If you are a woman who wears a thong, perhaps you have encountered a moment wherein upon removal of said thong, there is something which appears to be poop-like on the string. You know how to wipe; hygiene is a priority to you. This is no doubt poop-plexing. What is causing this scourge? And how to avoid it?
Anecdotally, women who favor a thong have been known to issue the complaint that they get rather upset when they have to poop after they've showered, because it ruins their underwear. No matter how aggressively they wipe, even if they dig in there a little bit, eventually a skid mark ends up on their thong.
Hard to say how deep and dirty this issue runs. But online, women were obviously compelled as far as Yahoo! Answers to address it thusly:
Ladies how do you keep your thongs from getting poop on them after you go to the bathroom? It seems like no matter how much I wipe I always end up with tracks...what's your secret?
Sometimes, the questions aren't so direct, but rather, poop-thong complaints are revealed in the comments' sections of articles about the potential health risks of thongs. In a HuffPo piece about thong hygiene, commenter Tissa says, quite literally, "what do you expect?" After all, they are in your butt all day:
But the issues laid out in the article above are more of the infection-related-to-bacteria issue. To paraphrase: Sexy thongs may not be made of cotton, which means they are less breathable. Even if the crotch is cotton, the panel outside of it traps the moisture inside. The vulva is more vulnerable because there's less material covering it, and the material moves more often, meaning bacteria has more opportunities to travel, particularly E.coli from the back to the front:
Infections can occur when the balance of the vaginal environment, including the moisture levels from vaginal secretions, is thrown off, says Dr. Ghofrany. The most common? Yeast infections and bacterial infections, mainly bacterial vaginosis. The extra bacteria usually manifests with increased discharge, which leads to what Dr. Ghofrany calls the "vicious cycle of thong use": the increase in discharge leads to an increased use of panty liners, which leads to even more trapped moisture, which leads to more infections and more discharge.
Thongs also carry the risk of external irritation. "I see more patients with skin tags on their vulva and near their rectum, in the exact distribution of the thongs," Dr. Ghofrany tells us. "I sometimes will be mid-pap and ask a patient, 'So you wear thongs a lot?' And their response is always 'Ya! How can you tell?' And it's because of the skin tags, small 'piles' of soft tissue that occur from the skin being constantly rubbed in the same spot. These happen traditionally at bra lines and neck lines, and now increasingly at thong lines!"
Also, this can be worse on your period, due to the changing pH, an environment in which more bacteria can grow. The ultimate advice here is to maintain hygiene "down there" and also wash the underwear often. But nothing specific is addressed about the staining issue.
In response to a post from a mother whose daughter is a 10th grader wearing thong underwear, "Anonymous" felt compelled to snark this question at 1:33 a.m.:
don't you love the poop stains from the butt crack in thong underwear?
A frustrated poster on youbemom.com added this to the Internet thong poop debate in February this year:
And then, there's Twitter:
Poop finds a way.
Poop. Finds. A. Way.
Obviously, people have theories about what is going on here. Back at the first Yahoo! Answers question asking how ladies keep the poop off their thongs, we are privy to many variations on the first theory that probably comes to mind. In summation:
You're not wiping correctly.
You're not wiping enough.
You need to use some water on that.
You need to use wet wipes in there.
You need to not wear thongs.
You are gross.
I asked a nurse practitioner to discuss some possibilities with me for this phenomenon. Her first suspicion is that it is a cleanliness issue. Her theories were, in order of likelihood:
Not wiping as fastidiously as imagined.
Fecal incontinence is more common, she said, in women who are post-partum, or have a history of a traumatic vaginal delivery (often with use of forceps). There are plenty of other things that can cause FI, she added, like chronic constipation, diarrhea, IBS, and medications. Risk also increases with age. But the issue would be a regular occurrence in those cases, and not something that only happens after bowel movements. But if this issue only happens after you poop, then it is more likely an issue with wiping.
I have an uneducated armchair theory that perhaps women who experience this hard-to-wipe good scenario have messy poops. You know, a poop where it just seems like you have to wipe forever. It happens! That could be related to other bowel issues, like IBS, but if that were the case, there would be other issues aside from just cleanliness. But if all else is good to go and you are just having messy poops, you could always try more fiber. WHO DOESN'T NEED MORE FIBER?
But maybe the issue is just this: A thong string is going to get up in there. If you're devoted to them, devote yourself to the best, most state-of-the-art, A-game wiping techniques as a preventive measure. According to Go Ask Alice! at Columbia University's health site (and my favorite site ever), who was recently asked about proper ass-wiping techniques for thong wearing, those tactics include:
- Wipe from front to back. Wiping from back to front may spread bacteria to the urethra and to the genitals, a risk most significant for women.
- Wipe thoroughly but gently. Too much friction may cause microtears, which are more prone to infection if fecal matter gets inside them.
- If you can clean with water, do so. If you're in a stall or restroom with a sink where you may moisten toilet paper, this may be a good way to get clean. Toilet paper, however, disintegrates upon contact with water, which makes it more flushable. So only moisten the toilet paper ever so slightly and pat dry after.
- When cleaning with water, don't use soap. If even the slightest soap residue is left, it may irritate skin and dry out the sensitive area. Only use soap in a shower or bidet when you may thoroughly rinse.
- If you have a bowel movement in a public restroom and can't clean up with water, cleanse more thoroughly when you get home.
And as for thongs:
- Don't wear thongs everyday. If you can, save them for occasional special days.
- Wear cotton thongs. Cotton underwear allows skin to breathe better compared to nylon and most other synthetic fabrics.
- Don't sleep in thongs. Let everything breathe over night.
- When you wear a thong, eating yogurt may help prevent yeast infections. Also, avoid thongs if you have a yeast infection or if you're on antibiotics.
- Thongs may spread germs from your anus to the vulva. If you're having any bowel troubles that may mean looser or messier stools, save the thong for when you feel better.
Heed this advice. Until the magical no-wipe poop is achieved, this seems like the best we can do.
Image by Jim Cooke.