Full marks to the educators and parents who, according to an article in the Washington Post by Abigail Higgins, don’t want their teenage daughters to feel uneasy about their “vaginal health.” But why would teenage girls and young women feel “uneasy” about this?
Needless Anxiety About Vaginal Health
Most guys don’t feel uneasy about their “penile health.” What is it about young women that causes anxiety in this area?
Here, the discussion bogs down in euphemisms. Girls want to “feel fresh,” we are told. And products such as OMV! by Vagisil are supposed to encourage “autonomy” and a “positive self” image by giving young women control over how they smell.
Ummm, not really. Such feminine hygiene products have the effect on focusing girls’ attention laser-like on the odor issue.
Guys as well focus on the odor issue — read armpits — but it’s not really the same issue, because the armpits are not involved in sexual activity.
The issue that all this “freshness” chatter does not address is the issue of oral-vaginal sex, and girls’ and women’s horror of the guy going “ew” after oral-vaginal contact. This is every young woman’s nightmare: the fear that the guy will be repelled at the odor of her perineum and vagina. The “ew” fear is what is moving these bodies of OMV! off the shelf.
Is This a Common Fear?
According to data for 2006-08 from the National Center for Health Statistics of the US government, 32 percent of females 15-17 have had vaginal intercourse. And of those having ever had vaginal sex, 51.9 percent had oral sex before advancing to vaginal. (This latter statistic is for females 15-24.) In other words, a majority of young women who are sexually active started out with oral sex. We are not told if it was oral-vaginal or oral-penile. (Anjani Chadra et al., “Sexual Behaviour: Data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth,” National Health Statistics Report, nr. 36 (Mar 3, 2011), p 10)
So, a lot of of young women are sexually active by age 19, and a majority of them started out at oral.
Is there a market for females who are concerned about the “ew” factor? Yes, there is, and it’s huge. And bottles of OMV! are flying off the shelves!
The Combe company that sells this product made an astute business decision. Out of delicacy, the promotion of their product — of the “odor” issue — is limited to hype about “freshness” and not feeling “dirty.” But these euphemisms merely reinforce vaginal preoccupations. The supposedly enlightened discussions about “vaginal health” just heighten these fears rather than lessening them.
How to Counter Freshness Fears
How should public discussions of the “freshness” issue be conducted? First, expose the OMV! agitprop as commercially-driven marketing hype. Secondly, explain that changing the pH of the vagina — which these products do — opens the door to odor-causing viruses, bacteria, and yeast infections. Thirdly, explain to girls and women that females do not have a monopoly on hygiene issues. How about those ski-tracks on the guys’ Joe Boxer’s? Nature has a way of evening-out the “ew” factor.