Q&A: Strong Genital Odor And Oral Sex

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QUESTION: My boyfriend wants to "go down" on me but I feel like my vagina has an odor and if my boyfriend smells it, he would freak. I've been to the doctors and they say it’s nothing and that women have a natural odor. The odor also gets stronger right before my period. I've used over-the-counter stuff but it doesn't help. What should I do?

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Photo: FJTU (flickr)

What you may not know is that many men and women enjoy the way that vaginas and penises smell and some people get enormously turned on by the way that their partner smells.

What you’re going through is a very common process for young women and men who are beginning to think about sharing their body with another human being in a way that they have never chosen to do before.

It is a big decision to make oneself physically and emotionally vulnerable to another person – in this case, to let your boyfriend look at, touch, and – yes – even smell and taste your genitals.

A Personal Choice

The decision to have oral sex, or any other type of sex, is an enormously personal choice and nothing you should feel that you have to do if you don’t feel comfortable doing it.

Your doctors are absolutely correct that all women have some type of vaginal odor. And you are correct and seemingly in tune with your body to notice that a woman’s natural vaginal odor tends to change throughout her menstrual cycle as her hormones change.

Odors: Not Necessarily A Problem

Interestingly, doctors are trained to be able to distinguish common vaginal odors from odors that signal a health problem. Many gynecologists use such as odor to help them make a diagnosis.

The fact that you have asked your doctors about your vaginal odor suggests that you feel comfortable talking about your body with a healthcare provider. The fact that trained doctors have suggested your odor is nothing to worry about suggests that it is nothing unusual or indicative of a health problem.

If your boyfriend has had oral sex or other types of sex before, or if he has fingered you or other girls before, he likely knows from experience that vaginas have different odors and that it may vary slightly from woman to woman, or from day to day. Even if he has never done any of these things, he has likely heard about vaginal odor from his friends.

What you may not know is that many men and women enjoy the way that vaginas and penises smell. Some people chalk up genital odor as par for the course – meaning it’s nothing they get excited about but nothing that bothers them either. Other people get enormously turned on by the way that their partner smells.

Talk About Your Concerns

If you want to try oral sex with your boyfriend, and the only thing getting in your way is your concern about odor, you might either just go ahead and try it or you might let your boyfriend know about your concerns. Doing so will give him an opportunity to reassure you of his excitement about being with you.

Generally speaking, many healthcare providers do not recommend feminine hygiene products which can irritate the vagina as well as the skin on a woman’s genitals.

Recommended Reading

You can learn more about these concerns, as well as natural vaginal odor, in The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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