Let’s Talk About Vaginal Discharge

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I am always talking about my vagina. Not just because they are amazing, but because there is still so little people know about vaginas!

A housemate on Celebrity Big Brother was recently shamed on national television about her dirty underwear. Her underwear wasn’t dirty, it just had some vaginal discharge in it. Yet, she was still shamed by both her female and male peers. Thanks to a multitude of reasons (lack of knowledge surrounding vaginas, society built on shaming women to name a few..), this happens way more often than it should.

It’s a form of body shaming and something I have experienced a number of times myself. Although my experiences with discharge-shaming are not as traumatic as those seen on CBB, they will stay with me forever.

The first time this happened to me, I was about to have sex with my boyfriend. We were engaging in foreplay and he found some white discharge. He completely freaked out and I was so upset I think I just went home. He refused to talk about it with me and afterwards he was very vigilant when navigating around my vagina. But when I was exposed to his cum, it was never a problem.

Another time that sticks with me was when I was at the doctors with my mum. I was having my vagina looked at and she told me to make sure I checked my knickers before going in. Some may argue that my mum was being helpful, but why would I be embarrassed in front of a doctor? A doctor who not only has a vagina, but is there to help me with mine too?

It’s normal to produce vaginal discharge and it can vary in consistency and colour throughout your menstrual cycle. The vagina is pretty amazing because it cleanses and regulates itself. This is done by producing normal-occurring bacteria aka discharge, similar to how saliva cleanses your mouth! Any interference (HYGIENE PRODUCTS!) with the delicate pH balance sets up an environment susceptable to infection.

Healthy discharge can be clear, cloudy white, and/or yellowish when dry on clothing. It can also be thin, thick and stringy. Changes in normal discharge occur for a number of different reasons, including menstrual cycle, emotional stressors, nutritional status, pregnancy, sexual arousal and even usage of medications.

Some changes in discharge require a visit to the doctors such as: discharge accompanied by itching, rashes and soreness, burning on skin during urination, discharge that is clumpy and resembles cottage cheese, or any discharge that has an off odor. If you experience any of this, you may have a vaginal infection.

It speaks volumes that I have been shamed by those close to me. They don’t know that they’re shaming me because this is just common practice. There’s a whole industry built on shaming vaginas. Just look at the rise of absurd treatments like vagina steams and the multitude of ‘feminine hygiene’ products.

Why do we still live in a world where men are defining what’s an acceptable standard for women?

If the normal discharge is stigmatised, how can we expect anyone with abnormal discharge to visit a doctor?

If we are teaching young boys that it is normal to be disgusted by periods and discharge, how can expect young girls to feel safe? confident? loved? sexy? valued?

When we continue to entertain these treatments, products, and attitudes, we are teaching young girls everywhere their vagina is disgusting when it’s anything but. It is 2016 and we’re still alienating women everywhere by failing to normalise vaginas.

The next time you wonder why I’m so vocal about my wonderful vagina, this is why.

 

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40 Comments

  1. Lizzie January 30, 2016 / 1:00 pm

    I took four years of sex ed (just a tiny, once a year, hour long course that would replace gym class) and not once did they mention discharge. I would always panic when I got it. By not mentioning it, it terrified the girls and left the boys clueless.

  2. Elizabeth Rush January 30, 2016 / 5:23 pm

    THIS POST ROCKS MY WORLD. Thank you so much for speaking up.

  3. Adi (@Nosferadi) January 30, 2016 / 5:55 pm

    I can’t believe people actually get grossed out by this. It just means that you’re healthy and your body is working the way it should! Glad to see a helpful post explaining it all quite nicely. 🙂

    VEGETARIAN COURTESYFACEBOOK

  4. Kourtney January 30, 2016 / 6:40 pm

    I love this post! Vagina are wonderful! Once upon a time I use to freak out about discharge thinking it was awful, and something was wrong. The amount of awkward doctors appointments I’ve had because of it is so stupid!

    Everyone has discharge and we should feel embarrassed! Thank you for writing a wonderful post!

    Kourtney xx

  5. Meg January 31, 2016 / 12:05 am

    This is such a good post. At the end of the day it’s our body doing its thing, and we, no, people in general shouldn’t be afraid of it. If they are confused or unsure, they need to educate themselves. Although it’s horrible that women are being shamed for something that’s part of them!

  6. liyamh January 31, 2016 / 2:26 am

    Vaginal discharge used to irritate me so much but now I find it fascinating to be aware of exactly which stage of my cycle my body is in at any moment of time. I used to be really shy about it but now I know that it’s a sign that my body is healthy and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It was only through reading articles on the internet that I discovered this. I wish more people would talk about it so I wouldn’t have had to go through those years completely clueless about vaginal discharge and the methods of managing it (cloth liners are my go-to now!)

    http://rougeandruche.com

  7. lucieleannexo January 31, 2016 / 9:30 am

    I absolutely loved reading this post! I can totally relate to the things you said, in the past I have felt so self conscious about my discharge. Young people definitely need to be more educated about it, as like you said it is a complete normal and healthy bodily function xx

  8. Martha Jane January 31, 2016 / 10:21 am

    Oh my goodness my ex-boyfriend used to make me feel HORRIBLE about discharge. It’s one of those things, even more than periods, that people just aren’t informed about and it causes toxic behaviour. I had no idea about CBB, are these men 5 years old? Poor poor woman, having to feel ashamed about her body working correctly. Angry doesn’t cut it, but it’s a fantastic post x

  9. Tracey @ One Frazzled Mum January 31, 2016 / 1:27 pm

    It’s ridiculous that people still don’t talk about this and don’t know what is normal. This is a great post for everyone to read as everyone needs to know about this!

  10. Charli James January 31, 2016 / 1:44 pm

    I’m pretty much standing and clapping this post right now!
    I don’t watch CBB but I think thats awful that those reactions happened.

  11. Emma White (@TheRealSupermum) January 31, 2016 / 2:39 pm

    With having two teenage grls we often discuss periods and discharge its just open convo here and certainly not something that embarrasses me or them

  12. Leanne January 31, 2016 / 3:24 pm

    It’s a shame that some don’t understand that it’s just normal and no one should feel bad for it. It’s natural. It’s what our bodies do!

  13. Life as Mum January 31, 2016 / 4:40 pm

    This is a great post. I love how open you are in your posts.

  14. Daniella January 31, 2016 / 4:40 pm

    I find it incredibly odd that women can shame women about anything never mind vaginal discharge.

  15. Rachel January 31, 2016 / 6:03 pm

    There does seem to be a stigma attached to the whole word Vagina, never mind anything associated with it x

  16. Nadia_H January 31, 2016 / 6:54 pm

    Preach! The hypocrisy of men not thinking twice about their fluids yet women being shamed for theirs really annoys me. I’m sorry you encountered shaming for something completely natural. I’m often changing or sneaking off underwear (or wearing panty liners…) out of embarrassment over my discharge but I’m working on gaining the confidence to not care about it as it is a bodily function to not be ashamed of at all.

  17. freddieandi January 31, 2016 / 9:22 pm

    Brilliant post. It’s so important to normalise our vaginas and vulvas. x

  18. Beth Slater February 1, 2016 / 7:55 am

    Hi, I love most of your article, i agree that there is too much vagina shaming going on, too much pressure to be of perfect proportions, hair free etc. And yes vaginal discharge is not only natural but necessary for a healthy cycle and for fertility. However I’d just like to point out to you that vaginal steaming is not part of this shaming.
    Vaginal steaming is an ancient technique that is still used today to help women to heal their wombs in the presence of endometriosis, fibroids, very painful menstrual cycles or a lack of cycles, infertility and other conditions. Vaginal steaming is an acting healing rather than an act of vanity or cleanliness. A lot of people don’t understand this.
    I wrote about this recently and I would really love if you read it http://stepstoeden.weebly.com/blog/vaginal-steaming-fashion-or-therapy
    Keep going though sister, great post otherwise. Thankyou.

  19. Elizabeth February 1, 2016 / 9:11 am

    I suppose we’re lucky these days in that there is a wealth of information available online to answer any questions we might have about our own bodies, and women are more open and honest with each other. A very thought provoking post. I wonder if this topic should be part of ‘the talk’ we give our daughters at a certain age.

  20. ninachildish February 1, 2016 / 4:14 pm

    The hypocrisy of the “but it’s ok for me to have his cum on me” thing. Ugh.
    I was engaging in foreplay with a partner and he literally said “eewwww” when he removed his fingers from me. I was like “Buddy, that’s what enables you to put them in there in the first place.”

  21. Kaz & Ickle Pickle (@IcklePicklex) February 1, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    Such a great post – i have two teen daughters who, thankfully talk to me about their vaginas. We often talk about discharge – it is part of having a vagina! I hope I have normalised it for them. Kaz x

  22. Rebecca Smith February 1, 2016 / 10:37 pm

    I don’t know why discharge is such a big thing for people to be freaked about, its a natural bodily function for Pete’s sake – why should we be shamed for something happening naturally to many women across the world? The CBB thing was awful

  23. Umber Phoenix *My Make Up Life* February 2, 2016 / 12:10 pm

    its such a natural fundtion its a shame in a way you need to write a blog post about it. nothings more wonderful than the human body

  24. Kamila February 2, 2016 / 5:29 pm

    Great post!

  25. JessicaLouise (@JessycaLouise) February 2, 2016 / 8:53 pm

    This is a really good post and something us girls don’t talk about enough. I have PID and many issues during my teens that forced me to talk about very uncomfortable subjects with doctors and to be honest, it’s made me less shy talking about these things with my girl friends these days. After all, most of us will go through things like this at some point.

  26. deanna February 2, 2016 / 9:45 pm

    This is such a fantastic post, I’ always shy and ashamed when this happens, and I’m not entirely sure why. I’m lucky that my boyfriend doesn’t really seem to care (or notice, he is quite oblivious to a lot of things) but I still feel shy about it. After reading this I realise I just need to get on with it and stop feeling this way!

  27. A Voluptuous Mind February 3, 2016 / 1:48 pm

    Love this post and love my vagina! Really good to be talking about all that stuff, man I wish I’d had such open dialogue when I was growing up, alas the early 90’s were not very kind that way. Loving the blog

  28. Delacoiux, Vincent Vahn February 4, 2016 / 3:50 am

    *applauds* I certainly hope some men read this, though I gotta feeling I’m probably the only dude whose willing to say he read this. You’ve written a damn good post; informative to the ignorant of this subject.

    Honestly its a real bummer most young men aren’t aware and freak out to this natural process. As you’ve said, there is too much of this type of shaming…no, not just this, but just shaming in general of things that are natural. Maybe if schools and parents took the time to educate them early it wouldn’t be so…common and accepted to shame others.

    Do the world good, one post at a time.

  29. Laobo Han February 4, 2016 / 3:42 pm

    I am always checking my discharge to keep track of what’s going on down there. And yeah, this definitely should be part of sex ed for both boys and girls. And periods should be a part of a boy’s sex ed as well. It took me a long time to feel comfortable telling a guy I was on my period as a reason for not having sex and only a few months ago when my love told me that wasn’t a problem for him.

  30. laura February 8, 2016 / 12:51 am

    I’m an adult who is just learning this about vaginal discharge and your piece ‘spoke’ to me. This is probably inappropriate for this forum but wondered what your view (and anyone else’s – please be kind 🙂 ) about discharge after using the bathroom. I’m very paranoid after wiping (sorry, tmi) and possibly getting it on my hand, then pullin my underwear back up, before I have chance to wash my hands (or my panytliner touch my skin/clothes). Should I be? Is it viewed as ‘dirty’ and I should clean then prior to leaving the bathroom?

    So sorry for tmi and im very embarrassed

    • Tara | C&CO. February 8, 2016 / 9:23 am

      First of all, don’t apologise and please don’t be embarrassed. None of this is TMI <3

      It's not dirty, it's totally normal. I don't think you need to be worried and clean prior to leaving the bathroom. But if you're worried about this, carry a little bottle of hand sanitiser around with you. I hope this helps!

  31. laura February 8, 2016 / 10:21 am

    Thank you so much Tara. I do get worried it might get on my clothing and they would then be dirty/unhygienic.
    Finding an article like yours has made me feel better about it all, that others deal with it too 😊.

  32. Another Ranting Reader March 10, 2016 / 7:32 am

    Yes! I don’t understand why we are shamed for things like this – it makes no sense whatsoever! I could go on for ages but I’ll save you the essay of a comment. My last blog post was actually on a similar topic (I talked about periods instead of discharge) and would really love if you had a look as it expands on this topic. I feel so sorry for the woman on CBB! It’s horrible that the people around her were so misinformed that they took to shaming her – it’s totally unacceptable!

    Jemima x
    anotherrantingreader.blogspot.co.uk

  33. Aimée May 4, 2016 / 11:07 am

    I’ve never really had any problems with people being weird about my discharge, and I get it a lot. It probably should be talked about in sex ed, but I don’t necessarily think it’s some patriarchal conspiracy to ‘discharge-shame’ women, although it probably is residual from older ideas and lack of knowledge about vaginas. My boyfriends have always been ok with it or thought it was funny, I could joke about it with them with no problems. I think if you show you aren’t grossed out by it yourself because it’s normal then that I’ve found that rubs off on them as well. No pun intended..

  34. Carolanne Johnson May 27, 2016 / 9:20 am

    YES – thank you for this. Your blog is so refreshing Tara. xx

  35. jw May 27, 2016 / 8:52 pm

    Vaginal steams aren’t necessarily used to rid the vagina of discharge. They are used to promote the health of the vagina which includes cleansing of bad bacteria and yeast. Other than that I feel that this article should be widely shared, focusing on young women and teens!

  36. Joanna May 28, 2016 / 12:07 pm

    I love this post so much! I remember a day in year 11 when my tutor told the class that vaginal discharge is a thing in an attempt to educate the oblivious guys in my class. It was so disappointing to hear people talk afterwards about how ‘disgusting’ it was! Nevertheless, it broke the taboo and I know that some guys then got quite curious about the subject, and it made the girls feel less awkward about it! I’m very grateful to that teacher and I think discussions and articles like this are very important! A person can go on their entire lives not thinking their body is normal and feeling insecure about anyone seeing their underwear!

  37. Middlemegg May 30, 2016 / 7:52 pm

    I really loved the movie Obvious Child, for so many reasons, but a big part was the couple of times Jenny slates character references her discharge and the way her underwear looks. They weren’t necessarily positive references, but I didn’t interpret them as negative either, more a nod to the fact that we’re all producing it but we’re rarely talking about it. And even though I’m a 34 year old woman who’s been “dirtying” underwear for many years, it somehow made me feel more open about it.

  38. Ami Elizabeth June 18, 2016 / 1:24 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. It’s so important that women are able to be open about all things women’s health, as as you say, if they aren’t able to discuss what’s normal, how can they get to the drs when something changes. Have shared 🙂

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