One of the cool things about writing for (and I would think, reading on) a women's lifestyle site is you feel comfortable tackling all of the topics that directly affect us. And when it comes to today’s issue, let’s not act like we all haven’t had moments when we’ve caught a whiff of our own vagina and thought to ourselves, “OK. What’s really going on?”
If you’re currently noticing an aroma that seems a little “off,” before you go into semi-panic mode — or worse, you try and mask it with perfumed washes that typically do more harm than good — check out some of the most common vagina smells — then compare and contrast. That way, you’ll have a good idea of what’s actually going on and what you need to do to get everything…handled.
1. If Your Vagina Smells Like a Penny…
Do you have times when your vagina gives off a scent that is similar to a copper penny? If so, more times than not, it’s no big deal. This is usually an indication of iron being present which makes perfect sense when you’re on your period or if a night of some semi-wild (albeit consensual) sex led to a bit of breakthrough bleeding. In fact, as far as sex goes, if you’re engaging in unprotected copulation, sometimes your partner’s semen can throw off your vagina’s pH balance which also can result in a metallic-like smell. The main thing to keep in mind with this one is it shouldn’t happen, non-stop, all of the time. If it is, see your doctor, just to make sure it’s all good. Better to be on the safer side whenever blood scents are lingering around.
2. If Your Vagina Smells Like Sourdough Bread…
So, what if your vagina smells a lot like sourdough bread? If you’ve never had that before, the best way to describe it is…kinda on the “ferment-y” side. Usually what this indicates is that the good bacteria that’s in your vagina is working overtime to keep that space acidic. At the end of the day, this is a good thing because good bacteria help to prevent bad bacteria from overtaking your vagina and ultimately causing an infection. I’ve personally noticed this smell when I’ve had a lot of kefir or gone a week straight taking a strong probiotic. Anyway, if this is what’s going on, you’re pretty much all good.
3. If Your Vagina Smells Like Ammonia…
Wanna know an underrated sign that you could be dehydrated? If your vagina has a strong ammonia-like scent, that’s a potential giveaway. The reason why is because sometimes, urine can store up in our underwear or on our vulva and if it’s strong, it could be due to not getting enough water. Another thing that can trigger this smell is bacterial vaginosis (BV). So, if you’re noticing this one and your discharge is grey, yellow or green, super thin, and/or you’ve got vaginal irritation, while you can test for BV at home, you’ll probably need a prescription to treat it. In other words, see your doctor.
4. If Your Vagina Smells Like Molasses…
This one is a little iffy. What I mean by that is, while some of the bacteria in your vagina can smell a little on the sweet side, if there is an overgrowth of yeast going on in there, that can result in your genitalia smelling somewhat like molasses too. So, if you notice that along with the scent, you’ve got a thicker discharge, vaginal itching, and/or a swollen vulva, that sounds a lot like a yeast infection is brewing. I wouldn’t ignore that if I were you. More times than not, those bad boys only get worse over time.
5. If Your Vagina Smells Like a Swimming Pool…
So, what if your va-jay-jay smells a lot like the chlorine that’s in a swimming pool? Usually, this isn’t that big of a deal either; especially if you’re noticing it right after you have sex. Sometimes, the pH balance of our vaginas is disrupted by the chemicals that are in the lubricants and condoms that we use. Anyway, if the smell bothers you too much, try going with a natural or unscented lubricant and/or switch up your condom brands to see if that helps. Either way, the scent usually passes in a couple of hours. All good.
6. If Your Vagina Smells Like Cheese…
If your vagina smells similar to your favorite cheese, there isn’t really a clear-cut reason for it. On one hand, it could be nothing. On another, it could be a sign of BV or the STD trichomoniasis (more on that in a sec). So, what should you do? In this case, don’t just pay attention to the scent but the discharge as well. As far as healthy discharge goes, it’s on the thinner side (a milky-like texture), the color is usually white or off-white, it doesn’t have a strong smell and it is non-irritating. This means that if your vagina smells like a cheese plate and your discharge doesn’t look the way I just said, please get checked out.
7. If Your Vagina Smells Like Fish…
Out of all of the scents that I’ve talked about, probably the most common one (that’s openly discussed) is a vagina that smells like fish. First up, no, “she” is not supposed to normally smell like that. Well, let me back up — fresh fish has a very mild aroma to it; it’s fish that’s been laying out and is decomposing that’s highly problematic. If “Door B” is what you’ve got going on, don’t Elmo shrug it off because usually it’s a telltale sign that you’ve got an overgrowth of anaerobic organisms going on (which is another sign of BV) or you could have trichomoniasis.
What are some other indications of the latter? Frothy discharge. The constant need to urinate. Discomfort (like a burning sensation) when urinating. Itchy and swollenness in your vulva. Although trichomoniasis is easily curable with the help of antibiotics, please don’t be out here trying to handle it on your own. You need your healthcare provider to give a proper diagnosis, followed by a prescription. In other words, Googling at-home treatments ain’t gonna cut it.
8. If Your Vagina Smells Like Musk…
Although every vagina is unique (check out “Did You Know That There Are 10 Different Kinds Of Vaginas? Yep.”), if there’s one scent that is kind of “universal” when it comes to what a healthy vagina should smell like, words like “slightly musky” and “earthy” fit the bill. For the record, your vagina should never smell overpowering and oftentimes, based on where you are in your cycle, the scents can shift a bit. Still, if musky is what you are leaning towards most of the time, you’re pretty fine. Carry on.
9. If Your Vagina Smells Like Weed…
Ever had your vagina smell like weed before? If so, you’re not making it all up in your head. Something that your genital region is full of is apocrine sweat glands that happen to release fluid that has a milky-like substance. When it mixes in with the bacteria that is inside of your vagina, that can result in a scent that is reminiscent of cannabis. The more you know, chile.
10. If Your Vagina Smells Like Death…
Something that sometimes happens on the day that follows the last day of my period is there is irritation at the opening of my vagina. If I check to see if there’s a scent, it can smell a lot like death (no joke). A hack that has helped to avoid irritability is I wear my menstrual cup on that day too. Good thing because, I’ve discovered that the “WTF is that smell?!” smell is what can happen when bacteria, uterine tissue, and blood all mix together (or if you forgot to take a tampon out). Thankfully, it’s nothing to worry about — so long as it doesn’t go too long past your cycle. If it does, you already know what I’m about to say, right? Where’s your physician at? Exactly.
There you go. 10 common vagina scents, what they basically mean, and what you should do about them. Hopefully, this all has helped to put your mind at ease and also brought clarity to the fact that a healthy vagina isn’t supposed to smell like a bed of roses, scents change from time to time and, more times than not, you — and your vagina — are gonna be just fine.
Featured image by Getty Images
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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