Respectful Insolence

Steamed vajajay woo

When it comes to “alternative” medical practices from Asia (or from anywhere else, for that matter), I’ve ceased to be surprised by anything I hear. After all, if somehow, some way, people can justify just about any strange health that can be imagined. If you don’t believe me, I have two words for you: Coffee enemas. If you still don’t believe me, I have two more words for you: black salve (i.e., burning skin lesions off). Still don’t believe me? I have three more words for you:

Vaginal steam baths.

Yep. I learned about it in a news story in the L.A. Times yesterday entitled Vaginal steam bath finds a place among Southern California spa options, and the article told me all about it:

Pungent steam rises from a boiling pot of a mugwort tea blended with wormwood and a variety of other herbs. Above it sits a nude woman on an open-seated stool, partaking in a centuries-old Korean remedy that is gaining a toehold in the West.

Vaginal steam baths, called chai-yok, are said to reduce stress, fight infections, clear hemorrhoids, regulate menstrual cycles and aid infertility, among many other health benefits. In Korea, many women steam regularly after their monthly periods.

Holy steaming vajayjay, Batman Oprah!

Now, being a male, I can’t from personal experience imagine how steaming a vagina can either feel good or bring any sort of health benefits. Being a guy, of course, I can imagine that I don’t want steam anywhere near my family jewels. I’m funny that way. Men have a distinct fear of pain, particularly burning pain down there. Little did I know, however, that apparently not only do people have all sorts of horrible toxins that cause health problems but that they can be removed from the body via the private parts:

At Daengki Spa in Koreatown, a 45-minute V-Herbal Therapy treatment can be had for $20 a squat. The steam includes a mixture of 14 herbs imported from Korea by spa manager Jin Young. The spa’s website claims the treatment will “rid the body of toxins” and help women with menstrual cramps, bladder infections, kidney problems and fertility issues. “It is a traditional Korean health remedy,” according to the website.

Of course it is.

I have to admit that, were I a woman, I would be very disturbed by the image of all sorts of horrific toxins emanating from my “female parts,” all stimulated by steam to come out in some sort of nasty cloud. By comparison, “detox foot baths” are far more pleasant in that those very same toxins, or so it is claimed, just pool in a bath of warm water that turns the color of rust, thanks to the electrolysis masquerading as all sorts of horrific “toxins” being sucked out of your feet. In any case, why is it always “toxins”? Toxins, toxins, toxins. That’s all I ever seem to hear from “alternative” medicine practitioners. Oh, well. In any case, I suppose this whole “perineal” or “vaginal” steam bath is just something that we nasty, allopathic “Western” doctors just don’t understand. To us, it’s just shooting a bunch of steam up a woman’s nether regions. To the woo-meisters, though, it’s not just steam that’s being forced to go places where usually only spouses, lovers, or gynecologists go. Oh, no. It’s super special, extra powerful herbal detox steam, which means that it has super duper magical powers:

The two predominant herbs in the steam bath mixture are mugwort and wormwood. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) has been used in Eastern medicine for hundreds of years to balance female hormones. It contains natural antibiotics and antifungal agents, according to herbalists and alternative medicine journals. It is also said to stimulate the production of hormones to maintain uterine health, protect the uterus from ulcers and tumors, stimulate menstrual discharge and ease fatigue, headaches, abdominal discomfort and nausea, among other claims.

Wormwood (Artemisia herba), an antimicrobial “cooling herb,” is also popular in Eastern medicine. It has been used historically to induce uterine contractions and treat bladder infections, fevers, open sores, constipation, diarrhea, hepatitis, jaundice, eczema and parasitic infections. The leaves and young shoots are antibacterial and antiviral, and they also relax the blood vessels and promote the discharge of bile, according to historical tradition.

As is pointed out in the article, it’s not entirely crazy to think that warm steam to one’s nether regions might be somewhat beneficial, at least in women. However, one of the claims for these treatments is that they can aid in infertility, and indeed there’s even an anecdote right there about a 45-year-old woman who was having trouble getting pregnant for three years:

Niki Han Schwarz believes it worked for her. After five steams, she found she had fewer body aches and more energy. She also became pregnant eight months ago at the age of 45 after attempting to conceive for three years.

Han Schwarz and her husband, orthopedic surgeon Charles Schwarz, are determined to introduce vaginal steam baths to Southern California women. Their Santa Monica spa, Tikkun Holistic Spa, offers a 30-minute V-Steam treatment for $50. (The identical treatment is available for men, to steam the perineal area.)

Oh, dear. That last idea doesn’t sound so good. After all, sperm production is inhibited if the testicles are too warm; that’s the reason why infertility clinics tell men to wear boxer shorts instead of briefs. Besides, steamed testicles don’t sound any more appealing to me than a steamed vajayjay.

Unfortunately, consistent with my annoyance with journalists, this article was completely credulous. True, the journalist did interview a couple of apparent token skeptics, who probably appropriately scratched their head at the strangeness and came up with what are in essence “WTF?” quotes saying that, yes, a bit of moist heat probably doesn’t hurt but it doesn’t do the things claimed, either. A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine is even quoted, and he blathers on about how infertility is due to “coldness and stagnation.” Here’s a hint: The only thing cold and stagnating is the skepticism of the writer.

Which makes me think it’s perfect for Oprah. For all I know, maybe she’s already featured this on her show.

Comments

  1. #1 Alexis
    December 21, 2010

    Oh, infertility woo. It’s small, but it’s there. I know 3 people who claimed they got pregnant because they did acupuncture. No, you got pregnant because you did IVF; the acupuncture was irrelevant. Apparently, some REs even refer patients to acupuncture clinics because a couple of studies (grain of salt) claimed it helped, though I remember another trial a couple of years ago saying it didn’t.

  2. #2 Todd W.
    December 21, 2010

    I like how they describe the (purported) medicinal properties of the herbs, as if that means that steam from a decoction would maintain those same properties. I can imagine that mugwort may exhibit antibacterial or antifungal properties in, say, a topical poultice or that drinking the tea may have some effect, but I’m a bit, shall we say, skeptical, that the steam wafting up would do much of anything.

    And wouldn’t warm moist air be contraindicated for, say, a fungal infection?

    Sure, it may be relaxing, but…

  3. #3 Andrew Barovick
    December 21, 2010

    What strikes me about this article is the unfairness to men. It teases us by mentioning the process of perineal steaming, but never reveals where we can find such pleasures. I intend to inquire at storefronts I’ve passed in Chinatown that promise “steamed buns,” but I’m not feeling overly optimistic.

  4. #4 TCs
    December 21, 2010

    I can’t help but see a similarity between this and the tobacco enemas of old. I think they’re trying to blow smoke up people’s asses.

  5. #5 Kristen
    December 21, 2010

    I think I have stopped laughing enough to comment.

    Now, being a male, I can’t from personal experience imagine how steaming a vagina can either feel good or bring any sort of health benefits.

    I suppose warm steam couldn’t feel bad, but getting a burn there would be very unpleasant. That said, doesn’t a woman’s neither regions go through enough (or rather doesn’t enough go through them) in a lifetime? I know mine deserve a break after child birth and Gyn exams. The potential for extremely painful and embarrassing side-effects is a turn-off (how would you explain that to your Gynecologist?).*

    How does one ask for that at the desk in a spa anyway. I would be far too embarrassed. Picture menu, perhaps. ;)

    *All puns intended

  6. #6 Alison Cummins
    December 21, 2010

    Whatever happened to the word ‘vulva’?

    There are eight definitions for ‘vagina’ on dictionary.com. All of them are variations on the following from the Collins English Dictionary:
    “1. the moist canal in most female mammals, including humans, that extends from the cervix of the uterus to an external opening between the labia minora
    2. anatomy, biology any sheath or sheathlike structure, such as a leaf base that encloses a stem”
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vagina

    By contrast, the same source defines ‘vulva’ as follows:
    “the external genitals of human females, including the labia, mons veneris, clitoris, and the vaginal orifice”

    ‘Vajayjay’ is just horrible and only to be used when quoting Oprah directly with the intention of making the reader cringe. It makes me realize how far we’ve regressed. In the seventies and eighties we thought we had claimed the right to use accurate words to describe our own bodies. (See also: discussion of the cultural acceptability of the phrase ‘breast cancer’ to refer to breast cancer on sciencebasedmedicine.org.) Apparently that right has to be fought for again. Please don’t be the enemy.

    At home I might prefer ‘pussy’ and ‘honey pot’ but that’s highly personal. On a public blog, all I ask is that you distinguish between the words ‘vagina’ and ‘vulva.’ If ‘vagina’ is used to refer to the labia and clitoris, then what is left to refer to the birth canal?

  7. #7 Anonymous
    December 21, 2010
  8. #8 Kristen
    December 21, 2010

    @Alison Cummins,

    Way to suck all the fun out of the post. I’ll bet you’re fun at parties.

  9. #9 Thony C.
    December 21, 2010

    The German’s stuff their roast Christmas geese with dried mugwort.

  10. #10 Jojo
    December 21, 2010

    I think I actually snorted when I read,

    At Daengki Spa in Koreatown, a 45-minute V-Herbal Therapy treatment can be had for $20 a squat.

    Now all my coworkers are wondering what is wrong with me. I have to say, I don’t intend to ever purchase anything that is sold by the “squat”.

  11. #11 Militant Agnostic
    December 21, 2010

    The leaves and young shoots are antibacterial and antiviral, and they also relax the blood vessels and promote the discharge of bile, according to historical tradition.

    This sounds just like medieval western medicine.

    @Jojo – would it better if they said $20 a crack?

  12. #12 Alison Cummins
    December 21, 2010

    Kristen,

    My sister’s favourite epithet for me is ‘wet blanket’ and I can’t deny that it’s apposite.

    On blogs I end up being argumentative. I pick up on things that are important to me and leave the steamed buns jokes to people who are funnier than I am – the world is full of them, and a good thing too.

    I’m not too bad at parties though. I ask questions and I introduce vocabulary like ‘honey pot.’

  13. #13 Personal Failure
    December 21, 2010

    I know moist heat is contraindicated for yeast infections, because I’ve been having a hell of a time with them lately. (Trying to keep one’s vulva both dry and cool isn’t easy, especially during the winter.) That “treatment” would ensure that I got one.

    Besides, after 3 years of infertility treatment, she credits the steam with curing infertility? I’m surprised doctors don’t go on vandalism sprees after reading that sort of thing.

  14. #14 Vicki
    December 21, 2010

    I sympathize with Alison here.

    This may be influenced by having had to edit manuscripts that misused “vulva” to mean (only) the opening to the vagina.

    Also, if we’re going to talk about tender parts of my anatomy, I’d like to use words that don’t make me expect the person talking to start giggling because they’re talking about the subject at all.

    I got amused agreement at a recent party because, when someone mentions the idea of 72 virgins as a reward in the afterlife, I said I’d rather have someone who already knows what they’re doing. I don’t think either of us is a wet blanket.

  15. #15 knotfreak
    December 21, 2010

    @Alison

    Thanks for the follow up and for being a good sport.

    I had the same feeling when I read a blog about bikini-waxing. They kept saying “waxing the vagina” when they (I HOPE) clearly meant vulva.

    In this case, however, I found the terminology very amusing, especially coming from ORAC. Besides I think the practitioners DO intend the steam to find its way into the vagina, although I was wondering about that very thing whilst reading.

  16. #16 James Sweet
    December 21, 2010

    Oh, infertility woo. It’s small, but it’s there. I know 3 people who claimed they got pregnant because they did acupuncture. No, you got pregnant because you did IVF; the acupuncture was irrelevant.

    I imagine regression to the mean plays some role in this true. You’d be surprised how panicky people can get about fertility. About a month before my wife and I got pregnant with our first kid, she started making rumblings about having me go to the doctor to get my sperm tested because it was taking too long. How long had we been trying? About four months. After she tested positive, she was quite willing to laugh at herself about this little bit of foolishness — considering the median is like five months. hahahaha….

    It’s an extreme example, but the point is, people who eager to get pregnant might not always be thinking clearly about probabilities and bell curves and such. Imagine it had taken us eight months, and my wife had tried acupuncture at seven months…. heh… Post hoc FTW!

  17. #17 Alexis
    December 21, 2010

    Believe me, I’m not surprised (I speak from experience here), and I’m not unfamiliar with wanting to believe there was a reason this round worked–above and beyond your RE tweaking the protocol and a healthy dose of blind luck. It’s much more comforting to believe that you did something to ensure success. I still find all the talk of acupuncture and untested supplements a little depressing, though. It’s hard to be realistic when you’re undergoing fertility treatment, but investing your hopes in CAM is no better.

  18. #18 LovleAnjel
    December 21, 2010

    Okay, a steam room is relaxing, so I can see that (if the room was just small enough to fit a vulva). Hot water, steam AND antibiotics can contribute to massive yeast infections, so on that count NO.

    To all those people hoping to relax: go find yourself a furry animal to pet*.

    *interpret as you wish

  19. #19 Denice Walter
    December 21, 2010

    No!!!!!! But I am familiar with something possibly… *even worse*. I did martial arts/ t’ai chi for exercise, another student’s friend taught “Healing Tao” (Google : Mantak and Maneewan Chia) an arcane practice to cultivate sexual prowess, “inner energy”, health, and longevity**. While I did not ever *even think* about attending a class, I saw their brochure: they sold books, classes, and kits for “weight lifting” for male or female genitalia ( male included small weights and a bamboo stick; female, a marble egg- use your imagination) The Chias once resided in Thailand, which may explain some of their ideas, if you know what I mean. Now if a woman did her exercises, she could then have a steam at the spa.

    ** I assure you that I am not making this up.

  20. #20 Scott
    December 21, 2010

    @ Denise:

    That’s not entirely unreasonable. There’s at least some reason to believe that strengthening and toning the pelvic muscles has a beneficial effect on sexual satisfaction. Such “weight lifting” can accomplish said strengthening and toning. “Inner energy”, health, and longevity, not so much. But the sexual prowess part might just be true.

  21. #21 Denice Walter
    December 21, 2010

    @ Scott- Of course, I’m not saying that it doesn’t have some real effects ( probably similar to Kegel exercises) but that it is rather bizarre.

  22. #22 Calli Arcale
    December 21, 2010

    Regression to the mean is definitely a factor, James, in believing this is effective in fertility treatment. I know *three different women* whose cure for infertility was apparently giving up. :-P (Two conceived shortly after giving up on fertility treatment and adopting; the other conceived naturally a few years after repeated IVF resulted in one child via a high-risk pregnancy that had her unwilling to try so hard a second time.)

    Denice Walter: the idea of weight-lifting with one’s nether regions isn’t quite as insane as it sounds, though it has nothing whatsoever to do with inner energy, health, and longevity, and probably very little to do with sexual prowess. It can sometimes help with incontinence, though. The idea is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. (Kegel exercises, which do not involve a weight, operate on the same principle.) It is only effective in a subset of cases, however, though since it creates a medical loophole in laws banning the sale of sex toys, it gets tried quite a lot. ;-)

  23. #23 Alison Cummins
    December 21, 2010

    Denise Walter,

    Betty Dodson is a highly influential activist and educator in helping women claim their own sexuality.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Dodson

    She published Sex for One in 1974 and it’s still in print. She also designed a vaginal barbell, and you can find out more about it here.
    http://dodsonandross.com/sexfeature/how-use-bettys-vaginal-barbell

    Thirty-six years later, we should not be getting weirded out by women wanting to have pleasurable sex, whether with themselves or with partners. We should certainly not be calling it “even worse” than anything. Why are we?

  24. #24 sophia8
    December 21, 2010

    Never mind ‘vajajay’ – just wait until vajazzle gets across to your side of the Atlantic.

  25. #25 Anonymous
    December 21, 2010

    Alison Cummins, what is the evidence that this vaginal barbell does what it claims?

  26. #26 Calli Arcale
    December 21, 2010

    Alison, I’m not weirded out by women wanting to have pleasurable sex. I’m weirded out by people promoting vaginal steam baths and sex toys as panaceas.

  27. #27 Pablo
    December 21, 2010

    This post and comments have inspired me.

    Claim: steamed herbs good for the vajayjay
    Concern: a burned vajayjay would not be pleasant
    Solution: ULTRASONIC VAPORIZER!

    I love the ultrasonic vaporizers they have now. The Gurg has a cow in his room, and MonkeyBoy has an elephant. They work – the water is vaporized, and blown into the room.

    So I propose the “ultrasonic chai-yok,” which will give all the benefits of the steam bath but without the risk of steam. Moreover, given that it is using ultrasonic vaporization, imagine the great marketing campaign one could have!

    (seriously, this is a patentable idea)

  28. #28 Calli Arcale
    December 21, 2010

    Oh, BTW, I’m also weirded out by the fact that a century after the invention of the vibrator, women still in many places can’t just go out and buy a dildo; they instead have to claim they’re doing it for health reasons. It’s all about improving health; somehow, it still can’t be because women are sexual beings. And because people are people, even feminists are perpetuating this, by trying to give us nobler reasons for seeking self-gratification. It can’t just be because we’re horny; it has to be to get us in tune with our spiritual selves or to boost our energy levels or treat insomnia or other such nonsense.

  29. #29 rob
    December 21, 2010

    isn’t wormwood used in absinthe?

    why not just douche with absinthe?

    hey…i gots an idea for a new type of body shot…ummm…forget it. sorry.

  30. #30 swordfish
    December 21, 2010

    I believe the Hoover SteamVac will soon have an attachment for this. Can’t wait to see the tv commercials.

  31. #31 Marge
    December 21, 2010

    Exactly the same ‘squat over herbal steam’ treatments are recommended in a couple of Anglo-Saxon medical manuscripts (can’t remember the exact herbs), but as we know, it only works if it comes from somewhere we can apply a bit of colonial orientalism to.

  32. #32 Constance Reader
    December 21, 2010

    As a female, can I just say…OUCH!

  33. #33 Ethyachk
    December 21, 2010

    No one else heard of “vagoo”? Am I the only Least I Could Do fan here?

  34. #34 Dangerous Bacon
    December 21, 2010

    I’m surprised that the toxinophobes took so long to get around to this type of treatment (at least, in the ignorant West). Given the view that anything emanating from the nether regions is filthy and nasty, it’s just got to be jam-packed with toxins too. Except for urine, which as we know is a cure-all.

    “At Daengki Spa in Koreatown, a 45-minute V-Herbal Therapy treatment can be had for $20 a squat.”

    When I saw this, I thought of my poor Labrador retriever pup who is currently going through a bout of diarrhea. If I could get someone to pay me $20 a squat, I’d be rolling in…um, never mind.

  35. #35 Militant Agnostic
    December 21, 2010

    women still in many places can’t just go out and buy a dildo

    Whereas in Canada they can live in Dildo, Newfoundland.

  36. #36 Scote
    December 21, 2010

    The whole overselling of douching was bad enough, but now they are telling women that they need to have their woman parts steam cleaned, like an old engine? Sigh… Next thing everyone will have to scrub down with Betadine before having sex…

  37. #37 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    December 21, 2010

    @Calli #21
    Similarly, based on the experience of several friends, adopting seems to increase fertility as well.

    So is a steamed vulva analagous to an angry beaver?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Angry_Beavers

  38. #38 Passing Through
    December 21, 2010

    I’m not a fan of the word VaJayJay. I personally like the word Vagoo.

  39. #39 Passing Through
    December 21, 2010

    I’m not a fan of the word VaJayJay. I personally like the word Vagoo.

    Ethyachk….Rayne Summers is a GOD!!

  40. #40 mattand08
    December 21, 2010

    Re: toxins:

    Just once, I’d love some alt med advocate to produce a list of “teh toxins” this crap is supposed to eliminate and scientific proof of said elimination.

    In other news, the pig in my backyard still hasn’t taken flight.

  41. #41 feralboy12
    December 21, 2010

    “It has been used historically.”
    “It is said to…”
    “…believes it worked for her.”
    All the usual suspects. Instead of offering evidence, they barf up oatmeal.
    That really steams my balls.

  42. #42 a-non
    December 21, 2010

    That really steams my balls.

    I see what you did there.

  43. #43 Rogue Epidemiologist
    December 21, 2010

    Hmm, no steamed clams jokes? Seems to be the obvious one to make.

    My shower has three settings: “iced water,” “genital-scorching hot” and “tepid.” “Tepid” requires very precise adjustment of the knobs and often lapses into “genital-scorching” territory. Knowing what the feels like, steam-cleaning my crotch holds absolutely no appeal for me.

    As for the woman in the article, she looks good for 45. As for fertility issues plaguing a 45-year-old nulliparous woman, I’d wager it has a little something to do with the fact that she’s 45-years-old!!! Just a hunch.

  44. #44 Denice Walter
    December 21, 2010

    @ Alison Cummins – I am so *not* “weirded out” by women wanting to have pleasurable sex, I am only looking askance at the _marketting_ of Kegel exercises as an esoteric practice of the “mysterious east”, tossing in a great deal of mumbo-jumbo about immortality, “internal energy”, “love”, “power”, and “spirituality” rather than calling it what it is. To be perfectly fair, Mantak Chia’s woo even more explicitly targets men but they’re not the subject of our esteemed host’s post today.

  45. #45 Noadi
    December 21, 2010

    Betty Dodson’s vaginal barbell is essentially a good heavy dildo that can be used for exercising PC muscles. There are a number of products out there for that.

    Whether or not it really helps sexual function is hard to say. The reason it’s hard to say is because as Calli Arcale put it a century after the invention of the vibrator many women still can’t walk into a store and buy one for other than “medical” reasons. The state of research on female sexual function is deplorably weak. Female orgasm was downplayed or outright denied (especially if caused by clitoral stimulation instead of vaginal penetration) until the 1960s. The existence of female ejaculation, where it comes from and what it’s composed of is still lacking in any serious research. Our culture is still very negative about sexuality in general and female sexuality in particular.

    /ends rant

  46. #46 Kieran
    December 21, 2010

    Would they do my Volvo?

  47. #47 Science Mom
    December 21, 2010

    Can I just say that the term ‘vajajay’ is not something that I would ever have imagined reading at the hands of Orac?

    Herbed, steamed vag; who knew?

  48. #48 WMDKitty
    December 21, 2010

    Steamed vag… I wonder if I could get my partner to eat it…?

  49. #49 Amy
    December 22, 2010

    Don’t knock it until you try it! No, really, can’t a lady just take a hot shower with a removable shower head and spray where she needs? Much more economical, and probably comfortable.

    Alison is awesome, I don’t see how posting her opinion on a blog is taking the fun out, isn’t that what most people come to do, discuss? I do think the title was good, appropriate and humorous.

  50. #50 Trouble
    December 22, 2010

    Oh, infertility woo. It’s small, but it’s there.

    Oh, no. Reproductive woo is huge and runs unchecked and rampant around the internet in places where skeptics fear to tread. Having babies is complicated, socially important and extremely common, and sufficiently stressful that you’re practically guaranteed to have a problem somewhere, sometime that evidence-based medicine hasn’t solved. Fertile ground, no pun intended, for woo.

    By way of example – a mainstream pregnancy book I got out of the library devoted about a quarter of its content to homeopathic remedies for various ailments; the latest craze for young babies is teething necklaces made from Baltic amber – chokeable, breakable and completely unproven; half my friends would recommend an osteopath rather than a pediatrician for a baby with gastric reflux problems.

    This is the breeding ground (again, no pun intended) which generated vaccine rejection. Find some way to inject a bit more skepticism into that world, and you’ll do a power of good.

  51. #51 Jon H
    December 22, 2010

    “Never mind ‘vajajay’ – just wait until vajazzle gets across to your side of the Atlantic.”

    Speaking of which, I suppose steam could help get the jazzles off.

    Personal Failure wrote: “Trying to keep one’s vulva both dry and cool isn’t easy, especially during the winter”

    I’d think it’d be easy, so long as you didn’t care about frostbite or arrest for indecent exposure.

  52. #52 Calli Arcale
    December 22, 2010

    Trouble — yeah, infertility woo is huge, and it’s not helped by the fact that mainstream fertility medicine is kind of a dicey subject. The pressure to Do Something is so great that a lot of practitioners even in the medical mainstream are doing things before testing them to see if they’re even a good idea. Part of this is because of the essential challenges in doing research in this area; animal models aren’t as helpful and human testing of ANYTHING related to pregnancy is an ethical/political quagmire. But that’s really not an excuse, and the consequences can be huge. I know one person who went for fertility treatments, and the result was tragic — at a mainstream clinic, the usual recommendations were ignored and they wound up with six babies. Five died. The last was severely disabled.

    I’m not opposed to fertility medicine; I have a bright cousin soon to graduate high school who was a test-tube baby. It’s a wonderful thing. But there is so much motivation to make it work that it’s easy for a doctor (or anyone!) to throw caution to the wind. Easy to focus on the possible good outcome, while dismissing the bad. So fertility woo covers a huge ground, from mainstream clinics violating what standards there are and producing Octomoms, to palmists who will, for a fee, wave an herb bough over a pregnant woman’s tummy to ensure a painless delivery.

    And this shouldn’t come as any surprise. The most important ancient gods weren’t really the Allfathers or other big head honchos. Oh, they were rulers of all, but they weren’t the ones you spent most of your time praying to. That honor went to the fertility gods. And it’s amazing how many fertility gods there have been throughout human history; while some individual people may not want babies, and while we spend really a very small percentage of our time having sex and giving birth, it’s the thing that ties our civilization to its future. So of course there is woo, and plenty of it. And I suspect there always will be, because it is nearly impossible to be completely objective on this subject, even when we try.

  53. #53 Calli Arcale
    December 22, 2010

    Amy — I also think Alison is awesome. I enjoy reading her comments on many subjects, and I hope her reception here won’t discourage her from posting.

  54. #54 Janice in Toronto
    December 22, 2010

    Bile? There’s going to be bile coming out of my vagina?

    ARRRRRRRGGGHHHH!!!

    I think I’ll take a pass on the ‘steamed clam’ treatments…

  55. #55 Kristen
    December 22, 2010

    On blogs I end up being argumentative. I pick up on things that are important to me and leave the steamed buns jokes to people who are funnier than I am – the world is full of them, and a good thing too.

    I’m not too bad at parties though. I ask questions and I introduce vocabulary like ‘honey pot.’

    I apologize, Alison, I should not have attacked the messenger.

    I disagree with women being overly sensitive about feminine jokes. And I was somewhat confused with your preference of the word p***y when I find that to be one of the most crass ways to refer to a woman’s genitals (honeypot is hilarious, though, I’ve never heard that one before).

    I do understand where you are coming from, everyone has something they are particular about being accurate.

    Which all is a long way of saying: I’m sorry for being an insensitive jerk (my foot is forever in my mouth).

    BTW I talk too much at parties. ;)

  56. #56 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlR0vJHRV9V4RZrn3TxLnE42qddNT-2SpQ
    December 22, 2010

    The concept comes from way back in Greek times, when the smoke from burning seal fat and other things was supposed to cure cancer and wandering uteri.

  57. #57 hawaiiguy
    December 22, 2010

    well, i’ve heard the phrase (mighta used it myself on occasion) “that’s one steaming vajajay (or noun of your personal preference) you’ve got there baby!”, but not in the context of korean herbal medicine.

  58. #58 Science Mom
    December 22, 2010

    Steamed vag… I wonder if I could get my partner to eat it…?

    WMDKitty, I suppose if ‘conventional’ isn’t enticing then sure. You may have to adjust the herb blend though.

  59. #59 Calli Arcale
    December 22, 2010

    Kristen, Alison, re: terms for female anatomy:

    I sometimes like to use Elizabethan slang, because I’m a dork with a BA in English lit. ;-) One of my favorite bits is in Hamlet, and most people don’t realize just how dirty this is:

    Ham. Lady, shall I lie in your lap? euphemism: can I have sex with you?

    Oph. No, my lord. Um, dude, a) we broke up, and b) you’re saying this in front of my dad! Are you crazy? Oh, wait….

    Ham. I mean, my head upon your lap?

    Oph. Ay, my lord. oh good, he actually meant it literally — er, I hope

    Ham. Do you think I meant country matters? country matters = animal husbandry / matters pertaining to the “count”, or, well, that word actually hasn’t changed too much in 400 years

    Oph. I think nothing, my lord. Don’t encourage him!

    Ham. That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.

    Oph. What is, my lord? Oh God, what’s he thinking now?

    Ham. Nothing. Nothing = the vagina in Elizabethan slang, so Hamlet has just made a dirty pun to the girl he’s been courting and who currently thinks he’s nuts

    There’s also a good bit in Henry V where the French princess, who is going to end up marrying Henry to secure peace, is learning English from her maid. Although it’s not as clear to modern readers, she asks how to refer to portions of human anatomy. It was doubtless intended as comic relief. And I won’t even get into “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. That’s definitely a play best enjoyed with your mind in the gutter.

  60. #60 Azkyroth
    December 22, 2010

    It’s an extreme example, but the point is, people who eager to get pregnant might not always be thinking clearly about probabilities and bell curves and such.

    Couples who have to actively TRY to conceive have no goddamn complaints coming.

  61. #61 Amy
    December 23, 2010

    @ Calli A
    Thanks! I love Hamlet, and did not fully understand that scene! That was great.

  62. #62 wmdkitty#83021
    December 23, 2010

    @Science Mom — He’ll eat it if it’s been properly cleaned, so I can’t complain, there. ;)

  63. #63 treeves
    December 23, 2010

    I cant believe you wrote about this! I was just at a spa in La Jolla, CA 3 weeks ago and did this. It was amazing! felt amazing, invigorating, and I could go on and on…My husband was also amazed by the after effects :) This is one of those things you just have to do and not just write about.

  64. #64 Amy
    December 23, 2010

    @ treeves:

    Really? A hot removable shower head sprayed down there isn’t as good?

  65. #65 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    December 25, 2010

    Calli, thank you for destroying the reputation of Shakespeare as ‘fine literature’ and putting him back where he belongs: with the gutter humour and double-entendre lot! Makes him much easier to read!

    I did A-level English Lit, but – since I took the exam after only 6 months – didn’t get a grade in it. I can appreciate good literature, though, and Shakespeare is something I find gets … what’s the word? Buggered! Yes… Shakespeare gets buggered completely if his work is taken too drily… he didn’t write for literary critics. He wrote for ornery folk who wanted something to take their minds off the usual merde-du-jour.

    Even better than ‘nothing’… Chaucer’s ‘nether eye’! ;)

  66. #66 Jan Willem, Nienhuys
    December 27, 2010

    Alison is right. The first thing I thought is that the procedure as described is not going to get anything like warm misty air into the vagina. The second thing that struck me is the requirement that one has to sit nude on that chair with a hole. The third thing is the definition of steam: gaseous water at a pressure of at least one atmosphere and a temperature of at least 373 kelvin, for example what escapes from the spout of a kettle of boiling water. You wouldn’t want that to touch any part of your anatomy. And if the idea is to expose the pudenda to warmth and moisture, why not just take a warm bath?

  67. #67 phoenixwoman
    December 27, 2010

    Oh, lordy. One of the reasons doucheing, which was a big fad in the ’50s and ’60s, dropped in popularity was because the vagina has its own beneficial flora, and excessive doucheing wound up decimating these entities and opening the gates to not-quite-so-benign invaders. This to me sounds like a revival of a bad old fad, repackaged to seem exotic and new.

  68. #68 PennyBright
    December 30, 2010

    On the matter of kegels – using a weight of some kind does seem to improve their effectiveness, in my personal experience.

    As for sexual prowess thing…. well, muscles that can contract strongly and rhythmically do add a certain something to ones sex life.

  69. #69 Calli Arcale
    December 31, 2010

    I just have to laugh, because the LA Times story is the lead story on this week’s News of the Weird: Pro Edition.
    http://www.weirduniverse.net/blog/comments/4604/

  70. #70 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    January 5, 2011

    “And if the idea is to expose the pudenda to warmth and moisture, why not just take a warm bath?”

    Or why not do what we do in Finland: go to sauna!

  71. #71 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    January 10, 2011

    Tätä kutsuttaisiin suomen kielellä ‘pillusaunaksi’!