before? Why did no one tell your sixth grade you that you were not dying from mysterious whiteness in your underwear, or that your vagina did not actually have a super power because sometimes the whiteness even bleached your favorite black undies? Why do doctors tell vagina owners to eat yogurt when taking antibiotics to keep up with healthy bacteria, but no one told you during health class in middle school that peeing after intercourse could prevent you from having to take those antibiotics in the first place?
Gender non-binary vagina owner and student employee at the Women and Gender Advocacy Center on campus, Connor McFarland, suggests that the subject of vaginas is taboo due to gaps in sexual education and its focus on the vagina as solely a means for reproduction.
“Women’s health is mainly taught as women’s reproductive system, as in this is what happens to your body when you have a baby and not anything about what a clitoris is,” McFarland said. “In an ideal world, you would have some combination of sex ed that talks about the complete human reproductive anatomy. Male reproductive anatomy, female reproductive anatomy, intersex people and how those conditions can affect your body and then at an age-appropriate level having some sort of pleasure-based sex ed, like how to take care of yourself during sex. I think if we just took the stigma off of sex and designated female at birth bodies, it would help us deconstruct so many of these barriers that we put up around this idea that you can’t ever talk about vaginas but draw dicks on all of your notebooks.”
Borthwick agrees that modern sexual education is often inadequate for vagina owners to learn about their vaginas, and encourages students to reach out to a women’s care provider to get their questions answered. Borthwick also suggests bedsider.org as an online resource.
“The best way to learn more is to talk with a women’s clinic health provider for more information,” Borthwick said. “We are here to support you.”
Appointments can be made at the CSU Women’s Clinic at CSU’s Hartshorn Health Center. The facility can be contacted at 970-491-7121.