There’s a new pseudoscience craze sweeping the internet, and it involves inserting your fingers into your vagina and then wiping them on your skin – all in the name of seduction. Known as “vabbing”, the trend has been touted as a cheaper and more alluring alternative to perfume, but can smelling like a vagina really make you more attractive?
The what, how and who of vabbing
Vabbing has blown up recently thanks to a now-deleted TikTok video posted by influencer Mandy Lee. Describing the technique, Lee recommends the use of two fingers and a “relatively clean” vagina, and says that the best approach is to simply “get up there” before transferring the intimate secretions to exposed body parts like the wrist, neck, or behind the ears.
“I swear if you vab, you will attract people, like a date, a one-night stand. Or you’ll just get free drinks all night,” she says, before revealing that she first heard about vabbing on the Secret Keepers Club podcast. Despite the removal of Lee’s video, the craze has taken off on TikTok, with numerous other users taking to the platform to promote the sticky practice.
Elsewhere, sex educator and author Shan Boodram has written about the benefits of wearing vaginal fluids, which she says “can serve as a love potion,” especially if they are applied around the time of ovulation.
According to Boodram, vaginal secretions may contain chemical messengers known as copulins. These volatile fatty acids are known to stimulate sexual arousal in some male primates, so the assumption here is that by smearing oneself in yoni juice, women may have a better chance of attracting a mate.
More generally, the rationale behind vabbing centers around the idea of pheromones, which are chemical signals that some animals secrete in order to affect the behavior of other individuals of the same species. In some cases, pheromones are used to get members of the opposite sex in the mood for love, with arguably the most potent being a compound called bombykol. Secreted by female silk moths, this sexy signal sends males wild with lust for some insect intercourse.
Taking their cue from the animal kingdom, many perfume manufacturers use synthetic pheromones in their products, which they market as being capable of boosting the wearer’s attractiveness. Vabbers, however, prefer to use their own brand, which they say is more effective.
What does the science say?
While it’s well established that many species use pheromones for sex, there is no solid evidence to suggest that humans produce these chemical messengers or are capable of responding to them. That may be because the vast majority of pheromone research has been conducted on animals rather than people, although it’s worth noting that a 2012 review of all human studies found that the evidence to support our use of these signals is “weak”.
Having said that, some research has hinted at the possibility of natural body odors influencing our sexual allure. For example, one study involving more than 500 people found that participants’ relationship satisfaction and desire to procreate was influenced by the nature of their partner’s major histocompatibility complex (called HLA in humans), which is a genetic component of the immune system.
Because molecules related to the HLA are released in saliva, sweat and other bodily fluids, this finding could be interpreted as evidence that our liquid secretions have the power to get other people’s juices flowing.
Other research has shown that some women do produce copulins in their vaginal fluid, and that the concentration of these acids increases during the first half of the menstrual cycle before dropping after ovulation. In one study, men who were exposed to copulins rated both themselves and women as more sexually attractive, which is encouraging news for vabbers.
However, to date, no human pheromone has been definitively identified, so it’s a bit of a stretch to claim that vabbing sends men the way of the male silk moth.