Nobody Gave Me an Owner's Manual for My Vagina

Taking care of your little friend

Nobody Gave Me an Owner's Manual for My Vagina

I've been thinking a lot about vaginas this week. I suspect anyone who owns one actually thinks and worries about it quite a bit. I also suspect those who don't own one think about them a lot too. Maybe I'm thinking about vaginas because I'm going in for clinical treatments again and that means I will have a lot of nurses and doctors poking around down there. Maybe it's because I'm reading feminist manifestos again. Maybe it's because my uterine lining is shedding, I'm bleeding like someone shived me, and it hurts like a sonuvabitch. Whatever the impetus for this train of thought is, I've been thinking about muffs, vags, minges, lady bits, pussies, cunts, twats, caverns, holes, carpets, mounds, vulvas, etc., etc. and now I'm gonna write about them.

Personally, I enjoy the word vag as a euphemism for the vagina. Something about the short punchy single syllable works for me. It's also the acronym for the Vancouver Art Gallery and every time I call that institution the VAG it makes me giggle. Everyone has their favorite pet name for their furry friend and I've always found it comes down to personal choice on that one. Admittedly I find vag doesn't work in the throws of passion for some reason and resort to the classic "pussy" in that case. For some reason, asking someone to "lick my vag" doesn't seem to work as nicely as "lick my pussy." Inga Muscio makes a strong argument for the reinstatement and reclaiming of the word cunt in her manifesto "Cunt: A Declaration of Independence," a book I suggest everyone read at least once even if you don't agree with everything she has to say (I'm still pretty skeptical about her "natural" abortion techniques and her use of the rhythm method but that's just me).

It always surprises me that in this day and age when women are supposed to be more sexually free and spend more time grooming our pubes and actually exploring our vags that most women still don't have much of an idea about its workings. Many women still don't go get their pap smears like they should, or they don't understand the mechanics of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or they haven't talked to their doctor about vaginal health. Even with Dan Savage writing raunchy stuff in the back of your newspaper, and the Vagina Monologues spreading stories of the muff wars across the country, there still seems to be some confusion for women on how to use and operate your cavern of love.

My mother gave me a very brief menstruation and safe sex talk when I was 11 or 12. I mean really brief. Like ten minutes brief. I think mostly she was hoping I wouldn't discover how to use my vag for sex so I wouldn't end up pregnant at 16 like she did. What did come out of our discussion was I was expected to go through great efforts to hide the fact that I had a period since I lived in a small house mostly full of men (my father and two brothers plus my mother and me) with only one bathroom and for some reason the workings of the female body needed to be concealed. That was all fine and dandy until the day our new puppy discovered the bathroom garbage can (where I had carefully wrapped up my used pads in little toilet paper packages and hid them at the bottom of the can) and joyfully pulled out each pad, chewed them up and spread them like confetti all over the house.

Although my mother didn't tell me a whole lot about my vagina, I went out and did lots and lots of research about it on my own. I wanted to make sure I knew how it worked and how to keep it healthy. When I was a teenager (before the internet really took off) that meant reading books, attending sex talks put on at school (some helpful, some very awkward and completely not helpful), secretly listening to a late night sex talk show on the radio and watching instructional education shows about sex that came on late at night on cable TV. I shall share some of my vaginal wisdom that I have gleaned over the years with you now and give you a bit of crash course in vaginal health, but I highly recommend getting out there and finding out about your vag health if you own a vulva. I mean, with the internet, it is super easy now but just be sure to cross reference, fact check to make sure you are not getting false info and when in doubt, check with your doctor. I don't claim to be a medical professional or some vaginal sage with all the answers but I have done my fair share of sexual health research.

Vaginas are a bit of a paradox. They are tough enough to deal with the rigors, stretching and tearing of child birth (yup, that's right, your pussy tears during child birth), but at the same time they are delicate and can easily have their balance upset. The vulva is a mucous membrane like the inside of your nose or your mouth and that membrane actually has a very delicate pH balance and pro-biotic environment. Any fluctuation in that balance is what leads to overgrowths of yeast, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections. You should NOT use any soap of any kind, perfume, powders, or other scented products on your vag. All of these things upset that pH balance I was talking about. Some women can't even use bubble baths. Your vag really, REALLY does not need to be scented. Pussy is supposed to smell and taste like pussy, not a midnight summer's breeze or flowers or fruit or anything else. Pussy is pussy flavored! For some reason there is still an entire industry based on making pussy smell like something else and it's just not good for you. I accidentally bought a box of menstruation pads that were scented and they smelled so disgusting, and made me smell so disgusting, that I threw them out while screaming ,"Why the hell do they make scented pads?!" You should only rinse your vag with warm water to clean it and avoid harsh soaps.

Your vag needs a slightly acidic environment to prevent the over growth of yeast and to stay healthy. You need to maintain a balance of pro-biotic organisms in your love cavern, so eating active biotic yogurt is always good (good for your digestive track too) and you can smear a little of the plain, no sugar kind of yogurt on the old vag when you're getting a yeast infection too. Garlic is also good for controlling yeast so eat lots of garlicy pasta. To avoid UTIs (urinary tract infections), drink a glass of water before and after sex and be sure to pee right after coitus. Sex tends to push the e-coli bacteria responsible for UTIs into your urinary tract and making sure to pee after sex helps flush that out. Cranberries and blueberries have a compound in them that keeps the e-coli from sticking to your urinary tract walls so a glass of either juice (real, not concentrated or watered down with other juices) helps prevent and treat UTIs. But UTIs pretty much always need antibiotics to completely clear up so see you doctor if you think you have one!

And just a few other factoids: never use oil of any kind with condoms, it breaks down the latex. Women are just as susceptible to HIV as gay men (it is not just a gay male disease!), so protect yourself. If you find you get a rash from condoms you might be allergic to latex so try non-latex condoms (there's a lot more of them on the market now and they are effective). If you find you tear during sex (most women do tear a little bit, it's normal), you need to use more water-based lube. The more lube the better. Never let someone else make decisions about your vag. Your vagina is your responsibility and you need to keep it healthy. Go for regular paps to screen for cancer (this is also the time that your doctor can check up on your overall vaginal health). Your doctor is really your go-to person for vaginal health, so be sure to use that resource!

I hope this helps you to start thinking about your cave of wonders and some of the health decisions you should be making around it. And if you don't happen to have a vagina and your read this I hope it will help you understand what vagina owners go through and help you support the vagina owners you love. Happy muff loving everyone!

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Sarah Sparks

Witchcraft poet, neurotic sex symbol, over-educated sadist, and generally only dangerous to herself and a few unfortunate bedmates. Found haunting the halls of academia, frequenting shady establishments and eating candy at home in bed.

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