"Make Sure You Wash Your Monkey": Multigenerational Vaginal Hygiene Messages from Black Women

Shemeka Thorpe, Kasey Vigil, Praise Iyiewuare, Natalie Malone, Rayven L Peterson, Candice N Hargons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the United States, the messages Black women receive about vaginal hygiene are often rooted in misogynoir. As a result, Black women across multiple generations may engage in extensive vaginal hygiene practices that are harmful to their health as a means of decreasing the potential for dehumanization or confirming racist stereotypes. The purpose of the current qualitative study is to explore the messages four generations of Black women ( n  = 12) received about genital hygiene and grooming and the sociocultural factors that influence these messages. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyze the semi-structured interview data. The following themes were identified: (1) a culture of silence, (2) knowledge acquisition, (3) pressure to maintain Black cleanliness standards, and (4) gendered racist messaging. Subthemes emerged within the knowledge acquisition theme, including learning through word-of-mouth, observation, deduction, trial and error, and direct messaging. Overall, themes and subthemes were consistent across generations; however, some differences were discussed. Participants highlighted the importance of intergenerational conversations in promoting safe vaginal hygiene practices. Recommendations for sexuality educators and healthcare professionals are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Communication
StateE-pub ahead of print - Apr 1 2024


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