Growing up, douche was a silent but ominous enemy in my life. For many years, there was a bottle in my family's shower, which had a long, curved neck and lots of holes at the end. I'm not sure when I figured out that the blue bottle was a douching bottle, but at some point its function was known, yet unspoken. And eventually, the blue bottle's presence made me wonder if such an act was necessary. This concern had a significant contribution to my paranoia--which I share with every other woman I know--that things Down There are somehow, well, dirty.

Despite many reassurances over the years from various partners that my vagina is perfectly enjoyable, as well as some personal exploration on the isle of Lesbos into other people's vaginas (which proved quite nice), this paranoia has persisted well into my 20s, and frequently, has a very negative impact on my sexual pleasure, especially when receiving cunnilingus. Therefore, in pursuit of better oral sex and a cure for some long-standing psychological damage, I took a deep breath, and took the plunge. I douched my vagina.


Douching the vagina has actually been around longer than antibiotics have. Some believe that it dates back to Hippocrates, when vaginal rinsing was thought to be the only method of curing vaginal infections. Lots of different ethnic groups have used douching off and on throughout history, but in America, douching had its heyday beginning in the early '20s and carrying on through the '50s, when Cosmo and McCall's regularly featured ads for douche brands like Lysol, Sterizol, and Zonite. The marketing campaign for these products used the line of logic that the vagina is dirty and smelly, and in order to be a clean and obedient wife, she must regularly purge her feminine stink. In a marketing book put out by Midol called "The Modern Woman," the author argues that, "the proper practice of feminine hygiene is unquestionably in maintaining the health of genital organs." The argument continues that, "If the value of the douche is doubted, consider for a minute, the location of the feminine organs. Remember, the vagina opens into an area where waste material, crowded with dangerous bacilli, is regularly discharged from two other openings."

Doctors have since declared this argument ridiculous, and discovered that douching actually kills a friendly bacteria that lives in the vagina, called Lactobacilli. Stripped of Lactobacilli, the pH balance of the vagina is thrown off, and what is normally a healthy vagina becomes a vagina at risk for infection.

Even so, the vagina-is-dirty-logic certainly persists in American culture, as, according to family practitioner Luci Capo Rome--author of The Perils of Vaginal Douching--sixty-seven million women in the US still douche, using brands like Massengill and Summer's Eve. The douching section in any drugstore features at least three or four different kinds of douching options. Though I couldn't find anyone who would admit to it, I'm clearly not the only woman who's ever douched.


To fully experience douching, I decided to enlist the help of my current sexual partner, John, in evaluating the effects of the douche. He was glad to comply. I selected a Summer's Eve douche, as I liked the font on the outside of the box, and it was the cheapest. Two douching bottles were only a dollar fifty.

Together, John (obviously, not his real name) and I examined the side of the box for douching instructions. The ingredients included purified water, sodium citrate, Octoxynol-9 (which we initially confused with Nonoxynol-9, the spermicide), and a bunch of other chemicals. The light blue, transparent liquid smelled a lot like a medicinal mouthwash. This immediately made John skeptical, as he pointed out that he hates mouthwash, and he certainly didn't want it to be involved with anything sexual. "Obviously, it's not going to make my vagina taste like mouthwash," I reassured him. I was lying, of course--the thought of munching some Scope-flavored rug was equally unappealing to me, but I desperately needed John's services in order to complete the mission. He looked at me skeptically for a minute, but was either ultimately convinced or just bravely gave up.

Then we hit another obstacle. "What if I like the douche?" John asked, suddenly struck by this thought. We were standing in the bathroom, my pants down by my ankles, and I was holding a squirt gun-like contraption of cold water that I was about to empty into my vaginal canal. Thus, the prospect that John would actually enjoy my douched hoo-hoo was extremely discouraging, as I realized that I'd either have to begin this extremely unromantic, uncomfortable, unhygienic practice regularly, or live with the knowledge that my special friend really could be tasting better than it does. Nevertheless, finding out the truth was too tempting. "Well," I said to John, "I guess this is a risk we're going to have to take." We looked at each other solemnly and grasped the bottle, ready to press on.

In the end, I douched alone. It was just too compromising a position--hanging my ass over the bathtub, balancing on one foot, and reaching around with one hand to complete the douche--to do in front of anyone else. John had left for a moment and was very disappointed to find me in the bathroom, douche running down my inner thighs, empty squeeze bottle in hand. "Oh, man," he complained. "I missed the whole thing!"

He wasn't too upset, though, when we retreated to the bedroom for some sex. I have to say that the douching pretty much had little effect on things in the sack either way, especially since I had no idea what John was thinking while he was in the act of servicing. But afterward, as we lay in post-coital embrace in his waterbed, I nervously inquired. "Well?" I asked. "What'd you think? Did douching improve anything?"

"Umm, no, definitely not," John said with certainty, and I immediately breathed a sigh of relief. "It kind of tasted really bitter, but not in a good way AT ALL. It kind of tasted bitter in a battery acid kind of way--you know, when you lick a battery to see if it's still good? It was way WAY too medicinal, and reminded me of tasting a dirty penny or something."

John and I then got into an extensive discussion about what the good kind of bitter would taste like. "You know, normally when going down on a girl, there is somewhat of a taste," he explained. "But a little taste is good. It's kind of like the taste of a woman. It turns you on, you know?"

This thought was an entirely new one to me, as I'd always assumed that the best way for a twee to taste would be no way at all. Actually, I realized with great delight, it's okay for the cooter to have a little flavor. "Yeah, I think there's a little truth to the 'smells like tuna, tastes like chicken,' saying," John explained to me. Earlier, before my douching experience, this truth probably would have discouraged me from ever letting anyone else perform oral sex on me again. But thanks to Summer's Eve and the advice of John, I now know that a little taste might be kind of, well, nice. And I'd sure as hell rather taste like chicken than a dirty penny.