Vabbing, the New Trend Where You Use Your Own Vaginal Fluids as Perfume

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect the latest information from the WHO about potential monkeypox transmission routes.

If you’re on TikTok, you might be seeing videos of people talking about “vabbing.” At first I was lost, so I did some digging. Here are your most common questions about vabbing, answered.


What the Heck Is Vabbing?

Vabbing — a combination of the words “vagina” and “dabbing” — is the practice of wearing your own vaginal secretions as perfume.

Why Vab?

According to some people who vab (let’s call them “vabbers”), dabbing a little pussy juice on your wrists and behind your ears will make you more sexually attractive to others — supposedly, it’s a pheromones thing. That’s why most vabbers engage in this practice before a date or a night out. Here’s TikTok user @jewlieah describing a recent vabbing experience:

@jewlieah

♬ original sound – jewlieah

Apparently, @jewlieah vabbed and was offered free drinks and a gift from multiple hunks at the pool.

Why Now?

It seems like vabbing had its first big moment a few years ago thanks to a November 2018 episode of the Secret Keepers Club podcast, hosted by comedians Carly Aquilino and Emma Willmann. On a previous episode, the hosts had discussed a gay male friend who used his own genital sweat as cologne after learning about pheromones and sexual attraction. A vagina-owning listener decided to give this technique a whirl using her genital juices. The listener dubbed the technique “vabbing,” and apparently, she got great results.

Vabbing had another trending moment in 2019 when sexologist Shan Boodram wrote about it in her book The Game of Desire, but she didn’t call the practice “vabbing” — she called it “Love Potion Number Vagine.”

And now, thanks to TikTok, vabbing is taking off yet again. At this point, you’re probably wondering…

Well?? Does It Work?

Anecdotally, yeah. If you search the hashtag #vabbing on TikTok, you’ll find lots of (mostly straight) vagina-havers singing vabbing’s praises. But vabbing hasn’t been researched in any formal way.

We know that pheromones affect animal mating behavior, but few studies on pheromones have been conducted on human subjects. And there’s some debate in the scientific community as to whether or not humans even produce pheromones in the first place.

You may have heard of the very straight “sweaty T-shirt study,” in which a group of college guys each wore the same T-shirt for two nights without using any deodorant or other scented products. The shirts were then put into identical boxes, and women were asked to smell the shirts and indicate which shirt made them feel the most sexual attraction. And it turned out that the women were most attracted to men whose major histocompatibility complex (MHC) was most dissimilar from their own (but their preferences were reversed if they were taking oral contraceptives). That study was conducted back in 1995, and a 2005 study showed similar results. These studies have led some researchers to believe that MHC plays a role in sexual selection and that this process is mediated by pheromones.

But what about queer people? From what I can tell, the role of MHC, pheromones and scent in queer sexual attraction is under-researched, but I did come across one study, which found that lesbian cisgender women respond to pheromones differently than heterosexual cisgender women.

So Should I Try Vabbing?

If you live with a partner and want to vab in your own home, go for it. Even if it’s just a placebo effect that’s giving you a confidence boost, who cares?! You deserve sexual confidence, and if vabbing gets you there, then lick it, dip it and stick it with your sweetheart.

When it comes to vabbing out in the world — well, that might not be the best idea right now. First, let’s clear this up: the likelihood that you could give someone else an STI through vabbing is very, very low. Many of the viruses and bacteria that cause STIs can’t survive for very long outside of the body, and the STIs the do survive for a while on surfaces typically need to come into contact with a mucous membrane or an open cut or sore in order to spread. Unless someone is licking or placing their genitals on the part of the body where you’ve dipped and dapped, the likelihood that they’d contract an STI from you is, again, very low.

So if there isn’t much risk associated with vabbing, why should we be concerned right now? Well, we’re dealing with an international outbreak of monkeypox. To be clear, monkeypox is NOT an STI, and according to some earlier statements from the World Health Organization, monkeypox does not spread through sexual secretions. More recent WHO guidelines state, “it is unclear at this time if monkeypox can be transmitted specifically through sexual transmission routes.” Even if it turns out that monkeypox doesn’t spread through sexual secretions, we know that is does spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person’s sores or lesions, which can be anywhere on the body (including inside the vagina). So to stay on the safe side and protect the people around you, it’s probably best to hold off on public vabbing until the monkeypox outbreak is under control.


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Ro White

Ro White is a Chicago-based writer and sex educator. Follow Ro on Twitter.

Ro has written 88 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. So what do I as a trans woman-ish person(who’s not on HRT) should be vabbing to get the attention of queers not cis-men? Realted my store does offer perfumes with pheromones(not clear what type) that come in men & women specific versions. Based on what customers tell me it does not work, or at least work as intended. I googled it up to see what they rec for lgbtq people & one site suggested men use the one marketed towards women & women to use the one for men. Sounds wrong but yet to have an lgtbq customer looking for perfumes with pheromone in it.

  2. I saw a short (maybe at a film festival?) that this was central to maybe 10 or 15 years ago. A woman is in the bathroom at a bar with her friends, and they suggest she dab vaginal juices behind her ear and on her wrists. She goes out into the bar briefly and runs back in to the bathroom a short time later after getting an overwhelming response from men.

  3. Pheromones are produced in human sweat not vaginal secretions, and it’s scientifically in question if humans even have the neurological receptors to pick up on them like some animals do (Google “Human Pheromones – Neurobiology of Chemical Communication – NCBI” for more info). More importantly, vaginal secretions can contain bacteria and viruses that you do NOT want to spread to other people who might come into casual contact with your wrists or neck!!! This is unlikely to work and is potentially very harmful to others!

    • Hi Emily,

      Thanks so much for sharing your concerns! You’re absolutely right that vabbing is unlikely to work. As stated in the article, there has been no scientific research on vabbing, and human pheromones and pheromone receptors are still a subject of debate in the scientific community. But like I said in the conclusion, if the placebo effect of vabbing gives folks a confidence boost, there’s nothing wrong with that.

      Most STIs spread through direct contact with mucous membranes, and the bacteria and viruses that cause STIs cannot survive outside the body for very long. Unless “casual contact” with strangers’ wrists and necks includes putting your mouth and/or genitals against strangers’ wrists or necks immediately after they’ve vabbed, the chances of contracting an STI from someone who’s vabbing are very low. But since we’re all still living through a global pandemic, we should be cautious about being in close contact with people regardless!

      I hope that eases your mind! Thanks again for engaging with the article.

      • Unfortunately this is only true for some STIs and viruses like HIV. Many pathogens can persist outside the body for hours, days, or weeks, including Herpes, Hep B, Hep C, trichomoniasis, and candida fungi.

        • You’re totally right that some bacteria and viruses can survive outside of the body for longer periods of time! But again, contracting an STI usually happens by coming into contact with an infected person’s body secretions with a mucous membrane, sharing needles with an infected person or, in the case of hepatitis A, coming into contact with the feces of an infected person. And fortunately, if we follow the common sense hygiene practices most of us were taught growing up (washing our hands before we eat, not touching out mouth and eyes after touching other people or shared surfaces, etc.), the risk of contracting an illness from someone who’s been vabbing is very low. And if vabbers are following basic hygiene practices, too (washing their hands after vabbing, washing their hands before preparing food, etc.), then the risk is even lower. I expect we’re all engaging in those practices. Since we’ve been living through a global pandemic for nearly two and half years, I think most of us are well aware that we’re at risk of contracting viral, bacterial and fungal infections any time we’re around other people.

          I understand why the idea of vabbing might set off some alarm bells, but from what I can tell, vabbing doesn’t pose much of a risk to others. Plus, it seems like there are way more people talking about it than there are people actually doing it. I hope that helps, and thanks again for engaging with the article!

    • There are pheromones in vaginal secretions, especially around the time of ovulation, and data suggests that pheromones do draw potential mates to you. While most studies on this topic have been done with animals, there is evidence supporting the power of pheromones, and Dr. Gersh says there’s no reason to doubt that similar results would present in humans.
      Dr. Gersh also says vabbing is almost certainly safe, even if you have an STI (though she caveats that it’s probably not best-practice in this case). “If a woman has chlamydia and she puts her secretions behind her ear, it’s not going to do anything to that skin,” she says. But, if you do have an infection of any kind, you may not want anyone licking those secretions, which she adds is a courtesy to consider. And if you have bacterial vaginosis (BV), an infection usually marked by causing an old-egg or old-fish odor and vab behind your ears, Dr. Gersh says she doubts the effect would work. And, like, fair.

      Source – https://www.wellandgood.com/vabbing/

      • Hi again Emily,

        Since we had this exchange, the WHO declared that monkeypox is now a public health emergency of international concern. While we know that monkeypox is NOT an STI, there’s still a chance that it could spread through vabbing. Given the latest information from the WHO, I updated this article to reflect concerns about the spread of monkeypox. I know you didn’t mention monkeypox in your comments, but I figured it might be on your mind now and wanted to let you know about the updates! Thanks again for your comments!

  4. I dunno about this one, I’m open-minded but this seems really iffy to me consent-wise. I mean, it’s risking a stranger/someone you just met coming into contact with your vaginal fluids if they hold your hand/wrist. If we’re already gettin’ sexy then they’ll be expecting it, but not from holding hands!! If someone did this and I touched where they’d put their fluids without knowing, call me a prude but I’d feel a touch violated and freaked and think that should be respected just as much as someone who finds it hot.

    • Do people seek consent for casual touching or hand-holding when they’re wearing hand lotion or cologne, etc.? I’m not trying to be jerk, genuinely curious. Seems like people could have all sorts of stuff on their hands that I don’t want to come in contact with or might be allergic to or that could spread disease more easily.

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