There is a small group of obsessives who really hate Atheism+ — they hate it so much that they pick over every thread on the Atheism+ forum, looking for nits. And then, unfortunately, they write to me in email and twitter and tell me how stupid they are. The latest example: an atheism+ mod writes a short comment rejecting the utility of vaginal douching, complete with a link to a scientific review of the practice.
Douche is emblematic of the patriarchy. It’s a completely unnecessary product marketed to women as vaginas are icky. In many cases, it actually makes things worse. It’s basically completely awful.
So yeah, douching is in no way a natural or automatic part of life as a woman (or even as a cis woman), nor does it appear to be even remotely a good idea, so how do you figure the word is sexist?
That’s pretty much the world consensus. There are only a few benighted places on the planet, the United States among them, where people believe that flushing out the urogenital tract with scented water is beneficial.
So then I see this tweet flash by from some manic goon going by the name @NYBoxTurtle, who claims that Atheism+ mangles scientific data.
#AtheismPlus takes a stand on vaginal douching. How do they interpret scientific data? FIND OUT! http://www.reddit.com/r/AntiAtheismPlus/comments/13tszo/how_atheism_plus_mods_interpret_scientific_data … #FTBullies
Here’s what Mr @NYBoxTurtle claims is evidence of science abuse by Atheism+:
Studies around vaginal douching “conflict…and the strength of association varies enormously between studies” resulting in “less agreement…for hygiene and relief of vaginitis symptoms” with “many potentially confounding factors blur[ring] the epidemiologic assessment.” Additionally, “conflicting results are reported regarding sexually transmitted infections and douching…cross-sectional studies cannot determine reliably whether the douching preceded the disease or if the symptoms led to the douching.” And while “there are several ways by which douching may contribute to disease,”…it’s also noted that “different types of douching liquids have various antimicrobial effects” which “may be less harmful or may be beneficial.”
Atheism Plus mod:
Cites that very source and summarizes:
“It’s a completely unnecessary product…It’s basically completely awful.”
Wait. I read the article. It’s a very thorough review of the scientific literature on douching, which reports on a few studies and meta-analyses that showed a possibility of slight benefits, but also found studies that conflict, and other studies that showed marked deleterious effects, including increased incidence of cancers and ectopic pregnancies. It’s all couched in the neutral and objective language of a scientific paper, but the review is very, very clear: douching is not a good thing. Women shouldn’t do it at all, although it reserves the possibility that there are some specific, serious medical conditions that might be addressed by some douching. Mr @NYBoxTurtle was doing some serious cherry-picking to find a few phrases that could be pulled out of context and made to sound as if the paper were endorsing douching.
I read the paper. I was appalled. It was the most dishonest distortion of scientific results I’ve read since the last time I read a creationist’s claims. Mr @NYBoxTurtle was basically lying about the paper to make a petty and false case against Atheism+.
So I fired back, briefly, by quoting the conclusion of the paper:
Conclusion of the cited article: “since there are no demonstrated benefits to douching and considerable evidence of harm, women should be encouraged to not douche”. The linked summary is actually an accurate interpretation of the work. It’s unnecessary. There is no evidence of an advantage. There is evidence of harm.
Did you even bother to read it?
Seriously. Read the paper. The conclusions are completely unambiguous and strong. Here’s the introduction if you don’t believe me:
Vaginal douching is the process of intravaginal cleansing with a liquid solution. Douching is used for personal hygiene or aesthetic reasons, for preventing or treating an infection(1), to cleanse after menstruation or sex, and to prevent pregnancy (2). For at least 100 years, there have been conflicting views on the benefits or harm in douching. Although there is a broad consensus that douching should be avoided during pregnancy, there is less agreement regarding douching for hygiene and relief of vaginitis symptoms. Two earlier reviews of douching data in women (3) and adolescents (4) have concluded that douching is harmful and should be discouraged because of its association with pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and perhaps other conditions. Nonetheless, douching continues to be a common practice. We seek to review the evidence of the impact of douching on women’s health.
And here are the full conclusions.
The present review suggests that future studies must assess more directly the extent to which douching is a causal factor in diseases such as pelvic inflammatory disease and bacterial vaginosis, or if douching is merely a behavior that is more common among women who are at risk of sexually transmitted diseases and/or that douching is done in response to symptoms (15). The effects of different solutions and devices must be considered in more detail. Perhaps there are adverse effects associated with douching if only certain solutions are used but less or no harm with other solutions.
The weight of the evidence today suggests that stronger regulations for vaginal douche products may be indicated, including ingredient control, clearer labeling, and a required statement on product advertisements and on the products themselves that douche products have no proven medical value and may be harmful. A prospective cohort study or, if serious ethical concerns can be resolved, a randomized clinical trial may address these questions. A randomized “community” trial could be considered, where the communities studied are a large group of people from the same area, such as a college or a city. They could be assigned at random to treatment and no treatment, where the treatment group would receive an educational program regarding the potential dangers associated with douching and the women would be encouraged to not douche. Douching prevalence and sexually transmitted disease rates could be assessed before the educational program and at regular intervals during the program. The no treatment group, receiving no such educational intervention, would be assessed in a similar way. The study endpoint could compare rates of douching and sexually transmitted diseases. However, because motivational factors for douching are individualized and often women strongly feel the need to douche, the educational program may not influence enough women to stop douching, affecting the statistical power of such a study. Feasibility and cost may be prohibitive, in which case we may continue in our present state of knowledge/ignorance.
It is accepted that pregnant women should avoid douching. Intrapartum vaginal antiseptic lavage can be highly beneficial, but this is a completely different irrigation event than repetitive vaginal douching. There are limited data that suggest that douching in symptomatic women may have some utility. The preponderance of evidence shows an association between douching and numerous adverse outcomes. Most women douche for hygienic reasons; it can be stated with present knowledge that routine douching is not necessary to maintain vaginal hygiene; again, the preponderance of evidence suggests that douching may be harmful. The authors of the present review believe that there is no reason to recommend that any woman douche and, furthermore, that women should be discouraged from douching.
Many women douche, especially African Americans. Because the population-level health risks attributable to this common practice could be very large if douching predisposes to even a fraction of the disease burden discussed in this review, the potential salutary impact of reducing douching activity is substantial. Intervention studies may be the very best way to gain both health benefit and insight into the temporal associations of douching and adverse outcomes. We also believe that responsible government, health, and professional organizations should reexamine available data and determine if there is enough information to issue clear policy statements on douching. We believe that, when they conduct such reviews, they will conclude, with us, that since there are no demonstrated benefits to douching and considerable evidence of harm, women should be encouraged to not douche.
So this morning I discover that Mr @NYBoxTurtle has replied…by accusing me of cherry-picking.
What a lovely little cherry-pick! (And if anybody knows cherry-picking…)
Let’s look at those full conclusions, yes?
Seems to me, across the board, as I’ve indicated, the final conclusions are out and more studies need to be done in terms of ingredients, labeling, instructions, and quality, but that douching in and of itself has not proven helpful or harmful, depending on a case-by-case study. Some results are positive and some are not. Not, as the AtheismIdiot mod indicated and advised:
“It’s a completely unnecessary product…It’s basically completely awful.”
Funnily enough, the article didn’t mention “douching” in terms of “partiarchy” or “ableism” as the Atheism Plus mod was abstracting it.
So. My analysis (that results are inconclusive) is much more accurate than those of the Atheism Plus mod (that results are in and douching is bad bad bad – unless it’s a substitute for an ableist word, in which case it’s complely sanctified).
PS- Remember that time on your “Dungeon list” when you referred to the vulva as “the most odious of anatomical features”? Maybe ask whoever you’re doing to…uh…douche. I know, I know, the vulva’s external. Still. “Odious”? Time for a deep clean.
By the way, I’d like to remind you of something from our sidebar:
If you’re PRO-AtheismPlus, your comments won’t be too welcome. Go to their little circle-jerk.
Keep it in mind, drunky. And belated happy Thanksgiving. Sorry that, the next day, we all saw you tweet your way through it. It was pretty fucking sad.
The paper says “no demonstrated benefits to douching and considerable evidence of harm”. Mr @NYBoxTurtle says “results are inconclusive” is a more accurate assessment. I’ll let you read the conclusion quoted above or the whole paper if you’re more ambitious, and then you can be the judge. Looking at @NYBoxTurtle’s interpretation, it’s a lovely exercise in how not to read a scientific paper.
I am totally unsurprised and find it not ironic at all that an anti-atheism+ kook is defending douches against all the evidence. It seems somehow…appropriate.
The bottom line is this: women should not douche, unless they are treating a specific and serious ailment and have the recommendation of a doctor. It’s a peculiar practice promoted by pseudo-science and the cosmetics industry — it really is part of a culture that shames women for the reality of their private parts.
(By the way, the claim that I called the vulva “odious” is typical of this guy. I did not. I was sarcastically referring to the anti-woman attitude of raving misogynist troll who was banned for his bigotry.)
(Also, you can look up my struggle to tweet through Thanksgiving. It consists of all of five tweets, four of them automatically generated links to posts on Pharyngula. I spent most of Thanksgiving reading lab reports. @NYBoxTurtle just makes shit up.)
Amanda Marcotte weighs in. Maybe that link will attract even more douches!