Thing is, I’d rather have them be uncomfortable around me because I’m open about all our bodies have to offer than have them learn things from their friends (don’t get me started) or from porn.
The stigma around people with vaginas is strong. You see it everywhere — commercials for douches, pads that won’t leak, moodiness when they are menstruating, and one billion things on the market to tighten, brighten, and make the vag smell like a Bath & Body Works.
Oh, and don’t forget to get waxed, sugared, or shave that pussy because no one likes a hairball between the legs.
I grew up with all sisters in a pretty open household. I still remember feeling ashamed when I got my period and my vagina smelled different. I would load up with the baby powder until I couldn’t breathe and take two showers a day because I thought I was disgusting and had no idea every woman or person with a vagina had a different scent down there.
Hello, we are bleeding between our legs. Go elsewhere if you want to smell blueberry muffins or lavender.
Now I know better: That shit is normal and everyone needs to know it. I’m going to make damn sure my sons learn that at home because no child of mine is going to think there’s something wrong with someone because they smell different after a workout, or bleed through their jeans during a heavy flow.
If we aren’t talking to our sons about it, the only other dialogue they get about the vagina in all its glory is from their buddies … and I can tell you first hand, they aren’t educated in this area. Like, at all.
The other day after a ten-mile run when I was a bit overdressed I came in feeling glorious and ready for my breakfast. My son bent down to get a dish from the dishwasher and said, “Oh my god! It smells like a mildewed vagina!”
I said, “That’s right! Because I just got back from a long-ass run and vaginas sweat and smell when we exercise. I bet your balls don’t smell great after you lift weights either, Killer, so you don’t need to comment.”
I could have been embarrassed or apologized, but that’s not going to do him — or anyone who has a vagina — any good. All it does is make him think it’s gross, abnormal, and like we should go take care of it right away so he doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable when he bends down to get something and smells a ripe vag.
It wasn’t long ago my daughter got her period and she was reaching for the Advil as I was heating up the heating pad for her. My poor girl gets cramps so bad she throws up, so I feel like it’s extra important that my sons are respectful and realize how painful and horrible menstruating can be so they can treat their partners accordingly.
He asked her if she had “FUPA cramps” and once again, I had to set him straight. “Yes she does and it’s not fun, and there’s no way you’d be able to take the pain, so why don’t you see what you can do to help her instead?”
He brought her up some dark chocolate to her room a few hours later and has never said a word again.
My boys aren’t perfect, and this will always be a work in progress — vaginas are complicated, and there’s a lot to learn about them, especially when you don’t have one.
But they never say anything when the trash is overflowing with pads. They leave me and my daughter alone when we are writhing in pain each month. They know not to comment on our moods or rock the boat because I’ve taught them better. You don’t kick someone when they are down. You don’t comment on it. And if you see someone has leaked through their clothes, you tell them in a discrete way and keep it to yourself.
I know not everyone will agree with my tactics, and that’s fine — you do you. But my sons will understand vaginas if it kills me. I refuse to send them off in the world thinking their mother never bled or that vaginas don’t have different odors, and leave their partner to educate them.
In this house, we talk about vaginas and we always will. And at least I’ll have peace of mind knowing I taught them vagina-owners don’t need to go out of their way to hide the fact that they might have lots of different smells, but dammit they can go through some tough shit and still work great.
This article was originally published on