Imagine it’s a Saturday afternoon and you’re bored as hell. The guy you’re seeing is out of town, none of your friends are free, and Tinder is a stew of Donald Trump’s toenails and cottage cheese.
In times past you might have gone out looking for trouble. But since you are a grown up adult woman, you decide to try out this thing called “self care” that all the creamy-skinned babes on Tumblr are always talking about.
And what’s better for self care than a little spa treatment?!
After a quick Yelp search, you locate the best rated Korean spa nearby. You’re perusing the list of body scrub options when your eyes fall on the words that will change your life forever (ok fine, your week): “V-Steam.”
You can picture it already: a delicate steam curling around your thighs and creeping gingerly into beavertown while soft music plays, you sip on cucumber water and dream about Jesse Williams.
What really happens is that you spend 20 minutes squatting on top of a wooden latrine burning the shit out of your choch while a ninja movie with no subtitles blasts and two women yell at each other from across the room. But I’m getting ahead of myself. You call for an appointment and jump in the car before you can think twice.
After you’ve paid your $35 ($15 for the spa entry fee, $20 for the vag steam) you head to the locker room area to strip down. You take off your clothes, slowly at first, conscious of the ways in which your body looks very different from the many naked women doing stretches all around you (why on earth are they all stretching?!). But then you remember that you hate wearing pants anyway and beauty is a state of mind and you’re too old to be self-conscious and fuck that. So there you are, nekkid: ass cellulite in full effect, teeny adolescent-size titties out, hairy bush ready for the par-tay. You’re already feeling liberated as hell.
The good vibes continue as you lower yourself into the hot tub. You probably moan a bit as you get in (you can’t help it) and then mumble something likegodDAMN that feels good! You’re in the middle of this when one of the spa operators motions to you. Your steam is ready.
You are led to what appears to be the lobby and directed towards a wooden box with a hole in the middle. Inside the hole is a hot plate and a giant navy blue teapot with steam shooting from its spout. It smells like tea.
You’re skeptical, but let’s be honest: you’ve sat on worse things (people) before so you hop on.
The first thing you notice is the unmistakable sensation of burning pussy. This is also the second and third and fourth and pretty much the only thing you notice for the next 20 minutes.
Yes, you scald your choch for twenty earthly minutes. You tell the woman it’s too hot several times and try to get up but she tells you repeatedly that it’s ok and you’ll get used to it. You don’t want to be that annoying complain-y American and anyway you’re not a quitter so you stay. But you don’t get used to it.
To make matters worse, you are wearing what looks like a giant poodle skirt or laundry bag up to your chin. Apparently this human tea bag sack is designed to hotbox your poontang and make it more potent, not dissimilar to what you did in high school with your friend’s car and a dime bag of mostly sticks and seeds (except this time with your vagina not your brain cells). Anyway, it smells lovely but it prevents you from seeing what’s actually happening downtown.
And what is happening is a Sophie’s choice between your thigh meat and your tooter: squeeze tight to protect ya puss but burn the hell out of your thighs, or the opposite and hope your vaj can take the heat. So you’re mostly just doing the tootsee roll dance underneath that life-size Barbie tea bag because this is not a choice anyone should have to make. Open, close, open, close, open, close. Ouch ouch ouch.
An older woman brings you a slice of fresh watermelon and you’re not sure if she is an employee or just being nice but you want to kiss her in the mouth because nothing has ever tasted as good as that slice of watermelon. Besides her, no one seems to pay you any attention or care at all that you’re there. Two women get into an argument right above your head and the TV is almost deafening. There is a clock on the wall and you watch every minute pass by.
When your time is up, you will stand and walk, wobbly-legged, back to your locker feeling the same way you did leaving that one guy’s room in college. Shame. Disgust. How could you let this happen?! You will make eye contact with no one and shuffle to your car like a bow-legged cowboy on the walk of shame. All of your earlier bravado is gone, it’s just you and your *very* tender snatch.
At home, you examine your red thighs and inflamed vulva with your phone’s camera. Things are not well. It is painful to the touch and looks pissed. This is an actual photo of your vaj from that day:
But things don’t look medical emergency bad, so you slather your nether regions in coconut oil, point the fan directly at your poon and take some advil.
There is no need to detail an exact laundry list of symptoms, but just know that wearing pants becomes pretty much unbearable. And because of the way your health insurance is set up, you find yourself shelling out bands at the urgent care clinic. But thank God for the young women of color staffing the office the day you finally hobble in.
“I steamed my beave and now it’s fucking pissed,” you announce at the front desk. There’s no one else in the lobby, so you guys have a good laugh but then you have to lean in with a more serious face: “No really. I need to see the doctor.”
It turns out that you only have a yeast infection (albeit a pretty gnarly one), no diagnosable burns, and your poon isn’t even close to the craziest thing the doctor has seen that day. Who knows what kind of bizarre Los Angeles sex injuries she’s attended to but amen amen amen! You head home with a prescription and the long list of things you promised God you would do if he saved your vagina. So get to it, boo!
The bottom line about vaginal steaming:
- None of the other first-hand accounts of vaginal steaming that I’ve read end up with medical intervention. Perhaps I just have a particularly sensitive snatch. Maybe the water was just on too high. Maybe if I spoke Korean things would have gone differently. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the vagina has a very delicate pH balance and things like moisture and high temperatures can throw this off pretty dramatically. So it makes perfect logical sense that piping hot steam straight into your love tunnel would have this effect.
- There are basically two different kinds of vaginal steam services: “the cleaners” and “the healers.” The cleaners want to help you keep your vajoon “clean” and “fresh,” especially after your period. That seems like some bullshit since we know that the vagina cleans itself and doesn’t generally need help in that area. The natural healers, curanderas, and midwives, however, have been using vaginal steaming as a tool to heal reproductive problems for generations. I don’t have any proof that these are effective or useful either, but I wouldn’t throw this one out with the medical spas and other “ew icky vagina” service providers necessarily. If you’ve had positive experiences with this in the past, I’d love to hear about them!
- I still love the Korean spa. And I genuinely mean no disrespect. I fully acknowledge that I went into a space that wasn’t really meant for me and where I couldn’t communicate, and that almost certainly impacted my experience. I probably would have given the weird pink-haired girl with the hairy bush a hot dose too, tbh. So I will absolutely never do another vaginal steam again but I will still go there for a soak and a scrub and to walk around butt naked like I own the joint, though. Sorry in advance.