Women may once have been content with letting their private parts do their own thing from January through to December, but in 2018 the concept of the seasonal vagina has gained traction.
In May, Teen Vogue attracted mockery and outrage in equal measure with an article advising readers How To Get Your Best Summer Vagina Ever (they actually function fine all year round, thank you). And now, as sure as the seasons change, so too does the health "advice" doled out to people with vaginas. Enter: the "winter vagina".
This week a former NHS midwife warned that vaginas enter "drought mode" as the temperature drops, becoming drier during the colder months and potentially even affecting your sex life, according to The Mirror.
"Dry autumn and winter air depletes moisture from our bodies, leaving our skin dehydrated and cracked, and our sinuses parched," Mary Burke, who is also a senior clinical nurse at the London Bridge Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Clinic, told The Sun (who else?).
"And while it’s an issue few will want to discuss openly, our vaginas can enter 'drought mode' during this time, too. When we spend a lot of time in air conditioned rooms, or with the heating on, we’re living in air which carries very little moisture."
To combat dryness and increase moisture in your "downstairs area", Burke recommends spending money (around £35) on a humidifier. "A low cost alternative to a humidifier is simply to leave a bowl of water on the radiator, allowing moisture to evaporate into the air."
While this is a similar-sounding process to Gwyneth Paltrow's much-loved vaginal steaming, confusingly, it's the opposite of that espoused by Shailene Woodley, who's become known for her somewhat kooky natural beauty routine and who "suns" her vagina in winter. "Another thing I like to do is give my vagina a little vitamin D. [Laughs]... If you’re feeling depleted, go in the sun for an hour and see how much energy you get. Or, if you live in a place that has heavy winters, when the sun finally comes out, spread your legs and get some sunshine. [Laughs]," she told Into The Gloss.
So what should we be doing? Lo and behold, gynaecologists and other health professionals have rubbished Burke's advice and the whole notion of a seasonal vagina. Speaking to Refinery29, Dr Jen Gunter, the gynaecologist, obstetrician, an vaginal health expert famous for discrediting some of Goop's most dubious claims, described "seasonal vaginas" as "the ultimate overlap between pseudoscience and the patriarchy".
"This is just a riff on the misinformation of the 1920s-1940s that suggested women needed Lysol douches," she continued. "Vaginas in a perpetual state of almost mayhem is a way to make women feel self conscious and clearly sells product. We have an entire industry devoted to it.
"This 'article in the Mirror that prompted my ire quotes a former midwife who is in that industry – she works for a plastic surgeon who appears to offer vaginal procedures."
Gunter also ripped into the "winter vagina" in a hilarious blogpost titled "It’s time to winterise your vagina". There's only so much earnest advice a health professional like Gunter can dish out to reassure women that 90% of vaginal health is BS, and the post makes her impatience very clear.
She goes on to lay into the Mirror's overblown headline: "Don’t go thinking your vagina is safe from vaginal catastrophe indoors. The air inside is dry. Parched. The fucking desert. According to the Daily Mirror the air is apparently so fucking dry in houses in the United Kingdom that it is going to suck the moisture right out of your vagina."
Gunter continues: "I bet it’s all that English Ivy. It’s like the Day of the Triffids, but for vaginas. Shakespeare wrote about the perils of winter vagina. Just like the Daily Mirror. That’s what Richard III is about. Look, I know this is a seasonal vagina post and not a literary vagina post, but indulge me. Richard III is all about bush. 'Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.' I mean, come on! The War of the Roses is just one big fucking bush analogy."
She concludes with some matter-of-fact gynaecological myth debunking. "Look, I know it sounds totally batshit that the air outside could impact your vagina, which is inside your body and underneath clothes. I know it is also truly mind blowing that no one worries about summer or winter asshole, yet vaginas are just a few centimetres away and not full of fecal matter and are a total fucking mess.
"Hey, I don’t make the rules. Air doesn’t even get inside the vagina and vaginal moisture has nothing to do with the environment, but what are facts anyway? Silly things that can get a lady into trouble, that’s what. The human body is a mystery, especially vaginas. Which are delicate. That’s all you need to know."
Several others, including doctors, also laid into the warnings on social media to hilarious effect.
While vaginas have attracted most of the coverage as it pertains to seasonal genitals, men haven't completely escaped the bizarre phenomenon. Social media went wild over articles claiming "summer penis" was a thing during this year's heatwave, which the Mirror (again) claimed was making men's bits "appear bigger".