Don’t be a Douche!

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

“You’ve got to help me settle a question: a super gross question. When is it necessary for a woman to douche? I’ve heard it’s not something to do on the regular, but I’ve done it a few times when I felt the so-called ‘less than fresh’ feeling. My girlfriend was saying that they wouldn’t be available in stores if they weren’t being commonly used. So what’s the deal?”

Ahhhh, the vagina. Nature’s most precious and wonderful natural resource that every once in awhile turns on you, emitting forth unpredictable liquids and semi-solids with or without provocation. It’s a genius contraption: designed like a self-cleaning oven, the vagina is able to perform more functions in the course of a week than some major electronics equipment.

Yet, for all that vagina does for us: providing pleasure, babies and places to stash your drugs when crossing international borders, it doesn’t require all that much back. In fact, it’s better off when you let it do its thing alone. Douching is not only unnecessary to maintain vaginal health, it’s actually quite detrimental.

And what do we mean when we refer to a douche? Are we talking about a guy who wears t-shirts that imply they’re too good to sleep with fat girls? Or politicians who get divorced and then oppose gay marriage? No, we’re talking about any solution (usually some variety of vinegar and water) that is used to flush out the vaginal canal in the hopes of making it cleaner.

Women have been doing it for time immemorial, to remove odors, discharge, menstrual remnants and even as an attempt to avoid pregnancy. It’s estimated that somewhere around a third of American women use some method of douche, in the form of a store-bought product or a homemade solution. Yet, ultimately, none of them need to do so.

A healthy, normally developed vagina maintains its acidic pH balance like an exquisite machine, keeping a proper level of good bacteria that keeps bad bacteria at bay. Not only does douching remove this healthy bacteria but it might also shoot bad bacteria and infection up further into the reproductive tract. In this way, not only is douching not making the situation better, but it can exacerbate yeast infections and outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections. It may temporarily mask the scent of something that the doctor ought to know about, but it certainly isn’t the cure.

As far as contraception goes, it’s not a reliable or effective way to keep sperm and egg from making their 8 pm dinner date. It’s estimated that regular douching reduces the odds of pregnancy by 30% in a single menstrual cycle. You’d be better off relying on the old fashioned pull-out-and-hope method.

If you do feel gross, or are experiencing particularly noxious or thick discharge, it’s substantially more advisable that you see a doctor than heading to the supermarket for some Summer’s Eve. Assuming you don’t have bacterial vaginosis or some other condition, just washing the vulva daily with water (and maybe a mild soap) should be more than enough. Stay away from tampons, pads and cleansers with perfumes and dyes and you should be fine.

But, like your girlfriend said, why are they so bloody popular and readily available in stores? Why are so many women buying into this fabricated need? Unfortunately, for all the wonderful things vaginas do for people, people aren’t very good friends in return. There’s a glut of ant-women sentiment out there, positing the notion that lady bits are gross and dirty. Undoubtedly a few of those cases are due to an unpleasant encounter with an unhealthy vagina while taking a trip downtown, but most are based on fear, embarrassment and susceptibility to sex shame.

So be good to your girl parts and they’ll be good to you!

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