The State of Sex

The State of Sex

Where is America really at with sex education?

A Planned Parenthood poll from 2014 found that 93% of America parents supported middle-school sex education and 96% supported it being taught in high school. Promising stats, right? Well, unfortunately, they don’t translate to the actual state of sex education in this country.

Reproductive rights organization, the Guttmacher Institute, broke down the sex ed requirements in U.S. schools, and the numbers are pretty sobering. They reported that only thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia actually mandate sex education and/or HIV education. Only 20 states require provision of information on contraception while 28 require that abstinence be stressed. On a positive note, all 38 of the states that mandate sex ed also require that sexual violence prevention be included in the curriculum. And 35 require that info about skills for healthy romantic and sexual relationships also be taught. That said, only 11 states require that the importance of consent be covered. Honestly, all of these numbers are pretty dizzying and ultimately much of it feels very contradictory. Even in states that technically mandate sex education, that education might be sorely lacking in real world applicability, or might stigmatize sex before marriage, homosexuality, trans identity, or pleasure in a way that’s extremely harmful.

Overall, the state of sex education, at least on an institutional level, doesn’t feel too promising. Sex education for people with vaginas seems particularly lacking on an institutional level. It’s great to be taught about contraception and getting your period, but there’s more to sexual education than basically just learning how to not get pregnant. Knowledge around sexual pleasure, creating sexual and emotional boundaries, healthy relationship, and everyday vaginal health is essential and shouldn’t be treated as auxiliary, though it often is.

Luckily, school and parents aren’t the only places where people can go to educate themselves. There’s an abundance of information available on the internet for self-education. The major hurdle there, though, is discerning good advice from bad. Social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to health information. Bad practices like vaginal steaming (not good for you) can go viral just as fast as accurate information about the importance of peeing after sex (very good for you). When Cheeky Bonsai got on TikTok they saw an opportunity to fill an essential gap in sexual and vaginal health education on social media. There was a need for accessible, direct, OBGYN-backed information. In a recent Fast Company article, Cheeky Bonsai co-founder, Elise Johnson, wrote “Theoretically, Gen Z shouldn’t lack information on sexual health or anything else. They’ve grown up digital with all information at their fingertips. But our content was clearly filling an education gap and connection gap on taboo health topics. The reason? Gen Z is looking for more than dry medical facts. They want the raw, real, and relatable.”

Medically-accurate information shouldn’t be taboo and shouldn’t be hard to find. It should be easily accessible in the same spaces where we spend our usual screen time. That’s what Cheeky Bonsai is striving for with their educational TikTok videos and their overall mission to normalize conversations around everyday vaginal health.

Although institutions may be failing on the sex education front, there are tons of amazing organizations, companies and platforms out there striving to support on the ground effort and spread accurate information.

Advocates for Youth, a organization that partners with young people worldwide to support in their fight for sexual health, rights, and justice. They aim to empowers people creating change in their own communities and aims to “shift the current cultural paradigm in which we live from one that too often stigmatizes youth and youth sexual development to one that embraces youth as partners and recognizes sexuality as normal and healthy.” Their network of activists is a hundred thousand strong and they have a presence on over a thousand campuses and communities. Some of their programs include Abortion Out Loud, which supports and connects people to abortion care, Know Your IX, which organizes against sexual and dating violence, Young Women of Color 4 Reproductive Justice Collective, which aims to decrease sexual health disparities in communities of color, and many more.

An amazing platform for directly sourcing vaginal health information is, Pussypedia. This platform was founded by a journalist, an artist, and a designer but has involved over two hundred volunteers who have sourced, written, and fact-checked to create a database of vaginal health information. The encyclopedia is bilingual and even includes a digital 3D model of the entire “pussy” system. Their explanation of using the term pussy for reasons of inclusivity is also very compelling. “We propose a new gender-and-organ-inclusive use of the word which means “some combination of vagina, vulva, clitoris, uterus, bladder, rectum, anus, and who knows maybe some testes.”

Like Advocates for Youth, Pussypedia, and countless other orgs and companies, Cheeky Bonsai’s strives to destigmatize everyday conversations around sex and health. The goal of sharing accurate, shame-free information is to normalize conversations that never needed to be taboo and, hopefully, through the massive efforts of many people combined, there's a future where they won’t be.

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The UTI & Alcohol Connection

The UTI & Alcohol Connection

Shots! Shot! Shots (of water)!

If you’ve also heard that there’s a connection between alcohol and urinary tract infections (UTIs), you’re not wrong. But, you’re not exactly right. There’s some nuance to their relationship, and hopefully this article will leave the facts as clear as your pee should be if you’re well-hydrated!

The key to the relationship between alcohol and UTIs has to do with just that: hydration. UTIs are triggered by a number of things, but dehydration is definitely a contributing factor. 

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it removes fluid from the blood through the renal system (kidneys, uterus, bladder) at a much faster rate. This causes dehydration. And dehydration, in a nutshell, is when you lose more fluids than you are able to take in, leaving the body unable to function the way it needs to. 

So, really it’s not alcohol itself that causes UTIs. That’s a misnomer. It’s the fact that drinking alcohol can seriously dehydrate you, which can make you more prone to a UTI. 

So, if you’re prone to UTIs or just don’t want to be extremely hung over, how can you combat dehydration this holiday season? Luckily, it's not hard. Drink water! 

According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, you should be drinking between 2.7 and 3.7 liters of water a day (wow, so specific). If that feels too hard to measure, roughly eight glasses a day is a really good goal. It’s important to remember though that every body is unique and some people might need more or less. If you’re thirsty, drink. You will know that you’re taking in an adequate amount of water if your pee is either clear or a light yellow. 

So, you want to engage in some responsible drinking, great. According, to Healthline, you should “have at least one 16-ounce glass of water with every 12-ounce beer or 4 to 6 ounces of liquor” to combat dehydration. This will not only help to avoid a UTI, it will probably also help out with hangovers. On top of drinking adequate water to replenish hydration, you can include electrolytes in your routine which help to rehydrate you more quickly. For combating both UTIs and dehydration, try Cheeky Bonsai's UTI Drink Mix which is formulated with electrolytes.

If you really want to deep-dive into the anti-dehydration game, stick to light-colored alcohol, which is slightly less dehydrating than darker alcohol that contains more congeners, a byproduct of the fermentation process. You can definitely still get a hangover from light-colored alcohol, but it may be less severe. Another helpful tip is to limit the number of drinks (obviously), and to sip each drink slowly over the course of an hour, hydrating with water between. This gives your body more time to process each drink.

All that said, it's important to remember that alcohol is one of those things that everyone’s body processes differently. Listen to your body, know your limits, and stay hydrated, whatever that means for you individually.

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Why is my vagina fishy?

Why is my vagina fishy?

Bacterial Vaginosis explained

Well, well, well, did I stumble into a fish market or is that just my vagina? 

Vaginas, like fish in the ocean, are seemingly endless in their variety. Their unique scents are a reflection of the microbiome of the person they belong to and they can smell any number of ways. That said, there are a few distinct scents that luckily tip us off to infection or imbalance that may need to be treated. 

Fishiness is an extremely common vaginal odor and a sign of a bacterial infection in the vagina called bacterial vaginosis (BV). It’s so common in fact that one in three women will have it at least once in their lifetime. The infection occurs when there’s an imbalance and overgrowth of one type of bacteria in the vagina. 

Potential symptoms of bacterial vaginosis:

- Fishy smell
- Off-white, grey, or greenish discharge
- Vaginal irritation
- Some people don’t have symptoms at all

    It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of BV which can be extremely frustrating. It it far more common among sexually active people, though, to be clear, it is not an STD. New sex partners or multiple partners can increase your chances of getting BV, as well as things like having an IUD or douching. BV is also common during pregnancy. 

    Right now the only treatment for BV is antibiotics which have to be prescribed, although luckily one third of cases do clear up on their own. If you are experiencing symptoms, though, you should reach out to your doctor for treatment. There’s unfortunately no full-proof at-home remedy or over-the-counter treatment available right now. It’s important to seek care because BV can make you more susceptible to STDs if left untreated. 

    The best preventative measures for BV:

    - Avoid any type of douching
    - Wear cotton underwear
    - Clean your sex toys
    - Wipe front to back
    - Use a condom
    - Limit your number of sex partners

      BV is crazy common and we know how annoying it is, especially if you deal with recurring cases and don’t want to have to structure your life and relationships around infections. More research is still needed in order to understand the cause of BV and to find better, more accessible treatment. But, hopefully, with more open and unapologetic conversations around vaginal health we can usher in a new, less taboo orientation toward a vaginal condition that is nearly universal. 

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      The Microbiome in Love

      The Microbiome in Love

      I love your bacteria

      So, you’ve taken a lover. You begin spending copious amounts of time together and wondering what the hell you’re doing. One night a week turns into three, into four. Perhaps borrowing an article of clothing. A pair of socks. Eating off the same tube of raw cookie dough (you’re wild sometimes). Drinking out of the same water glass. And maybe one time you forget your toothbrush…and you share…..No, no, you resist. It’s a toothpaste on the finger type night. But anyway, this goes on, you decide you’re like, in love? And maybe you even move in together (gasp). Some time later you wake up, your now partner rolls over to cuddle and you notice something….interesting. You always sleep to the right of them and you realize that their left and right armpits smell…different from each other. And not only that, but their right armpit - the one that you sleep next to - actually kinda smells like….you.

      No, this is not an indie horror about body odor premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. It's a real phenomenon. It turns out we do actually colonize our lovers’ lives in more ways than just leaving a toothbrush or being the hot new addition to an awkward family gathering. The people with whom we share our most intimate physical relationships can actually begin to reflect us on a microbiological level and visa versa.

      Our bodies are literally covered in bacteria and microorganisms that make up each of our personal microbiomes. A 2017 study concluded that cohabiting couples altered one another’s skin microbiomes. “After testing the samples,” Medical News Today reported, “The researchers noted that microbes had been swapped between couples to a significant enough extent that computer algorithms were able to link a person to their partner with an accuracy of 86 percent.” Well, damn.

      The story I told at the beginning is partially biographical: a friend of mine has managed to accidentally alter the scent of her partner's armpit on the side that she sleeps on, which now smells like her. We went back and forth as to whether this was actually possible. And, turns out, it is. According to New Scientist, it is actually so possible that one can perform an armpit bacteria “transplant” of sorts in order to aid those who suffer from bad B.O. It seems that if given the proper conditions, bacteria from one body will gladly proliferate on another.

      I did wonder how this all figured into the vaginal microbiome. I’d heard a number of anecdotal accounts of people breaking up with sexual partners partially or entirely because of microbiome incompatibility issues.

      “I had everything in the book,” one source said of a past relationship, “BV, UTIs, he gave me HPV. And I also, at the same time, was taking every supplement and probiotic in the book. I was doing all of the things, and I just could not combat these problems. And then, you know what, we broke up. And now I’m dating someone new. No issues. Not a single problem.”

      We discussed how isolating it can be for people with vaginas to deal with chronic issues when the burden of sexual health is often placed squarely on our backs. “I feel like men just have no idea that women go through this. I was dating him for quite a while. A year. Meanwhile just going through dramatic things. I was having to go to the gyno, use antibiotic cream, and take oral antibiotics. He wasn’t going through anything that I was going through."

      She said something else that really stood out to me, in a way it's sort of the whole thesis. “My body physically rejected him, but I still thought that while we were dating our sexual attraction would be enough to keep us going. And I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I wish I’d listened to the signs from my body a little bit more.” A lot of the time our bodies and our subconscious know things before we allow ourselves to consciously accept them. There seems to be a lot of power in learning how to listen to that.

      So, as a person who is also BV-prone, am I going to stop dating someone every time I get it? For me it definitely seems to correlate with sex, however it's too inconsistent to successfully track. I can’t be certain about what’s going on. Trying to find and address its origins so it doesn’t happen again feels like trying to find Moby-Dick. Endless and existential.

      To be honest I started to feel a little adrift on the sea of vaginal health while writing this article. Until, suddenly, I looked down into the water and there it was; a study about the bacteria of the literal (Moby) dick.

      This 2020 study was a deep dive into whether the bacteria of the penile microbiome directly correlates with bacterial vaginosis. And guess what…..it does! Ding! Ding! Ding! “The results show that men’s microbiota has a role in BV onset and that BV-related bacteria present in men’s penile microbiome can be used to predict with high accuracy BV incidence in their female partner.” The researchers were quick to note that this revelatory outcome does not mean that any one party should be blamed for BV, but rather that the treatment of vaginal conditions should be approached more holistically. Perhaps it's not only women who should seek treatment for BV-causing bacteria, and maybe one day there will be treatment options for male-bodied people so they can support their partners’ health. “I would like for clinicians, researchers, and the public to be inclusive of male sex partners in their efforts to improve women’s reproductive health, “A researcher says, “Not to place directionality or blame on one partner or another, but to increase the options and opportunity for improved reproductive health, and hopefully reduce stigma from BV."

      I, for one, would love to live in a world where a partner and I take full co-accountability for our shared microbiome. Sexual partners are co-captains on the ship of vaginal health and in this world where our bodies are connected in so many ways we can’t even see, it’s important to support each other’s microbiome as much as we possibly can.

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      Olympic Vagina Exercises

      Olympic Vagina Exercises

      Pelvic Floor Podium

      Just because we aren’t olympians doesn’t mean we can’t train our vaginas in Olympic fashion. This is our round up of the best pelvic floor and vagina muscle strengthening exercises we could find. All you have to do to win gold here is learn how to incorporate these into your daily exercise routine. Let the games begin.

      Kegels
      I can strengthen my pelvic floor while sitting on my couch and watching pairs figure skating?? Sign me up. You may know the drill here, but it’s worth repeating. A kegel is when you contract and relax your pelvic floor muscles as a way of making them stronger. Bless the Mayo Clinic for gifting us with this stunner of an image; “Imagine you are sitting on a marble and tighten your pelvic muscles as if you're lifting the marble. Try it for three seconds at a time, then relax for a count of three.” They recommend doing three sets of ten to fifteen repetitions each day.

      Bridge Hold
      If you’ve ever done yoga, then this one’s familiar. It’s more or less a special plant just for your pelvic floor. Lay on your back and rise into the bridge position. Be sure to squeeze your booty and tighten your lower abdominals. The longer you can hold it the more you’ll start to feel the exercise in your pelvic region and your vaginal muscles will start to tighten.

      Pelvic Thrusts
      Pelvic thrusts are super simple. It involves, well, just a lot of pelvic thrusting. Add some intensely by putting weights on your lower abdomen. Rest your upper body on the bed or a chair and move your lower in an up-down motion.

      Weighted Squats
      What to get a juicier butt, stronger vaginal muscles and a stronger pelvic floor all in one go? Look no further than weighted squats. They are pretty much another variation on kegels, but with burning thighs. What’s not to love? Add weights around your waist to keep the burn coming and try to hold the squat position as long as you can or for a number of intervals.

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      Valentine’s Day & Vaginas

      Valentine’s Day & Vaginas

      Happy V Day

      So, you’ve taken a lover. You begin spending copious amounts of time together and wondering what the hell you’re doing. One night a week turns into three, into four. Perhaps borrowing an article of clothing. A pair of socks. Eating off the same tube of raw cookie dough (you’re wild sometimes). Drinking out of the same water glass. And maybe one time you forget your toothbrush…and you share…..No, no, you resist. It’s a toothpaste on the finger type night. But anyway, this goes on, you decide you’re like, in love? And maybe you even move in together (gasp). Some time later you wake up, your now partner rolls over to cuddle and you notice something….interesting. You always sleep to the right of them and you realize that their left and right armpits smell…different from each other. And not only that, but their right armpit - the one that you sleep next to - actually kinda smells like….you.

      Make a “char-coochie” board

      Fermented foods containing probiotics are super healthy for your vagina. Make yourself a char-coochie board with fermented pickles (or another fermented food of your choosing), yogurt dip, a cheese high in probiotics, and an assortment of nuts (healthy fats also support vaginal health). Cheese can contain probiotics when it's aged but not heated afterward. Go for Swiss, provolone, Gouda, cheddar, Edam, or Gruyère. Finally, the crown jewel of this spread is prosciutto arranged like the folds of a vulva. Your V Day picnic will be the envy of everyone at the park.

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      Relieve UTI Pain at Night

      Relieve UTI Pain at Night

      UTI relief, fast!

      Waking up in the middle of the night with a UTI really sucks. Pelvic pain, intense urges to go to the bathroom, painful urination, maybe even blood in your pee. All you want is a little relief so you can go back to sleep. We know how hard it can be to get relief from UTI symptoms. Here’s our top 5 tips for middle of the night remedies so you can go back to bed.

      Use a heating pad
      A heating pad or hot water bottle is great for the pelvic and abdominal pain associated with UTIs. It can help ease the discomfort until morning when you can make a more informed decision about whether the UTI requires antibiotics or not.

      Take Cheeky Bonsai UTI Pain Relief Tablets
      These fast-acting phenazopyridine hydrochloride tablets quickly relieve UTI pain and burning urination. They only take about twenty-minutes to kick in, so they’re good to have on hand for middle of the night emergencies.

      Hydrate
      Drinking water when you already have an urge to pee frequently may seem counterintuitive, but it’s extremely important to stay hydrated because dehydration can make a UTI worse. Supplement your water intake with Cheeky Bonsai UTI Drink Mix which has electrolytes for hydration and D-mannose and cranberry for urinary tract support.

      Empty your bladder
      It can be uncomfortable to completely empty your bladder when urinating is painful, but this is a simple yet very important way to help your body heal. Emptying your bladder each time you pee helps to continue flushing out the bad bacteria so nothing stays lingering in your urinary tract.

      No caffeine or alcohol
      To support urinary tract health so you don’t wake up with UTI pain for a second night, skip any sort of dehydrating beverage while you’re healing. Coffee and alcohol are both extremely dehydrating and may prolong your UTI.

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      My UTI is So Cinematic

      My UTI is So Cinematic

      Where are Hollywood’s UTIs?

      My first ever UTI was last year. I woke up around 2 AM in agonizing pain and started peeing blood (I wasn’t on my period and it was enough blood to freak me out). I had never had a UTI and didn’t realize the blood was coming out of my urethra.

      In my hallucinatory, partial dream-state, I was convinced that I was having a miscarriage. And, for some reason, I thought that it was imperative to drive to a 24-hour pharmacy and purchase two boxes of pregnancy tests…at two in the morning. I took three tests when I came home. All negative. And I passed out again. I woke up in a daze and thought…What in the hell just happened? I took my tired ass to urgent care, and lo-and-behold, it was a bad UTI. 

      UTIs are unfortunately an exceptionally routine experience for so many people with both penises and vaginas. Although in regards to young people, vagina-having folks are far more susceptible. When I’m not writing for The Cheeky I spend most of my waking hours focusing on short stories and screenplays, and my whole surreal experience really got me thinking about the drama of UTIs. For something so ordinary and universal (yet intense), it's interesting how rarely it is represented in narrative media. There’s plenty of periods, sex, unplanned pregnancies, and abortions, albiet, not often depicted with realistic accuracy. UTIs are just as common as all of these, so why do they feel so absent from the cultural landscape? Where are Hollywood’s UTIs? 

      I hopped on the phone with, Nona Willis Aronowitz, Teen Vogue sex advice columinst and author of the forthcoming, Bad Sex: Truth, Pleasure and an Unfinished Revolution, to discuss the matter. 

      “The first thing that comes to mind is all the vaginal stuff in Girls, which was a few years ago. The Lena Dunham character had so many issues. She was always getting UTIs, she had HPV. And there’s a couple of different episodes where the whole plot line is about a UTI.” Nona says.

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      Interview with Courtney Sender

      Interview with Courtney Sender

      A red line of thread that connects us

      My first time hearing fiction writer and essayist Courtney Sender’s short story, “To Do With the Body,” was on the porch of an artist residency. It was dusk, a hot summer. She read it aloud. Her speaking voice reminded me of the way many singers’ voices embody the content of their songs. She delivered the story with evocative vulnerability, brutal honesty, and acknowledgement of the hard truths and uglier emotions that inhabit our bodies and minds when we experience heartbreak. The story is set in a museum of period clothes, a play on words in this case meaning a museum of clothes that have been stained by menstrual blood. The story hit me like a ton of bricks. I ruminated on why. Sometimes we can’t really know why certain art affects us so much, but I think in this case it had a lot to do with its bodiliness. The way it didn’t shy away from the physical experience of people who menstruate in tandem with the universality of heartache and the longing to be loved. 

      This short story originally appeared in prestigious literary journal, Prairie Schooner, and will be part of Courtney’s debut book, In Other Lifetimes All I’ve Lost Comes Back to Me (which was just announced this month and will be published in spring 2023), “a series of interlocking suites populated with past lovers who resurface, lost mothers and fathers with secret pasts, ghosts of the Holocaust and messages from the dead, collectively mining themes of isolation, love, loss, and longing.” Courtney’s work has been widely published in literary journals as well as The Atlantic and The New York Times’ “Modern Love.” I called her up recently for a candid conversation on art and the body. 

      “I love my period.” Courtney laughs. “I totally understand why a lot of people don’t love it, but I do. It makes me feel connected to ancestral knowledge. It’s a red line of thread that connects me to other women.” This connectivity of the self to the body and in turn, other people is a hallmark of Courtney’s work. “It’s interesting,” she says. “If periods and menstruation appear in stories at all, they are often used as plot points, not just as something that’s a normalized part of the character’s experience. There’s the coming-of-age storyline of getting your period or the drama of missing your period, getting pregnant. But that’s not really how we actually experience menstruation in our daily lives. It’s so much more ubiquitous than these singular moments.”

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      Best Underwear for Your Vagina

      Best Underwear for Your Vagina

      No UTI and no VPL?!

      Cotton truly is the best underwear material for your vagina. The key is that it’s breathable and moisture-wicking in a way that a lot of synthetic fabrics aren’t. If you’re someone who revels in wearing cute underwear, we know that it can be frustrating to forgo the veritable rainbow of material and texture options out there that aren’t cotton. We also very much feel your pain when it comes to not wanting a UTI or a VPL (visible panty line, if you’re still trying to discern this acronym). So, here’s our round-up of the best cotton underwear options for comfort, vaginal health, and when you kinda just want your cool new leather pants to be the star of the night, not your panty line (or, alternatively, when you just wanna wear cool underwear as clothes). 

      Best High Rise Underwear

      SKIMS Cotton Jersey String Bikini - $18 (90% cotton, 10% spandex)

      Inspired by the string bikinis of the 90s, the SKIMS high rise string bikini is effortless and flattering on all bodies, with just enough coverage. 

      Softest Cotton Underwear 

      Kent Organic Pima Cotton Bikini - $18 per pair  (100% cotton)

      These undies manage to be both 100% cotton and incredibly soft. If comfort is absolutely paramount to you (Guessing it is for most of us), these are an excellent option.

      Best Sustainably-Made Cotton Underwear 

      Oddobody 3-Pack - $61 for 3 pack  (100% cotton)

      Oddobody cares a lot about both vaginal health and creating products for it that are sustainably and ethically made. All of their underwear is 100% cotton and 3 packs come in three style options and a handful of color choices. 

      Best Cotton Underwear for No Panty Line

      HANRO Invisible Cotton Thong - $26 per pair (86% cotton, 14% elastane)

      Although it does contain some elastane, HANRO is amazingly still mostly cotton. It’s seamless, invisible under clothes, and super comfortable. 

      Best 100% Cotton Thong 

      Oddobody Thong - $22 per pair (100% cotton) 

      Getting as close to 100% cotton as possible is key, and it can be really hard to find thongs in that range. Luckily, Oddobody just dropped their completely cotton model.  

      Best Cotton Underwear Set 

      The Knickyy Starter Set - 5 pairs for $65 (95% cotton, 5% elastane)

      This set is basically a sampler of every style that The Knickery makes. You get one pair in each style and you get to choose all the colors! 

      Brand with the Best Cotton Underwear Style Options 

      Natori Bliss French Cut Briefs - 3 pairs for $48 (94% pima cotton, 6% lycra)

      If you are trying to appeal to multitudes within yourself while also keeping your vagina happy, Natori’s got you covered with endless classy styles and colors to choose from. 

      Best Cotton Boy Shorts  

      Pact Boy Shorts - $14 (95% cotton, 5% elastane)

      If boy shorts are your vibe, Pact makes an excellent cotton pair that’s extremely comfortable and stylish. Not to mention they have tons of color and pattern options.  

      Chicest Cotton Underwear 

      Araks Mabel Hipster - $60 (100% cotton)

      Araks makes extremely comfortable underwear that is so beautiful and cool we’d honestly prefer not to wear clothes over them. If you’re someone who values style and treats underwear shopping with the same seriousness as shopping for the perfect pair of vintage jeans, you may have just met your match. 

      Best Embroidered Cotton Underwear 

      Poppy Undies - $55/$60 (94% cotton)

      Art artful take on the classic white undie, these come in a French cut and are hand-embroidered. Options include everything from a cactus and strawberries to a little uterus.

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      Vaginal Wellness Myth-Busting

      Vaginal Wellness Myth-Busting

      You’re gonna put what in your vagina?

      Just like with many other viral health and/or beauty hacks and trends, the world of vaginal care is filled to the brim with a veritable minefield of bad advice from the blatantly untrue to the downright dangerous. Much of it is plagued with the same subliminal messaging that seems to follow women everywhere; the body you were born with is not good enough and you should willingly go to extremes to change it. Of course, many of these trends are things people try out of desperation. Folks who experience chronic vaginal infections or UTIs might be willing to do anything at a certain point, and, trust me, I get it. In my early twenties putting cloves of garlic up your vagina was all the rage amongst my hip NYC friends. And, sweetie, I did it. Did it do anything positive for me? Not that I could tell. Did it do anything negative? Also, nothing noticeable, luckily. But the point is that I did it without really knowing whether it was a good idea. It could have just been harmless snake oil or it could have turned out to be poison, and that’s the point really. Don’t subject your vagina to things that might be a good idea. It’s not worth it to find out that it was a really bad idea after all. 

      I do wonder if it's the tabooness of everyday conversations about vaginal wellness and thus a lack of understanding about the vagina itself is what allows misinformation and malpractice to fester so readily online. In a recent interview with Harvard urogynecologist, Dr. Emily Von Bargen, I asked for her medical opinion on a number of vaginal care practices that circulate on social media and via word of mouth, and she had some very definitive answers. No doubt, vaginal wellness falsities will continue to live on the internet for a long time to come, so in a sea of opinions and information, how do you discern fact from myth? According to Dr. Von Bargen, it’s actually pretty simple. The bottom line is; don’t put random things in your vagina. 

      There are, of course, certain things that can go in there. For example, nontoxic period products (removed in a timely manner), non-toxic and non-irritating lube, certain suppositories (when directed by a medical professional, certain over the counter suppositories to treat things like yeast infections, or over the counter boric acid suppositories in the case of severe yeast infections), clean sex toys, washed apendages, a penis after a conversation about testing and consent. But in regards to the vast majority of objects - both organic and inorganic - Dr. Von Bargen says, “We should really avoid putting anything in the vagina that we don’t need to.” The vaginal biome does not need to be protected because it is fragile, it needs to be protected because it is a self-possessed environment that contains its own powerful system of care, which usually works very well if you let it. 

      Put it in the soup, not the vagina. 

      Two of the popular practices we discussed in terms of DIY infection remedies were the good old garlic clove trick and soaking tampons in yogurt. Neither of these are scientifically-proven to alleviate or prevent vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections. In fact, because the garlic clove or the yogurt might not be completely sanitary when placed into the vagina, they could actually start an infection or make an existing one worse. 

      Boric acid suppositories should only be used to treat severe yeast infections

      Recently, the use of boric acid suppositories has become more widespread. I was telling a friend that I was struggling with some chronic bacterial vaginosis, particularly after sex, and her immediate response was “Just pop a boric acid suppository in there after you do it! It’ll clear the irritation right up!” It sounded so easy, like just popping a magical bean inside of my vagina...So I bought a pack and tried it. Did it help? It might have, but Dr. Von Bargen warned against the overuse of boric acid suppositories. “They are often used for the stronger and more resistant strains of yeast that can grow. Yeast infections that are refractory or nonresponsive to more mainstream treatment.” It’s not something that’s recommended on a weekly basis. “You don’t want to change the microbiome of the vagina,” she says. “The boric acid is going to change the pH and that’s good if you’re treating a pathogen or bacteria that’s there, but if it’s not there then you might be changing the normal flora which can lead to more infections.” And, reminder, Never, EVER, under any circumstances, ingest a boric acid suppository orally. They are toxic if taken by mouth. 

      Honestly, yeah, I was bummed to hear that boric acid wasn’t the magical cure all that my friends and the internet wanted it to be, but, hey, sometimes the truth hurts. And it's OK. Onwards and upwards.  

      Vaginal douching

       

      There’s a is a longstanding tradition in our patriarchal society of dictating to women that there is something wrong with their body, that the optimal body is not their actual body, but some nonexistent version of Woman projected upon all of us (see Shea's article on hairless vulvas in art history if you want to spiral on that shit). As I mentioned at the beginning, the pervasive drive for bodily perfection that permeates the health and beauty industry at large is unfortunately also very present in our orientation toward vaginal care. Sure, waxing, shaving, and lasering could fall into that category (that’s more of a vulva care thing), but what I’m really talking about here are invasive practices like douching, vaginal steaming, and the use of scented and flavored suppositories to alter the smell and taste of the vagina (yes, honey, I said flavored.) 

      “Vaginal douching is basically putting anything in the vagina to wash the tissue,” Dr. Von Bargen says. I.e., water, vinegar, cleanser (putting garlic or yogurt up there to cleanse it would be considered douching as well) or an actual douching device to stream water or other substances into the vagina to clean it. The practice dates back to the 1800s and has a long, toxic history involving a parade of horrifying water tanks, hoses, syringes, and bags meant to clean and freshen the vagina. People have attempted to use it as a form of birth control (washing out semen won’t prevent pregnancy), but mostly it's purpose is to try and eliminate natural things that people find undesirable about the vagina. Scent, taste, discharge, menstrual blood. The underlying messaging with all of this is that the vagina and its normal and healthy processes are dirty. This messaging is especially toxic considering that douching is not only unnecessary but actually quite dangerous. According to OSHA, douching can cause bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disorder, ectopic pregnancy, vaginal irritation and drying, and can increase your risk of contracting STIs. “You really don’t want to douche,” Dr. Von Bargen says. 

      So, yeah, basically, the douching vibes are bad. Very bad. The same goes for vaginal steaming (sitting over a bowl of steaming water, sometimes infused with herbs) - essentially just douching in steam form - it can cause infection, irritation, and if the steam’s too hot, it can burn you. 

      In 2020, Health magazine did a full run-down of the scented/flavored vaginal suppository fad that went viral on TikTok. The company that makes the vaginal “melts” claims that they are completely natural and nontoxic or irritating, but as an OBGYN in the article notes, “Just because something is ‘natural’ does not mean that it won’t alter the vaginal pH.” It’s no different than the garlic clove issue. Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it won't be irritating or cause infection. And ultimately, if you’re hell bent on trying one of these vaginal melts, it seems important to have an honest check-in with yourself about why. 

      “You do not need to buy any soap specifically for the vagina.”

      So, now that we know what we are not supposed to do to clean and care for the vagina, the next question is, what are we supposed to be doing? Dr. Von Bargen’s answer is extremely straightforward; “Nothing. Just let the water run down the vagina. You don’t want to put anything in it, because it is going to make things worse.” Really? Nothing? Really. Nothing. “You can lather your public hair or the top of the vulva, but you don’t want to go down lower where it can get into the vagina. The best bet is really just to let the water run down while you’re cleaning your body. You don’t want to put anything inside the vagina because it can lead to infection, which is what I think a lot of women don’t realize. Because we think cleaning is always better, but actually, in the vagina it's not. You do not need to buy any soaps specifically for the vagina.” You heard it here, folks. Save your money, skip the vaginal soaps completely. 

      There’s a lot of vaginal care information and misinformation floating around out there. And on top of that, a lot of cultural shame about vaginal care and the vagina itself. It’s not a great combo for having open and informed conversations about health. Though it can sometimes feel isolating to wade through all of it, we are truly all out here together trying to figure this shit out. My new vaginal health motto is going to be; friends don’t let friends vaginally douche. How bout we make that go viral. 

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      Holiday Gift Guide

      Holiday Gift Guide

      A very cheeky holiday to you

      The Cheeky’s inaugural holiday gift guide includes creative products for everyday vaginal health, fun & shame-free brands that celebrate the body, and gifts that help us get to know ourselves and the world around us. We hope this curated list gives you some cheeky, outside-the-box holiday inspo. 

      TUSHY Bidet - $99

      Bidets for all! That’s TUSHY’s goal. This easy to install bidet is a great way to achieve both a cleaner butt and buy less toilet paper. And, lucky you, right now the bidet is available in limited edition pink.

      The Cheeky Hoodie - $48

      Official Cheeky Bonsai swag for the Cheekier Than Average. Our exciting first foray into apparel comes in cozy cream or apricot lettering. Pick your pigment and tag us when you wear it @cheekybonsai #cheekierthanaverage 

      Cosmic Cultures probiotics - $15.99 

      Cosmic Cultures probiotics makes yummy probiotic foods like yogurt and kraut which support gut and vaginal health. Stardust period tracking app founder, Rachel Moranis swears by them for vaginal biome support. Instead of sending fruit cake or Edible Arrangements (not that you would, but…), consider the gift of probiotics. 

      Zomchi Safety Razor - $16

      If you’ve been following our TikTok, you know that we love safety razors. They’re better for ingrowns because you don’t have to tug at the hair by applying pressure, and better for the environment because, in this case, you simply swap out razors on a pretty rose gold handle. 

      Quinn - $4.99/month 

      Quinn makes audio porn for women and has literally any vibe you’re looking for. Their slogan is Quinn girls come first, and listening to Quinn, that checks out. 

      Nipple Sweater - $95

      Perhaps one of the cheekiest of all the companies included on this list, Fashion Brand Company specializes in the quirky, the ironic, and, sometimes, the downright absurd (we think the Nipple Knit Top is a perfect balance of all three). 

      Cheeky Bonsai UTI Care Bundle - $44 

      If someone in your life struggles with UTIs or is interested in exploring more ways to stay on top of everyday urinary health, give the gift of Cheeky Bonsai.

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