To say that anatomy, sex and wellness classes in some places are "lacking" would be the understatement of a lifetime.
Between abstinence-only education, completely skipping over "awkward" things and a prevailing "you don't need to know that" attitude, it's no wonder some people are out here Jon Snowing our way through life with a vagina.
We want to take a moment to note that in some places the problem is more than just a lack of education.
In some places its perfectly legal to teach information you know to be untrue in order to promote abstinence. In fact, as of 2017 only 13 states required that the information taught in their sex-ed classes be medically and factually accurate.
Abstinence-only sex-ed is taught in 37 of 50 states in the US despite evidence that such education leads to an increase in teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The United States ranks first among developed nations in both teen pregnancies and STDs.
Just like deaths from the pandemic.
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to health and wellness.
Folks have been finding ways to combat that misinformation for years. Now with social media at people's fingertips, sharing information is easy, fast and can reach a metric crapton (totally official unit of measurement) of people fast.
Thats where Alyssa Cochran-Caggiano and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln come into play.
The 21-yr-old college student was tired of all of the things we were just never taught in sex-ed, so she decided to get personal with TikTok. In response, Dr. Jennifer Lincoln gave the world some free education many people never got.
The overarching theme of girls sex-ed in a lot of places is simple:
"Don't even think about sex or you'll get 17 diseases, get pregnant, your life will be over and you'll die used up and alone because nobody wants gum someone else already chewed—and you better not enjoy it or you're a slut."
That fascinating and colorful curriculum doesn't leave a lot of room for teaching about the female reproductive system, what it does aside from incubate babies (There's so much! Baby making is like your reproductive system's semi-super-part-time totally optional seasonal gig.) and how it works.
There are grown adults out here who don't know that there are three holes, not two—no, urine doesn't come from the vagina. There are people who believe penises can change the shape and structure of a vagina—they can't.
Plenty of people don't know the vagina is self-cleaning and those fancy washes are harmful, not helpful. And plenty of people don't know discharge is normal, healthy, necessary, and powerful.
Alyssa used TikTok to bring up one of those things all women with vaginas know about, but rarely talk about. Underwear stains.
No not the period panty stains. The "bleach stains" that show up in the gusset/crotch area of panties—particularly if they're dark colored cotton.
"How does she do that?" Alyssa asks about her vagina.
Plenty of people got back to her and shared the video explaining that they thought these stains only happened to them or that it meant they were dirty.
Some people believed the stain was caused by ammonia from urine leaks and had convinced themselves they were having some kind of bladder issue. Some thought it meant their vagina was dirty and had spent tons of money on washes and products trying to "fix" it.
Others confessed that they wore pantyliners constantly because they had convinced themselves that it was more hygienic. It is, in fact, totally the opposite.
Buzzfeed and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln decided to answer Alyssa's question about the cause of those underwear stains and put some fears to rest.
To put it simply, discharge is "how she does that."
Dr. Lincoln, a Portland-based gynecologist and OB who you might recognize from previous videos on racism in the medical community, explained that the stains are not happening because you are dirty. They are happening because your vagina is clean and really good at keeping itself that way.
The natural pH of a vagina is acidic. Discharge, which your body produces to help keep everything clean and protected, carries that acidity with it.
We've been socialized to think of vaginas as delicate, weak and fragile like:
But in reality she's more of a powerful independent gal with acidic spit who handles herself without your help.
That acidity is more than capable of removing the dyes from some fabrics.
It's not ammonia from urine. It's not anything that indicates you are unclean.
It's an annoyance that means you need to replace or re-dye your undergarments if the stains bother you.
There is nothing unusual about it. There's nothing to be ashamed of. There's nothing about it that means you are dirty.
Think of the spots as reminders that our vagina totally has our back and is hard at work keeping itself clean and healthy.
Would've been nice to learn that in sex-ed, though.