Once, years ago, a guy drunkenly asked me about the relationship between sexism and capitalism. (My reputation for being fun at parties, clearly, precedes me!) I'd just finished Lindsay German's Sex, Class and Socialism, so briefly outlined concepts like middle class women as a reserve army of labour (who can be encouraged into factories when lots of workers are needed, like during WW2, before everyone suddenly remembers that actually biology dictates that they should be in the kitchen hoovering up spilt fake-baby-milk-powder, like in the 1950s).
What I really should have said, though, was: Femfresh. That one product is the best example of how capitalism and sexism work together in perfect harmony to make money out of exploiting female insecurities created by sexism.
Femfresh's argument is: "Your vagina smells GROSS! Everyone around you is secretly thinking, my GOD, that vagina smells SO MUCH LIKE A VAGINA, because your vagina smell is SO STRONG that it can penetrate three layers of clothing, and possibly walls too - which is why your neighbours hate you! You'd better spray our fabulous vagina deodorant all over your vagina to stop passing strangers passing out from the toxic vagina fumes."
As a marketing strategy, it's fucking genius: firstly, harness the widespread cultural belief that vaginas smell bad. Second, convince the vagina-enabled that the only possible solution to this infernal stench is to use your product. Thirdly, cackle madly with evil-genius glee at the fact that your product will in fact make the normal smell into a bad smell, ensuring that your customers are locked in to a never-ending arms race of vagina fumigation, for the rest of time.
Nine years ago, I came home one day to find that the entire house stank to high heaven. My housemates and I ransacked the place, trying to figure out where it was coming from - was it the mouldy yoghurt in the fridge? The sanitary towels in the bathroom bin? Had Mrs Next Door turned her house into a pop-up slaughterhouse and forgotten to tell us?
Turns out it was a dead rat decomposing under my floorboards. Over the next few weeks I had the chance to get intimately familiar with the smell, as the estate agents outdid their usual uselessness by dealing with the problem by sending us an air freshener. Super: now my bedroom smells of sickly-sweet vomitous pink chemicals, as well as rotting flesh! What joy!
So when I got a similar whiff the other week, there was no mistaking it. Somewhere, something had died, and the odour of its decomposing cadaver was permeating the flat. I hunted high and I hunted low; I sniffed into cupboards and behind appliances; I considered training the cat as a corpse-hunter. It took a couple of hours of this incredibly gross Easter egg hunt for me to realise that the smell seemed to be following me around.
And that, my friends, is the story of my first encounter with the exciting condition known as bacterial vaginosis.
Too much information, you say? Well: I say this is just enough information to make it entirely clear why using "feminine freshness sprays" is a ridiculously bad idea.
As we learned from Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. That's what its usual clear discharge is for. If you mess with its very precise internal balance of microbes (penicillin was my downfall) or increase its pH by using soap or feminine fucking freshness sprays, things go wrong. Good bacteria get crowded out by bad bacteria. And bad bacteria? In this instance, they smell like something has crawled up your cunt and died.
The point is that if you think your snatch smells bad, go to a damn doctor. Go to your local sexual health clinic to reassure yourself that you don't have AIDS, or syphilis, and to load up on free condoms. (I'm told the Soho clinic is very groovy.) If it does smell bad, that's a sign there's something wrong, and the correct course of action is to ask a vag-specialist: not to smother it in glorified air freshener.
I'm sure you'll be relieved to hear that I'm better now. My lady garden does not smell of lemon thyme and rainbows, nor does it smell like a rat turning itself back into its constituent parts: it smells like a vagina.