(SPOILER: NOT to douche!)
In this post, I’m going to regale you with some cold, hard facts about a little product known as The Douche.
The word “douche” comes from the French word doucher, meaning “to shower,” but in modern parlance, it has come to be a conventional insult — and rightly so, because quite frankly, the concept that women need to douche in order to be considered healthy is insulting ... and just plain erroneous.
My relationship with the douche runs very deep. (Haha, deep.) In my first-hand account of surviving an abusive relationship, I mentioned that my ex-boyfriend informed me that he would not reciprocate oral sex unless I started douching (a practice which, according to him, all women were supposed to perform weekly). I began to douche compulsively — everyday, despite the label’s instructions — and in the end, it didn’t even matter to him. As it turned out, this was nothing more than yet another ploy in which he managed to assume control over my behavior, my appearance, and my self-image.
Even after I broke up with him, I continued douching out of shame and insecurity. I found myself becoming paralyzed by fear of ever having to open up my legs in front of another human being — all because a man I had been intimate with convinced me my vagina was somehow inadequate.
Now first, allow me to explain to you how the vagina works.
The vagina produces mucous naturally that allows it to clean itself. It also harbors all different kinds of bacteria that create a healthy pH balance that, if disturbed (by something like douching, for example, but also by any kind of deodorizing sprays), can result in vaginal irritation, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, sexually-transmitted infections, or pelvic inflammatory disease (the latter three of which can lead to complications during pregnancy).
Ironic then, isn’t it, that the douche has been historically marketed to clean the vagina and to prevent STIs. The fact remains that it does neither, and at best, it does absolutely nothing at all (neither harmful nor helpful).**
Originally, the douche was misappropriated as a birth-control device, and also as a popular method of rinsing out menstrual blood during or following a woman’s period. In reality, using a douche in this manner can be counterproductive, as it runs the risk of pushing unwanted fluids farther into the body.
In recent history, the douche has had one marketable purpose, and that is to eradicate “vaginal odor,” aka: the way a vagina smells when it’s actually, y’know, working.
So you see, the war on women did not start with Rep. Todd Akin’s inflammatory remarks two months ago about “legitimate rape” not being able to lead to pregnancy. And it didn’t start with Rep. Lisa Brown being banned from speaking on the floor of the State House in Michigan this past June for saying the word “vagina.” And it also didn’t start with states all over the country cutting funds to Planned Parenthood starting back in May either.
It’s been going on for a lot longer than that.
After oral contraceptives became available to women all across America in the 1970s, medical studies began to show the danger of the douche, and since then, it’s been common knowledge.
At least among doctors everywhere.
Because of my own personal experiences, and since engaging others in conversations about douching, it seems as though the knowledge of the potential harm that douching has on vaginal health is not actually so common. In fact, many of my peers (my ex-boyfriend included) seem to think that douching is a hygienic practice, while others simply are unaware as to what douching even is.
Well, allow me to enlighten you. The douche is an antiquated emblem of patriarchal oppression that takes something as incredible and awe-inspiring as the vagina and transforms it into something shameful, repulsive, and altogether misunderstood.
The vagina is supposed to smell like pussy, people. Not like a can of Lysol.
In conclusion, if you’ve come this far, and you still think women should douche, then congratulations — you’re a douche! :)
**N.B. — If, however, you do suspect you might actually have a problem, see your gynecologist for counsel. Don’t take a person with a penis’s word for it. (Unless, of course, your gynecologist has a penis, in which case … carry on.)