body horror

Women Losing Objects in Their Vaginas: An Online Literature Review

Today, xoJane deputy editor Mandy Stadtmiller blogged about seeking gynecological help to retrieve a tampon that had been stuck in her vagina for several weeks. “I had a dying tampon alien living inside me for almost a month,” she wrote. The post functioned as the denouement of a previous Stadtmiller classic, “My Menstruating Vagina Stunk Up the Office.” Turns out the “mystery odor” previously believed to be “just Mandy’s vagina!” was in fact moldering month-old tampon drippings. Stadtmiller’s ribald two-part saga (sog-a) joins xoJane’s vast body horror oeuvre, including texts like “The Ongoing Saga of My Enormous Ass Zit,” “I Had Pinworms in My Vagina,” and “I Have Peed Myself 3 Times in the Past Few Months, Why?!?!

Stadtmiller’s vaginal epic also joins an emerging literary tradition wherein lady bloggers describe discovering — then retrieving —vaginally lost items, either to comedic or cautionary effect.

An early exemplar of the form: Jezebel’s “Ten Days in the Life of a Tampon,” written by Moe Tkacik in 2008. Like Stadtmiller, Tkacik’s vaginal discovery begins with a foul smell: “I started emitting the thin brown fluid of stench.” Unlike Stadtmiller, Tkacik retrieved her lost tampon without professional assistance, merely “cutting [her] fingernails and coating [her] fingers in the Vaseline,” then doing this:

Anna advised that I squat on the floor like one of those natural childbirth La Leche people, and it worked. It was there. It was far. I had never reached that far. It was gross-far, nearing the anus zone far. The tampon was soaked. I dripped on the floor. It was thick and brown and foul. I wanted to say it smelled sort of like Vegemite tastes, but that’s too kind. I wanted to say it reeked of August at the Pearl River Harbor, where I’d lived as a kid and where my brother had sworn he’d seen a dead body floating. It was so much worse, though. The only odor I really felt was equivalent was a Cantonese street food called “stinky tofu,” a fermented tofu renowned for smelling like rotting fish meets sewage meets Black Death. (Hong Kong motto: why worry how foul something seems when you put it inside you if you know you’ll manage to make it nastier on its way out?) Every droplet on the floor seemed to unleash the stench of a mile long stretch of stinky tofu stalls, and every few minutes it would be too much to bear and I’d have to wash my hands and spray more Glade start over again.

Two years later, Tkacik wrote about losing a second tampon in her vagina. “I ordered a speculum off the internet,” she writes in “The Ghosts of Tampons Past.”

On the Vice website, a female doctor describes a vaginally lost object retrieval in “This Housewife Got a Slug Stuck in Her Vagina“:

Now I can see the similarity between a slug and a tongue. Both are fundamentally a moist, wriggling, muscly mass, but there has to be another option no matter how long the dry patch has been. … With her legs in stirrups, speculum inserted, the young doctor tried to tweezer its wily brown body out of its inner sanctum, but it recoiled further into the pink cavern probably curling around her cervix. Thinking outside the box, the doctor hoisted her legs up in their stirrups, effectively forming a bucket with her vagina, and filled her up with salt water and waited until the poor innocent creature died so they could pluck out its withered body.

Stadtmiller’s rendition also shows medical professionals in a state of piqued curiosity:

“Do you mind,” the Cornell medical student asked timidly, approaching the vagina workbench, “I’m really interested in women’s health. Is it OK if I watch?”

“Yeah, go fucking nuts,” I said, and closed my eyes. “Mi vagina es su vagina.”

Just a minute later, and my crack medical duo saved me from the potential horror movie unfolding in my ladyparts down below (“Nightmare on Snatch Street”? Calling dibs on the movie option now).

“And … there we go!” my doctor said, holding the Thing up like a trophy of unfuckability. I looked at it with revulsion, nearly fainted and choked out, “Can you please. Just. Like. Get rid of it.”

Whereas the folkloric vagina dentata trope expresses male fears of emasculation, vagina trapped-stuff-erata expresses female fears of the unknown. The vagina, positioned as it is beyond the owner’s range of vision, is a source of self-mystery. To discover that which lies in the furthest corners of one’s vagina, is to further discover onself. Witness xoJane’s “Just a Few of the Things I’ve Put in My Vagina,” a list that could be sung to the tone of “A Few of My Favorite Things.” Or Jezebel’s “Where Garlic Has Never Gone Before: Or, How Not to Cure a Yeast Infection.” Or Awkwardly Awesome’s “I Put Garlic in My Vagina Because the Internet Told Me To.” (Could one have influenced the other? Needs h/t.) When the contents of a vagina surprise, so too does the soul.

On message boards, vagina trapped-stuff-erata takes a more casual, impromptu form. Yahoo! Answers’ “I LOST THINGS IN MY VAGINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELP HEELPPPP?” describes a harrowing experience with Monistat: “So I continued and I think I went too far and I lost grip no the syringe because it’s creamy and slippery. So I got a pencil and stuck it up there to try to get the syringe out but it got stuck there too. I’ve been squating this hole [sic., all of it] time and my legs are tired but I’m afraid to sit because I don’t want the vaginal cream to go into my liver or the pencil to stab my uterus and make me never have babbys. Wat do I do?” Meanwhile, a SecretTalk query entitled “Dime Stuck In Vagina” contains a daughter’s grief: “So … theres a dime stuck in my vagina, and I don’t know what to too embarrassed to tell my mom cuz shes an alcholhalic .please help!”

There is a dorito stuck in my vagina. No, I’m not kidding.” “Ping Pong Ball stuck in my Vagina !!! please help?” “I think I have sand stuck in my vagina.” “Help my cell phone is stuck in my vagina!” “Condom stuck in vagina what can happen to me?” “It feels like something is stuck in my vagina .. Like a plug.” Oh, the womanity.

I’m starting to think middle school health classes need to incorporate lessons on retrieving lost objects from one’s vagina. While writing this blog post, I conducted an informal poll among a handful of women, who immediately offered tales about the following vaginally lost items: a tampon, a Nuva Ring, more cloves of garlic, a piece of potato, drugs. This is an epidemic.

I have never lost anything in my vagina.

Women Losing Objects in Their Vaginas: A Review