This is such an embarrassing question, but I really feel I need some advice from both men and women, so here goes. I have a little bit of a bad smell problem in my feminine area. I wash every day; I have what I consider to be good hygienic habits. But I’ve been dating a guy for about four months now, and he’s just begun (very sweetly, I might add) suggesting we shower together before sex as “foreplay,” or conveniently suggesting we have some fun after I take a bath or shower.
I thought guys were sometimes “into” the way a woman smells—is that not true? What’s the boundary between normal smell and the smell that turns a guy off? Should I ask my boyfriend if it’s bothering him or just not bring it up at all? And is there anything I can do besides the regular washing every day to help alleviate my problem? Thanks for any advice—the last thing I want to do is ask anyone I know about this.—HH, Chicago, Illinois
The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
Are you seriously asking me this question? Here’s what I would think you should do. Go to the lady doctor first and tell her you need some air freshener for downstairs. There’s got to be a spray or a salve or something you can slather on to tackle this problem. Does Glade make something? Can you try to Febreze it?
What are you eating these days, anyway? With guys, a lot of smells come from their diets. For example, garlic and asparagus are suggested foods to avoid prior to Lovefest ’07.
As for the boyfriend, kudos to him. If you know he’s trying to tell you something, yet he’s tactful enough to figure out how to do it without throwing it out there too bluntly, he’s quality. I don’t know if all women struggle with this, maybe they do. But as for men being “into” the way a woman smells, I can honestly say I have never heard anyone say that it turns them on when it smells. I think you’re headed in the wrong direction if you think it’s a turn-on. I trust others in the 4-Way will have more productive advice than I do on this one.
The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
I feel like we should be walking arm-in-arm on the beach, bundled up in J. Crew sweaters, and sipping some herbal tea as we discuss the ups and downs of becoming a woman. That’s how the Summer’s Eve commercials used to do it, anyway. But Summer’s Eve never would’ve told you this: honey, there’s not a woman alive who hasn’t worried whether her taco had too much seasoning on it. Everybody has those “not-so-fresh” days; you just have to learn how to make them “not-so-smelly” days.
First, take a good, hard look at your diet. Are you eating a lot of pungent foods? Garlic? Extra spicy nacho cheese Dorito’s? Work more fruits and veggies in. That should help make a difference in your bouquet.
Second, how’s your lawn looking south of the border? Lots of women wax or shave their bikini area, but they neglect to regularly trim the length of the hair they leave behind. If you’re a little too Crystal Gayle (that’s epically long hair, for you younger readers), you’re likely to have some smelly build-up from sweat and other natural, ahem, things, that come out of there. I’m not suggesting that you go all Sinead O’Connor, just keep whatever you’ve got nice and neat. That’ll cut down on the smell. And since I mentioned Summer’s Eve, they’ve got a whole slew of products designed to help with this exact conundrum: powder, spray, shower wash, and cleansing cloths, just to name a few. Invest.
I’d also try wearing a pantyliner so that you can change it often and regularly alleviate any stinkiness that might be rubbing up against your skin or hair all day long. (Mom, are you reading? I’ve officially channeled you.) If the stank persists, talk to your gynecologist—your PH may be out of whack.
Every woman has a smell, and from what I hear, most guys like this; it can apparently be quite a turn-on—when it’s not overpowering. What’s smells funky to some might not be all that bad to others, so I’m not sure what the difference is between “normal” and “bad.” Just keep your lady folds as clean as you can. And hang on to your boyfriend, he sounds like a sweetheart—a very tactful, patient sweetheart.
The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
First off, kudos to this guy for being proactive. We gave similar advice a couple of columns ago to a woman who had a problem with her man’s smell. One of the things we suggested was to incorporate showers and baths into her and her partner’s sex life. You’re doing that. I’m always impressed when people follow our good advice—surprised and impressed. This guy likes you and your smell hasn’t scared him away. If nothing else, he’s giving you a good hint that there’s an issue. Bathing regularly and being “hygienic” is a good start, but it may not be enough. Maybe you could take more and/or different approaches to the smell issue. A call to your OB/GYN and some basic research should give you some ideas.
To answer one of your questions, I don’t know if all women struggle with this. I would say most women are likely to have some sort of smell; you are a human being after all. We aren’t bars of soap, we’re living breathing entities. And of course, it’s dependent on how active you are and what time of the day too. There’s also a possibility your guy may be extra sensitive to smell too.
Regardless, you two like each other and should be able to communicate about this without much awkwardness. Try, “Hey baby, I’m trying a new douche. What do you think?” Okay, probably too direct but maybe something more generic, “Hey baby, I’m trying some new things down here, let me know what you like.” Or “I talked to my doctor and she gave me this stuff. Do you notice a difference?” That’s all, no big deal. It sounds like he’s the type who’s willing to work on this with you while you two continue to have fun, so I encourage you to bring it up.
Good luck getting the odor in order.
The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
If you realize that you have a bad smell “down there,” why would you think that anyone would want to be on, near, or around it? Guys may be into the smell of a woman, but why should he be into it when it sounds like even you realize that something is off?
As for the boundary between normal and too much smell, my thought is when you notice it yourself, something is out of balance. I’m not in the health profession, but I would guess that there are many health and dietary reasons that could be the cause of your situation. From my understanding, there’s a mixture of alkaline and acids in the body. When you eat a lot of processed food, the body can become quite toxic or acidic. Perhaps your perspiration is more pungent too. Maybe you are fighting off a virus? I’d go see a doctor and get checked out.
Should you talk to your guy about it? That’s tough to suggest, since you mention nothing about how well you two communicate. If he’s bringing up showering in a sweet way and seems eager to be with you, I don’t see why you wouldn’t talk with him.
And yes, women worry about whether their “scent of a woman” will attract or scare away lovers. And lovers hope that they will love what she “brings.” Or so I’ve heard, ahem …