“Vabbing,” the fringe trend of using vaginal secretions as perfume by dabbing one’s vaginal fluids (hence: “vabbing”) on the wrists and neck, has recently surged in popularity thanks to TikTok. The idea behind this emerging trend is that vaginal fluids produce pheromones that may attract sexual partners. As a result, people are using vabbing as a way to attract dates, primping themselves with their own naturally-made perfume in preparation for a night out.
@keni.mov ♬ Top Off - Gunna
So is there any merit to vabbing? Is this the surprise summer sex surge you’ve been waiting for? Scientifically, probably not. While intimacy experts like Shan Boodram describe using vabbing as a form of seduction, very little formal scientific research exists detailing any measurable sexual response to vaginal odors on the basis of human pheremones. Both the NIH and Science Direct studies demonstrate that female hamsters do, in fact, use vaginal fluids to attract male hamsters. Separated from the female hamster body, male hamsters are more attracted to bottles containing the scent of vaginal fluids than clean control bottles. So yes, there’s biological reasoning to suspect that vaginal odors may be sexually enticing. However, humans are not hamsters, and hominid research is not yet expansive enough to arrive at a conclusion. Despite the limited evidence of its effectiveness, there’s also little risk to vabbing. As long as your hands are clean when you’re reaching down there, your vagina isn’t going to suffer any damage. And vice versa, as long as your vagina is clean (obviously, vabbing is not a great idea if you have an active STD or STI), displacing a little fluid to other parts of your body won’t cause any harm.
The language used to describe vabbing as it gains media attention is often either sexually charged or disparaging: related news headlines include “Will Vabbing Make Your Lover Feral?” or “The ‘vabbing’ trend taking over TikTok which some people think is the most disgusting thing they’ve ever seen.” I was personally disgruntled by the media pronouncements of vabbing as “disgusting.” It’s generally safe, and there’s nothing vulgar about touching and smelling your own body as long as it is not harming your health or the health of others. While there’s little evidence to suggest that vabbing has any scientifically proven effect on sexual attractiveness, there’s also no real reason not to give it a try.
With that in mind, I decided to go for it.
I didn’t have any wild plans for the day, nor any intention of attracting a partner. So I went about my normal schedule, with one small adjustment: morning stretches, a little reading, shower, a swipe into my vagina and a little dab on the wrists and neck, and then an afternoon spent writing at the local coffee shop. The scent was only potent if I actually intentionally smelled my wrist. Otherwise, I didn’t notice it, and after a couple hours it wore off completely.
And here’s the confession...I liked it. As far as personal taste goes, I don’t find vaginal odors particularly sexy—but I do think there’s something empowering about wearing yourself as perfume.
For me, accepting my vagina isn’t as much about embracing my sexuality or womanhood, as it is about expressing a love for my body, separate from notions of gender. It’s an openness to the self, a refusal to hide. I’ve spent much of my life embarrassed and even afraid of my own biology as a result of the pervasive rhetoric of shame in the context of public school sex education classes, secrecy around periods, and portrayals of bodies in media. Of course, vabbing may not be for everyone, but calling it disgusting is just another way to negate the intrinsic complexity and beauty of the human body. Why shouldn’t we explore our bodies? Why shouldn’t we enjoy the more intimate parts of ourselves, even the way we smell? I don’t plan on adopting vabbing as a sex tool in my future, but I’m glad I tried it. I feel like my vagina and I just got a little bit closer.
Top image: Deon Black
Grace is a senior at Kenyon College. Currently living in Vancouver WA, Grace enjoys road trips, podcasts, crossword puzzles, and spending time in nature.