I’m 45, a divorced man for 15 years, during which I’ve dated a few women and had a few one-night stands, most shortly after getting divorced.
In the past seven years, I’ve felt the urge to find someone “special” and settle down but find dating difficult in this day/age. Living in a small community makes it even harder.
I’ve met a few women I’ve enjoyed being around and liked. But more often than not, the same issue comes up once we get to the sexual part.
It seems a large portion of women I’ve encountered have a very strong odour coming from their vagina. Strong enough that it’s a complete turn-off.
This makes it difficult to continue in the relationship and results in hurt feelings and an eventual parting of ways. I absolutely adored one woman in particular, but I just couldn’t be intimate with her.
So, my questions are: Can women tell if they have an odour? What can be done to fix it? And also, is there any possible way to raise this topic without causing pain to the other person?
Despite your experience which is real and disturbing to you, I have not, during years of reading tens of thousands of relationship questions to this column, found this same complaint about more than one or two women from that same number of men.
The medical fact that applies to countless women is this: A mild, musky smell is normal for a healthy vagina.
But based on your letter, the following important information needs to be addressed to women, before I then focus on hopefully helpful advice for you.
Vaginal odour may vary throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, even especially noticeable right after having sex or from normal sweating.
Temporary vaginal odour is common due to hormonal changes, or from strong-smelling foods (garlic/fish) and often resolves on its own.
Some causes of abnormal vaginal odour - infection or inflammation - can lead to vaginitis (various disorders).
An overgrowth of normally occurring vaginal bacteria is the most common infection that causes an unpleasantly different odour.
Any woman who contracts this should notify her doctor.
Other causes of vaginitis include a sexually transmitted infection called Trichomoniasis; or vaginal or cervical cancer. Fortunately, cancer is a rare cause.
Women reduce risking an unpleasant smell by showering regularly with water and mild, unscented soap and not using douches which can upset the pH levels in the vagina and lead to infection.
Now, my advice to “Turned Off” and other men who may’ve wondered how to discuss vaginal smell with a woman, without offending her:
1) Hold off on sex with someone new, especially one-night stands (safer in a pandemic and for avoiding potential sexual diseases). Wait until you’re comfortable together before raising delicate topics.
2) If you again note the problem in a woman you like, ask about her diet and reactions to strong foods... it may provide a clue.
(A man once wrote me upset that he was being shunned at work by people who said he “smelled.” Turned out he ate garlic at every meal. Once he stopped, he wrote me that his co-workers became friendlier).
3) Be sure that it’s not the “normal mild musky smell” that you’re perhaps extra-sensitive to, as she can’t/shouldn’t change that.
In that case, consider discussing with your own doctor any allergies or strong sensitivities you may have that could possibly be a factor.
FEEDBACK Regarding the man who wanted his wife to contribute to helping pay for their children’s future higher education (Oct. 19):
Reader – “His wife’s providing day care, tutoring, meals, and hand-made items that a working mom would’ve had to buy.
“She already HAS contributed to their finances through this free labour which he’s taken for granted because she wants to do it. But being happy doesn’t mean she hasn't contributed.
“For the sake of home-making moms, please note that some feel the wife had already contributed quite a lot to their finances.
“I understand that the man’s worried about the future cash flow. But he doesn’t realize (in 2020!) that women's labour at home is money saved from paying someone else for it.”
Ellie - Understood. I was at home 11 years raising young kids, did schoolwork, cooked, drove carpool, volunteered. There’s a time/need for either or both choices for women, and men too.
Tip of the day:
Before raising very sensitive personal issues regarding sex with someone, get fully informed first, and consider your own sensitivity, too.