Being concerned with the health and safety of your genitalia doesn’t end with buying non-toxic toys, toy cleaner, body-safe lubes and using barriers during all sex acts— you also need to be aware of the importance of daily personal hygiene.
At the risk of sounding like a sex ed film from the 1950’s, I can’t stress the fact enough– genitals need to carefully and meticulously washed. Particularly, the clitoral hood, labia minora and the tip area of the penis that is covered by foreskin. Why, you ask? One little word– smegma. But, what exactly is smegma?
Smegma (a.k.a. dick cheese or clitty litter) is a naturally occurring, soft, white, cottage cheese-like substance that is very thick and oily in nature. It consists of dead skin cells and secretions from the sebaceous glands. The purpose of smegma is to provide natural lubrication for the retraction of the clitoral hood or foreskin.
However, if left uncleaned, not only will this substance look incredibly unattractive, it will also smell like a thousand dumpsters filled with vomit. It can also seriously impair normal sexual function (and not just because the offensive odor will cause your partner to run to the hills, teary-eyed, with a clothespin on their nose if you even suggest oral). Remember, toys aren’t the only thing that need to be kept clean!
Although smegma is designed to help with the movement of the extra skin surrounding the clitoris or head, if it is left unchecked it will dry into a yellow crust which essentially glues the extra skin down to your most sensitive area (head or clit). Not fun. In extreme cases, it can lead to phimosis, which is the inability to move the extra skin away from the head or clitoris, leaving these areas completely covered and unable to protrude during arousal.
Many people with phimosis complain of the intense pain involved in the process of deep cleaning the dried up smegma from the area. The best way to do this is with warm water, like in the shower or tub. Q-tips may be very helpful in the cleaning process, and for those with a vagina, a hand mirror can be very helpful. If you’re unfamiliar with your vagina, learn about your vaginal topography here and watch women see their vagina for the first time here.
Gradually, more and more of the foreskin or hood will come loose, but it may take a process of a few weeks of retracting the foreskin or pulling back the clitoral hood and cleaning what is able to be exposed. Each day you should be able to pull the skin back further and carefully clean more of the dried and crusty smegma away using warm water. It typically comes off in small flakes over time.
The best way to avoid this, altogether, is to shower or bathe daily, taking great care to expose the clitoris or head and carefully wash with warm water until there is no white secretion left on the area. Do this, and you’ll never have to worry about phimosis caused by smegma. Plus, you can get your jollies in the shower afterwards, through hands-free masturbation— so ridding yourself of smegma is barely a chore at all.
In fact, circumcised males are the only people who do not have to make this procedure a part of their daily grooming habits. Currently, there is much controversy over whether or not smegma is worth circumcising infants over. Obviously, it is a deeply personal choice made by parents. Either way, it’s essential to throughly teach all children how to stay clean and free of smegma.
When beginning to groom themselves, young uncircumcised boys need to be taught how to clean themselves this way in order to avoid having phimosis due to ineffective hygiene practices. Likewise, female children also need to be informed of the proper way of removing the smegma around their clitoris and labia minora in order to have optimal vaginal health.
Sadly, many teenagers discover their sexuality only to find they cannot retract their foreskin or clitoral hood because the smegma acted like an adhesive and attached the layers of skin which should slide around. If left uncleaned for years, the help of a doctor may be necessary for the removal of the built up smegma. If this is the case with you or your partner, please visit a physician.
And remember, when it comes to smegma, us humans are not alone. Other mammals have smegma as well, most notably male horses who do not breed. They get what is called a smegma bean that must be removed regularly in order for the urinary tract to remain clear and healthy. Luckily, we have hands, Q-tips and showers, instead of hooves. So really, there is no excuse for us to have any awful smegma build up.