Women’s care and treatment of their vaginas, aimed at pleasing men sexually, might increase their vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections as well as other sexual and reproductive health issues.
In most conservative African communities vaginal secretion, especially if it is excess, is detested by men.
The smell of these secretions is assumed to be repulsive to men and the noise of wet sex resulting from such secretions is embarrassing especially for women. A loose, slippery vagina is taken as a sign of infidelity while dry, tight and abrasive sex is thought more desirable, extra sensational and more satisfying for men during intercourse.
However, normal physiology plays against such ideals and vaginal secretion, which is a natural occurrence, is bound to increase with sexual stimulation making the vagina even more wet during intercourse.
To counter this, various communities come up with practises that are meant to entice their male partners.
Infundibulation, which is a more severe form of female genital mutilation, is one such practise and infundibulated women are left with small, tight, almost obliterated vaginal orifices.
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Vaginal smoking is another practise, which uses traditional preparations alleged to have a drying effect on the vagina and is also thought to impart a ‘favourable’ vaginal smell.
Burning or scalding of vaginal mucosa using red hot metals to treat vaginal discharge and by extension to dry and tighten the vagina is also done.
Another common practise is traditional virginoplasties, which are done especially after child birth, and aim to reduce vaginal size and enhance tone. The procedure is similar to the stitching done during infundibulation.
And while this may seem retrogressive, more and more women are visiting gynecologists seeking skilled virginoplasties to tone up their vagina.
The variety and prevalence of such vaginal practices call for concerted efforts to create awareness on their negative effects on female sexuality.