Making yogurt from vaginal secretions looks about the same as the usual homemade yogurt pictured here. Photo via mellowynk/Flickr
The idea first came up while a friend and I were discussing the vagina's probiotic properties. "Why is there a whole cookbook of cum-based recipes and not a SINGLE THING on Google about culturing jazz juice?" she wrote in a message to me and a few of our friends.So, as the disapproving ghost of Julia Child looked on, she grabbed a spoon, a pan, and a candy thermometer, and set out to create yogurt from her vagina—the ultimate in locally-sourced cuisine.
Cecilia Westbrook is a friend of mine, and an MD/PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. We had joked before about making yogurt from vaginal secretions—predictable jokes about the dietary benefit of eating pussy, about naming the product 'Queeffer'—but then a Google search was performed and: nothing. Not even in medical literature. Curiosity piqued, Westbrook began to research in earnest. What choice did she have but to try it herself?
Every vagina is home to hundreds of different types of bacteria and organisms. These organisms—collectively known as the vaginal community—produce lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and other substances that keep the vagina healthy. The dominant bacteria is called lactobacillus, which also happens to be what people sometimes use to culture milk, cheese, and yogurt.But Westbrook didn't make her yogurt just for the sake of some amazing jokes. And she certainly didn't make it because she was hungry. She knew enough about the chemistry of the vagina to think that eating a batch of yogurt made from her ladyjuices would be good for her. Seriously.
The reason was probiotics—friendly bacteria that, when ingested, are believed to help in keeping our intestines healthy. You've surely seen the ads for probiotic yogurts for your gut. But there are vagina-specific probiotics for sale too, which claim to to keep your vagina healthy by making sure there are more of your particular "good" bacteria down there than the bad.
Her first batch of yogurt tasted sour, tangy, and almost tingly on the tongue. She compared it to Indian yogurt, and ate it with some blueberries.
"You can take a probiotic orally and have the bacteria end up in the vagina," said Larry Forney, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho. "So the whole idea of eating yogurt to treat your vagina, you stop and think about it a moment and go 'Wait, isn't there a problem here with the plumbing?' But somehow it works."In theory, anyhow. And what could be healthier than taking healthy bacteria from her vagina, Westbrook reasoned, and culturing more of it to later ingest?The "collection method" was done with a wooden spoon. She set up a positive control (made with actual yogurt as the starter culture) and a negative control (plain milk with nothing added), and combined her own home-made ingredient to the third batch of yogurt. Left overnight, the magic of biology created a respectably-sized bowl.Her first batch of yogurt tasted sour, tangy, and almost tingly on the tongue. She compared it to Indian yogurt, and ate it with some blueberries.This is not, it turns out, a very good idea at all.According to Forney, "When you take vaginal secretions, you're not just taking the lactobacilli. You're taking everything." And it's possible that, from day to day, or woman to woman, "what you're using in your yogurt is no longer dominated by lactobacilli but other bacteria, some of which could be pathogenic," he explained.Sometimes this imbalance can cause yeast infections and other unpleasant nether times. You wouldn't want those organisms ending up in your breakfast. Even a healthy vagina hosts organisms that could be bad news if cultured, too.
"It's a bad idea in general," Forney said. "But there is an element of it that has some appeal: she's using bacteria from her own vagina."Since every woman has a different balance of bacteria and lactobacilli, vaginal probiotics can be of questionable usefulness. But if a company or university developed probiotics that were customized to a woman's own vaginal microbial flora, it would be far more effective than what's at the grocery store today, Forney explained.The health benefits of eating her personal probiotics might not have been as straight-forward as Westbrook had hoped, but there was at least some merit to Westbrook's plan. "I like what she's doing in principle, but it's risky, because she doesn't know what else she's doing and she could end up with a bad batch," Forney said.The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed. According to Theresa Eisenman, press officer at the agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, "vaginal secretions are not considered 'food', and they may transmit human disease, a food product that contains vaginal secretions or other bodily fluids is considered adulterated."In other words, like raw milk and certain kinds of stinky cheese, you're not going to find "Ceci's Yonigurt" for sale on a store shelf anytime soon.Westbrook had already made a second batch by the time I learned that making yogurt from one's vagina was not a thing that anyone should do. But despite the discouragement of everyone from Forney to the FDA, she's feeling fine. And she won't be culturing any more.
"In a way, it's so obvious. Like, of course you can make yogurt out of your natural flora. But who would think to do it?" said Westbrook. "And of course the feminist in me wants to say something about how there's a beauty in connecting your body to your food and exploring the power that your vagina has. Part of that is kind of a mystical hippie thing, but part of it is also just getting comfortable with your own body, especially in a culture that is so uncomfortable with women's bodies."For what it's worth, Westbrook said her second batch tasted even more tart, like slightly-spoiled milk—proof that sadly, eating yogurt made from vaginal secretions isn't quite the same as eating actual pussy.This story is part of Motherboard's Sex Ed Week, a series of sex-focused science and technology stories. Check out more stories here.
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