Brace yourself. We’re about to get intimate.

It wasn’t until my 30th birthday that I finally squatted in my bathroom and used a mirror to inspect my, um... underparts. My doctor had just told me I had Bacterial Vaginosis, an extremely common infection that about 29% of menstruating women have. The way she talked about the vagina as a complete ecosystem made me realize that my own body was a mystery I knew nothing about. I mean, I know how to make myself feel good down there. I know how to make other people feel good.  I’ve had relationships with and gone down on other women and find vaginas beautiful. But as my doctor was speaking, it struck me that I knew more about other women’s anatomy than I did my own.

So I hunkered down with a mirror and did some exploring. And what did I learn? That my body is fucking amazing. And, more importantly, that I want to take better care of myself. So here are some things that I’ve learned on my vaginal health journey:

  • Back to basics, but the area we see is called the vulva. That’s what lies outside the vagina. The vulva area includes the labia (both labia majora and labia minora), the pubic bone, the clitoris (hi, friend!), and the urethra. It also contains the entrance to the vagina. My sex ed teacher would be horrified if they knew how little I’d remembered about all of this. I was happy to revisit and reclaim it. Knowledge is power.

  • Already mentioned, but female genitalia is an ecosystem. We know climate change is bad, so apply that same lesson to your genital health and cut down on pollution! Vulvar care is easy and, often, less is more. Stop using scented scrubs/washes, don’t douche, and stick to just water when you shower/bathe. If you absolutely must use soap, make sure it is gentle and unscented. Boom. The vagina is self-cleaning. That’s part of the magic. Oh, and vaginal discharge is part of that process. Changes to what your body puts out can be completely hormonal and part of that cleaning process, but if you’re concerned of course talk to your doctor.

  • I love lube. I really do (it’s my favourite stocking stuffer). I think it’s so underrated. However, it’s important to do a little research into what kind of lube suits your body’s natural pH levels. Bonus points if it also works with your toys. It also prevents irritation caused by vaginal dryness, obviously.

  • Use condoms! Condoms are not only a form of birth control and excellent at preventing STI/STD transmission, but they also create a layer of protection so that your body can preserve its pH levels during sex. That’s right. Condoms have an unsung superpower.

  • Holistic health is real. Go for hydration, a balanced diet, and moderate exercise. Your body will thank you. The usual advice about smoking and drinking apply here, too.

  • Pubic hair is a part of human evolution and there for a reason. The hair down there helps prevent bacteria and infections, and also helps reduce sweat in the pubic area. However, your body your choice. If you choose to get rid of your pubic hair, just try to avoid shaving, if you can. If you must shave, use a clean razor and please be careful. There are plenty of guides online if you’re looking for more specific advice there.

  • Invest in good cotton underwear, if possible. It’s best for breathability.

  • Odour is normal! In high school, I overheard a boy describing a vagina as “fishy.” It’s likely we’ve all heard some version of that comment. And even though we try to push it aside, we carry those little slights and childish remarks with us. Smells put out by the vagina are mythologized in a patriarchal society that frames sex as being for and about men. It gets off on marginalizing and insulting women. If your vagina does have a particular odour, it could be caused by a pH imbalance (Bacterial Vaginosis!) or even genetics. But whatever smell you have down there is likely to be noticed only by someone if they are already having sex with you. And here’s the truth: if they are already having sex with you, they do not care about smells because they are likely ecstatic to be naked with an absolute queen such as yourself.

  • Every vagina looks different. I think a lot of women feel shame or embarrassment because their vagina doesn’t look like what we see in porn. Obviously porn shouldn’t be the teacher of anything. But, unfortunately, we absorb a lot of the messaging and images without even realizing it. And then we look at ourselves and wonder if we’re the exception. Well, you’re not the exception. There are 9 different labia shapes, and they are all completely 100% normal. Beautiful, in fact.

So, that’s where I’m at on my journey. I thank Skirt Club for creating such a beautiful, sophisticated and curious community where I can feel safe asking questions and grow as a person. So grab a mirror and have at it, loves. x

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