As a sex coach, there isn’t much that surprises me these days. The topics I cover with singles and couple of all ethnicities, ages, races, religions and gender identities is vast and ever changing.
I often get asked what types of questions do I get asked the most, and often my response is the “Am I normal if…” inquiry. Second to that, is questions about how to start conversations or it is about situations that are remedied with opening conversation. For a variety of reasons, sex and all varying topics including sex are laden with taboo and repression. For some people, even the consideration of speaking about a certain type of sex or about what they find to be pleasurable can be overwhelming.
When you add discussions of the number of sexual partners and sexual health practices to the mix, well, some people would rather just abstain than undergo the pressure of communicating about it at all.
My mission is to make these vitally important talks happen in a more relaxed, and nonchalant fashion. It is the time we stick up for our health and our pleasure. It is the time we learn the tools of proper negation and engagement between all sexes. It is the time we normalize certain topics even and especially when they look like this message I received from a reader:
“I have struggled with how to let a woman know that her lady part smells worse than average.
To give a little context, I know a lot of us have bodily smells that happen from time to time. We are all not going to smell/taste great 100% of the time. But I have noticed with a couple of the women I have dated, is that they continuously smell really bad down there. They were great/amazing women, but when I’ve hinted at like “hey, let’s clean up and get fresh for each other.” I have noticed even immediately after a shower it was still REALLY bad down there.
The problem has been trying to explain it to them in a way that they don’t get insecure about it. It has lead to things like “why won’t you go down on me.” “I don’t smell bad.” “That’s just how it smells.”
Chemically, I know we won’t all smell the same, but the level of how bad these two cases were, I don’t think that’s normal. (And to explain a little further for context – both of them I had slept with several years ago, and we reconnected and slept together more recently again with the exact same issue being the problem.)
Great people! Great in bed! But, the odor is gut wrenching and going down on them would have made me sick.
What’s your advice on how to approach a woman without making them feel insecure?”
First, I have to commend you for the delicacy in which you handled those situations! I hope that one day women and men will not feel the shame they have been taught to feel around their genitals, that way open and honest communication about them will be much easier. “Would you like some gum to freshen your mouth and breath?” is a whole lot easier to mix into conversation than, “Would you like to talk about ways to neutralize your vagina smell”. The interesting part is that mouths have a lot of the same makeup genitals do – squamous epithelium and mucus membranes, but have a lot less stigma.
Ok, so let’s talk about possible causes of the bad smell. I believe that learning about these common situations is the easiest way to open the conversation.
It is difficult to talk about things you know nothing about, and sadly, especially in the US with abstinence education, we are all left in the dark about so much vital information to live physically and emotionally safe lives.
Based on your explanation, I am going to assume these smells have nothing to do with the menstrual cycle.
Many women will experience something similar to what you describe at some point in their lives. Foul smelling discharge is what is most likely the culprit and can be caused by a couple of different sources.
The most probable one is the growth of bad bacteria. Streptococcus, Gardnerella, Staphylococcus are the most common. This is called bacterial vaginosis and affects 30% of women in their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bacterial vaginosis is not necessarily sexually transmitted; however, the less common single celled protozoan STI, trichomonas vaginitis, is.
Good news, these occurrences are typically corrected with a single dose of antibiotics.
Sadly, a lot of women who wind up with a funky smell down there will just think, “this is the way I smell now”, and they won’t seek medical attention. Or, they will feel such shame at the idea of it being a possible STD that they will avoid the doctor for fear their worries will be confirmed.
As a woman, this is something I can sympathize with but I have to stress, the vagina is a regular part of the body. Just like if you had a sore throat that lasted over a week, you’d go to the doctor, get a quick prescription for an antibiotic and be on your way. You aren’t likely to be embarrassed talking about swollen lymph-nodes or tonsils. Think of your vagina the same way.
Vaginas are sensitive places. They must be treated with care by those who own them and those who love the ones who own them. The state in which a vagina is healthiest should be a concern for both sexes.
In my online, private sex positive, sex education group I asked the question “Ladies, what would you like for men to know about your vagina?” Within the responses was the desire for more men to understand the delicate balance women are trying to achieve when it comes to natural and healthy bacterial flora and pH balance. When those things go out of whack, “she” goes out of commission while she attempts to put herself back right.
When it comes to communicating with your partner, it can be nerve racking trying to be respectful and show concern, while making sure to protect yourself in the process.
How she was raised to feel about her body can weigh on how she responds to the conversation. Here is my main advice, the truth always wins. Tell her the truth no matter what. If you tip toe too much, she may continue to think nothing is really wrong. Speak from your heart while using your head. Say that you have read up on vaginal health or tell her you have a sex coach that you follow named Alexa (who says whatever you do, don’t douche!).
Either way, you do more damage to both of you if you do not speak about it.
And it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway – YOU don’t have to do anything don’t want to do just because you feel bad or because you don’t want her to feel bad.
I suggest having empathy and compassion when you do start speaking. I also suggest avoiding the conversation when you are in the midst of passion. Do what you can to settle and diffuse. Suggest some other form of connection. There are many ways to sex that does not include a vagina.
When the moment feels right, “I’d like to talk to you about something that I noticed”. Be prepared to experience defensiveness or confusion. Listen to what she has to say and make relationship decisions together.
If you won’t continue seeing her because of the unpleasant situation, she should know. If she is wonderful and one round of antibiotics is all you need to turn the spark into a flame, I’d rather have the conversation than not.
You wouldn’t want a bad smelling vagina (or penis for that matter) getting in the way of something magical.
Photo Credit – Getty Images