Stop Telling Us Our Vaginas Are in Need of Cleansing

It’s a dangerous trend that comes from a darker background.

Recently, I saw a Twitter thread that implored folks to stop putting garlic cloves up their vaginas. Since we don’t live in 1810 and there are no vagina-eating vampires that we need to fend off, I was naturally repulsed, but also deeply, deeply fascinated.

Why were people putting garlic up their vaginas?

On the surface, the logic was understandable. If you have ever had a yeast infection, you’ll understand that it’s uncomfortable, and something you want to make go away as soon as humanly possible. If you’re vaguely natural-leaning, you might think a homegrown remedy is better than a course of whatever the doctor orders.

Hey, you might think you yourself. Garlic is a natural antifungal. All alliums are. Right, so you can just wedge a clove right on up there — problem solved.

An actual gynecologist cleared up exactly why this is a bad idea here. In short, putting a whole clove up your vagina is a bad idea, because it has dirt, and other infectants, which you do not want to put up in a warm, moist environment. (AKA your vagina.)

Garlic has also been known to cause biofilms which, in a vagina, are not good as you might imagine. And finally, unless you were actually crushing up the garlic to apply to the area in question, there would be no allicins released. Which means no antifungal properties.

I don’t think anyone is in a hurry to jam minced, raw garlic into a potentially highly sensitive spot.

So why do people persist in putting eminently unsuitable objects in their vaginas?

The vagina-inappropriate object story didn’t start with garlic.

Folks have been inadvisedly putting bits up their bits for literally millennia. In fact, in ancient Egypt, it was allegedly common practice to douche with a delicious mixture of wine and garlic, purportedly to cleanse the nether regions.

More recently, Gwyneth Paltrow came under fire for advertising a jade egg, which, when jimmied up the vagina, could do just about everything short of promising eternal bliss:

“…increase chi, orgasms, vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general.” — Gwyneth Paltrow on the properties of her jade Eggs.

What is feminine energy? Spend $66 on a jade Egg to find out. You might get toxic shock syndrome, because jade is porous and could act as a repository for bacteria, but hey, if you’re hormonally balanced then you’re fine.

So why do we persist in putting things up really delicate, really sensitive areas? Why have we endured douching, steaming, fumigation, and now finally full garlic clove insertion?

It’s all in pursuit of a dubious idea of cleanliness. Specifically, the premise that vaginas are inherently unclean. Gwyneth Paltrow, the ancient Egyptians, and even today’s modern douchers — they all tell us, and might even believe, that vaginas are gross, nasty, smelly, unhygienic cesspits of yeast. And that a doctor can’t fix that — only harsh chemicals, steam, or ore treatment can.

Vaginas are not unclean.

They’re literally self-cleaning. They self-regulate to stay healthy and hydrated, like all of us should be doing, frankly. As long as you’re drinking water, wearing comfortable underwear and, crucially, not populating it with an entire garlic clove, your vagina is probably just fine.

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

But vaginas have a torrid history of being perceived as unclean, or at the very least, in need of a (profitable) cleansing. There’s a filthily enormous market in selling women stuff to put up, on, or around their vagina in the hopes of making it look, smell, or feel cleaner.

It’s that uncomfortable intersection of patriarchy and capitalism: feel bad about your vagina, and pay lots of money to feel better about it. And to make matters worse, these pseudoscientific remedies often…make matters worse.

Similarly to the rise of deodorant and hairlessness, vaginas are now marketed as something to “freshen,” the implication being that they are musty, fishy, smelly, or dirty in their normal, natural state.

And here’s the crux of the matter. Vaginas and vulvas vary widely in terms of their normal appearance and smell. So every person who has one might secretly be fearing, “Everyone else’s is fine, but mine is filth that must be cleansed.”

If you have an STD or other infection, you will, of course, notice a weird smell or other symptoms — which you should not attempt to cure with a garlic clove — but in a healthy state, your vagina will not need anything to be absolutely fine.

Please, for the love of all that is natural, stop putting inappropriate things up your vagina.

Companies need to stop telling us that vaginas and vulvas are unclean, or that they need some kind of thorough rinsing or sanitation in order to be acceptable. They’re entirely self-regulated but very delicate, and the alleged cure is often worse than the cause.

Garlic, jade, wine and vajazzling is not good, necessary, or even neutral for your vagina. Stop letting others tell you that it is.

Biology MSc. Psychology nerd. She/her. Get my FREE 5-day Medium Starter Kit to make money writing about what you love:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store