There has been a lot of talk about Charlotte Roche's Wetlands and whether it is, as the author says, "not feminist in a political sense, but instead feminism of the body, that has to do with anxiety and repression and the fear that you stink," or whether it's just the literary equivalent of a Sarah Silverman act, all fart jokes and cringe-inducing explorations of the depths of female potty humor with no political content. Not that I'm by any means all the way through the book (reading in another language you haven't read consistently in almost ten years is hard!), but I have to say that I'm kind of coming down on Ms. Roche's side in this debate. Yeah, it's kind of icky, but that's sort of the point. Another excerpt, and a case in point, is after the jump.
Some of you hard-core ladies might recall Tracie's grand experiments with the perfume Vulva, taking it to be sniffed in Chelsea and on the Upper East Side. Most people were, let's be frank, kind of grossed out by the smell of pussy. Now, while there are, no doubt, plenty of sex-phobic and gynophobic people in the world, legitimate phobias were not the issue here. Pussy (when not in the throes of a bacterial infection) doesn't smell bad. It doesn't need to be douched or perfumed away. Femininity shouldn't be a celebration of being hairless and stankless and pristine like a fucking Barbie doll, and (good) sex doesn't look like an R-rated movie. It's fluid-filled and objectively kind of weird-looking, sweaty and, yes, smelly and full of heavy breathing and weird noises and none of it detracts from the fact that we are biologically designed to want to do it, badly, and that, when done right, it feels really damn good. And the more we all (men and women) obsess about whether we smell or look perfect or are doing it "right," the less we pay attention to doing it (and having fun at it). And, yes, pay equality and child care and parental leave and equal rights are important feminist issues, but it is no less important for women to feel comfortable in their own bodies and not try to live up to some Barbie ideal of what women are "supposed" to be, and if Wetlands helps start a conversation about hemorrhoids and taking a crap like a human being whether or not you're at "his" house and liking anal sex and liking the smell of pussy or whatever, if it helps women take away a moment of understanding that we're all sort of dirty and weird and sexual and that that's okay, then, fuck it, this should be required reading.
Anyway, with that preamble, here's Helen, our heroine, on stank.
Pussy washing was made into some great science in our house. It is allegedly very hard to get a pussy really clean. That is, of course, total bullshit. A little bit of water, a little bit of soap, scrub, scrub. Done.
But, you have to be careful not to wash it too much, or else you'll wash away the important pussy flora. And they're really important during sex for the right pussy smell and taste. They shouldn't be gotten rid of. I've been experimenting for quite a while with unwashed pussy. My goal is for it to be easily and seductively smelled through pants, even through thick jeans or ski pants. It won't exactly be known by men, but they'll experience it subliminally, because we're all really just animals looking to pair up. Preferably with people that smell like pussy.
So then you start to flirt and you have to grin the whole time because you just know that the air is filling with this deliciously sweet smell. It's exactly the effect that perfume is supposed to have. We're always told that perfume can have erotic effects on others, but why don't we use our own, more effective perfume? In reality, we all get turned on by the smell of pussy, cock and sweat. Most people are just alienated and think that everything natural reeks and everything man-made smells good. When a woman coated in perfume walks by me, it makes me want to hurl. What does she have to hide? Women spray their perfume around in public toilets after they've taken a shit, thinking that it makes everything smells agreeable. I can always smell their shit through the perfume, though. I prefer the smell of old shit and piss to these purchased, disgusting perfumes.
What is worse are these women who spray perfume in the toilet think it's some brilliant new idea that they just have to pass on.
Whenever you are in a public bathroom, regardless of whether its a restaurant or a train station, you go to the bathroom and pull the stall door closed behind you and then are sprayed with something wet from above. The first time, I was startled. I thought someone from a neighboring stall had flicked water at me. But peering up I realized that there was a kind of soap dispenser fixed above the door, the purpose and intention of which is to water unsuspecting bathroom users with an objectionable air freshener as soon as they close the door. In your hair, on your clothes, in your face. If that's not the ultimate violation to a hygiene fanatic, I don't know what is.
I use my own pussy juice the way others use their perfume bottles. I stick a finger in my pussy and then dab the slime behind my earlobes. It works wonders when you're kissing people on the cheek.