- 'Vabbing', the practice of using vaginal fluids as perfume, became a viral TikTok trend in 2022.
- Proponents claimed that vagina pheromones could increase one's sexual allure.
- However, a doctor told News24 that there's no scientific evidence to support the trend.
- According to Google's Year in Search results, "what is vabbing?" was the most searched phrase in the "what is" category for curious South Africans.
Google has released its annual Year in Search results for South Africa, showing which trends were most popular in the country for 2022.
At the top of the list for the most searched phrase in the "what is" category is: "What is vabbing?"
The trend took off on TikTok in 2022, and had many people talking, and apparently had many South Africans curious, too.
"This year's results show that Google is a trusted source of information when South Africans are uncertain, sad, or looking for ways to learn more or entertain themselves," says Dr Alistair Mokoena, country director for Google South Africa.
Here's what a medical expert told News24 about the vabbing trend:
A South African doctor warned against "vabbing" (a portmanteau of 'vagina' and 'dabbing'), the latest TikTok dating trend that involves women using their vaginal secretions as a perfume to attract men.
The trend has millions of views of women sharing videos of them practising the activity by putting a small amount of vaginal fluid behind their ears and neck.
Proponents of this unconventional dating technique claim that the natural scent increases the chances of attracting potential partners, by spreading pheromones - chemicals secreted outside of the body, such as discharge, urine and sweat.
Dr Simone Zoepke, a Durban-based GP at Femina Health, explains: "Pheromones are loosely described as substances secreted by an individual and detected by another of the same species that elicit a specific reaction. Within the animal world, pheromones play a role in mating and nursing behaviours in many non-human mammals and reptiles."
In many of these species, there is an organ known as the 'vomeronasal organ' (VNO) in the nose. The VNO connects to specific parts of the brain that allows these animals to detect pheromones, she adds. "Comparatively, humans have a vestigial, inactive VNO, and as such, the role of pheromones is largely questioned."
Many medical professionals have come out to say that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support this practice among humans and have pointed to the potential health risks associated with it.
No scientific proof
Zoepke tells News24:
She adds: "Instead, many past studies have looked at the effects of these chemicals, such as the androstene steroids released in the axillary, or armpit, sweat of men and estratetraenol, the weaker female counterpart, and had inconclusive results.
"'Vabbing', [which] is the act of applying vaginal secretions on areas of the body over major arteries to increase pheromonal attractiveness, [has] no conclusive evidence to suggest there is a pheromone in vaginal secretions that can arouse or attract men," says Zoepke. Therefore, the risk-benefit of the practice is clear, she adds.
Some experts are on the fence about vabbing. US-based sexologist Shannon Boodram previously spoke about the practice on her YouTube channel, noting that over the years, she has used the technique to "boost her confidence", News24 reported.
"This notion that our bodies are smelly, gross and need to be treated by commercial products to be acceptable is the idea that came at the same time as consumerism. Prior to this, there was widespread knowledge that pheromones worked in transferring excitement, that pheromones worked in drawing people in," she said, but also could not conclusively say whether it works or not.
While vabbing has the support of some experts, not all TikTokers appear to be impressed. One South African woman said that she thought it "was an American trend that would blow over … but now you guys are participating in dangerous activities".
Zoepke says that vaginal secretions can be carriers for diseases such as HIV, syphilis, herpes and gonorrhoea.
"By applying it to areas of the body, one increases the possibility of transmitting diseases to other people, especially through oral contact with these areas through kissing," she says.
Proponents of the practice have also claimed that it's safe if done hygienically, such as by showering or washing your hands beforehand.
If done unhygienically, the repeated build-up of these fluids can increase your chances of introducing bacteria into the vagina, says Zoepke. However, this is no more likely than during digital penetration [penetration with fingers] during sex and masturbation, she adds.
The bottom line: "Vabbing has less validity than wearing a particularly arousing perfume, which could affect attractiveness through triggering certain memories and associations," says Zoepke.