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We love vaginas around here. Like, we’re big fans. But still, whenever there’s a new vulva-adjacent TikTok-trend or obsession, I feel the need to brace myself for something wild, potentially unsanitary and seldom backed by science.
And the latest trend (originally shared by user Mandy Lee in a now-deleted video) on the clock app proved me right: Vabbing. Referring to using your own vaginal fluids and dabbing them on like perfume (thus the portmanteaux), the supposed goal of the practice is to use your natural “pheromones” to attract romantic and sexual partners and impressions. And, uh, no?
While I’m usually in favor of trends that acknowledge the vagina/vulva area as something that isn’t inherently dirty, unsanitary or stinky, this one — arguing that the inclusion of your smells is going to manifest big-deal results based on very little conclusive evidence (like, we don’t know how to actually use human pheromones in any meaningful way) is the only thing that smells fishy in this situation.
The practice was also discussed in Sexologist Shan Boodram’s book The Game of Desire: 5 Surprising Secrets to Dating With Dominance and Getting What You Want where she tried it out and found that the increased confidence, energy from using it (even if it was a placebo effect) made it worth doing.
“I’m often asked to confirm or deny the myth that eating an excessive amount of pineapple will make someone taste better during oral sex. My response is, if you think it makes you taste better then it absolutely works. Similarly, regardless of if vaginal pheromones truly make a person irresistible or not, the fact that you think it does, will cause you to act in a bolder, more confident manner,” Boodram wrote. “There are no health risks for others and unless you suspect you may have bacterial vaginosis, it will not make you smell bad. I’ve used this technique countless times in the past ten years and have had mixed results: sometimes people are flocking to me, sometimes I don’t notice a difference. So while I’m not sure how effective this experiment is, I am certain that every single time I employ it, it makes me feel like an enchanted goddess with a delicious secret.”
So here’s the deal on pheromones: They are real chemicals “secreted by animals that influence the behavior of recipient animals of the same species, often to attract mates.” But there’s still a lot scientists don’t know re: how they work in humans, per a blog from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on the same subject.
Likewise the existence of human sex pheromones is “highly controversial,” per the Hopkins blog, with them noting that scientists have found studies showing “a correlation between the perceived attractiveness of members of the opposite sex and an appealing smell associated with their sweat” as well as finding “the steroid hormones androstadienone (AND), found in male sweat, urine and saliva; and estratetraenol (EST), found in female urine might be putative human sex pheromones.” (Which is why you might even see perfume companies touting the “benefits” of using these chemicals in their products.”
But they note that there’s no consensus on how these chemicals work or if they work at all in this way, including citing studies that question whether these chemicals should be classified as “sex pheromones” at all.
While there’s no love potion or chemical way to attract a partner or the kind of attention you seek, it never hurts to consider what smells, aesthetics or vibes help you embody your most confident post-vab self. While the actual vaginal fluids don’t cause any harm to anyone or do any good particularly (beyond normalizing the normal body smells), we’re all in favor of finding the rituals that honor yourself and boost your confidence.
Before you go, check out the top 100 vibrators we’re recommending to all our friends: