I first learned about vabbing from an episode of the Secret Keepers Club podcast, hosted by two New York City-based comedians, Emma Willmann of My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Carly Aquilino of Girl Code. Though the term may seem like a misspelling of a certain dance move, it’s actually a bit more, um…salacious. Its official definition? Touching yourself, then dabbing your, ahem, essence behind your ears as perfume for attracting others. (Get it? Vagina + dabbing= vabbing.) Since the term’s debut, many Secret Keepers Club listeners have written in, lauding the effectiveness of vabbing—but, not totally convinced, I decided to try it myself.
To start, I explained vabbing to women’s hormone and pheromone expert, Felice Gersh, MD, OB/GYN. Her take? “There’s absolutely no data proving that this would work. No research has been done on this ‘vabbing’ thing.” But—but!—she goes on to clarify that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t or couldn’t work. “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.
Given the well-researched role pheromones play in mating behavior, Dr. Gersh contends women finding success with vabbing isn’t such an outlandish notion. “While nature doesn’t require women to do things like this in order to be attractive to or attract potential mates, it might be worth trying, ” she tells me. How’s that for doctor’s approval?
“While nature doesn’t require women to do things like vabbing in order to be attractive to or attract potential mates, it might be worth trying.” —Felice Gersh, MD, OB/GYN
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.
I’m tested regularly, so I can confidently vouch for my ability to vab safely and respectfully. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I committed to smearing my juices behind my ears for a full week. The first day I did it, two people stopped me on the street to ask me for directions. And sure, I know that’s not the same as asking for my number, but during the last three years I’ve lived in NYC, I’ve developed a functional resting boss face in order to avoid this exact kind of interaction on my way to work. So clearly, pheromones trump RBF.
On the second day, a Katie Couric look-alike offered me gum on the subway, and someone who looked like the love child of Mila Kunis and Paula Abdul told me my shoe was untied. Over the course of the rest of the week, I experienced numerous other gestures that I’m choosing to interpret as micro flirtations: A very cute barista gave me her number, someone I’ve been crushing on gave me the pet-name “muscles,” a friend of a friend told me my arms made me look capable, I was finally recognized for the insane amount of BDE I rock while jaywalking (big diagonal-walking energy, if you will), and my CrossFit box universally agreed I should be the next Bachelorette (LOL, but also HMU, ABC). Taken together, these instances aren’t not proof that vabbing works.
Sure, this wasn’t a double-blind experiment—I was very much aware that I was participating in an experiment intended to make me more attractive to potential mates, so my results could definitely be a product of the new confidence I’m wearing since I, at least subconsciously, am calling out for potential suitors. And TBH, I didn’t just vab that week; I also exclusively wore crop tops, and thanks to the humidity, my curly-hair game was strong.
So really, it’s anyone’s guess whether these pleasantries were a result of my pheromone perfume, extra confidence, heightened awareness of interactions I regularly have, or something else entirely. Regardless though, things happened! People flirted with me! I flirted back! I got a number! At the close of my vabbing week, I felt more confident and sexy than I have in a long time. I can’t say whether I’ll continue doing it, but it is a hell of a lot cheaper than other natural perfumes….
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