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.