SKEPTICAL SCIENCE SUNDAY: Don’t Put Rocks in Your Vagina

Last Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, and a whole lot of folks were doing it all to impress that special someone. From cooking dinner to buying flowers, there are a lot of ways to impress a significant other, and most are perfectly innocent. Some romantic preparations, however, are not the kind of thing you’d want to discuss with your grandma.

Kitty Geoghan, Section Editor - The Reporter

As a culture, we’ve developed a wide variety of ways to enhance our experiences in the boudoir, many of which may actually work – lubricants, for example, have been shown to reduce pain and increase pleasure for women during sex. But in addition to real advice, there’s a huge market out there for sexual “enhancements” that are ineffective at best and actually dangerous at worst. And it’s a market that celebrity lifestyle mogul Gwyneth Paltrow is no stranger to.

Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop is a purveyor of all sorts of ridiculous practices, including a ton of detoxes (whose ineffectiveness I have already discussed) and other non-scientific health practices. But some of her sex advice is a new level of insane. In an article titled “Jade Eggs for your Yoni” (that’s “vagina,” by the way), Paltrow’s friend Shiva Rose advocates inserting jade eggs into the vagina to strengthen pelvic muscles and remove negative energy from a woman’s “sacred place.” She claims that the practice began in ancient China among queens and concubines who would use jade eggs to make themselves more sexually desirable for emperors. According to the Goop website, starting a jade egg practice can allow a woman to feel more feminine, get in touch with her body, and invigorate her “life force” – whatever that means.

In reality, the concept of “removing negative energy” or “invigorating the life force” is completely ridiculous. It’s not scientific, and indeed the only evidence provided by Goop for the value of jade eggs is the subjective reports of their users – a notoriously unreliable source of evidence. Women may report that jade eggs make them feel better or more feminine, but there’s no reason to believe that their hormone levels or “energies” have been altered in any way. Shortly after the original article was published, skeptical gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter pointed out in a blog post that using jade eggs could cause pelvic pain from overworking the muscles or vaginal infections from the eggs themselves. As it turns out, jade is an incredibly porous material that can hold on to bacteria even when cleaned, potentially leading to toxic shock syndrome or bacterial vaginosis when left in the vagina for an extended period of time.

In response to the backlash, Goop published another article insinuating that criticisms of jade eggs are a way to shame women for their sexuality, essentially co-opting the idea of slut shaming to point fingers at medical professionals who questioned the efficacy and safety of the practice. Shaming women for their sexuality is one thing; pointing out the risk of infection from inserting foreign objects into your vagina is another. I’m a proponent of doing whatever you want in the bedroom as long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual – and Paltrow’s eggs just don’t fit the bill.

The same article also makes the claim that because no scientific studies have been done to disprove the effectiveness of the eggs, their anecdotal evidence that jade eggs make them feel “like, sooo in touch with my inner feminine spirit!” is enough to justify pushing them on women for $55 a pop. In addition to being a blatant logical fallacy, this shifting of the burden of proof doesn’t even make sense – scientists have offered proof that sticking jade eggs in your “yoni” is a major health risk. While perhaps no studies have specifically looked at women who use jade eggs, there’s plenty of background knowledge on porous objects and vaginal health to support the claim that the two don’t mix. Plus, the eggs are shaped so that they can easily get stuck up there, and you don’t need a medical license to know that that’s not an ER trip anyone wants to make.

In the end, even if jade eggs can help to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, the benefits don’t justify the risks. The only things you should really be putting into your vagina are freshly washed body parts, condoms, and tampons. Sex toys are generally fine as long as they’re made of non-porous, body safe material – but even then, it’s not a bad idea to put a condom on those, too. If you want to strengthen your pelvic muscles, try doing Kegel exercises that don’t involve sticking anything up there. And if you’re looking to get in touch with your body, improve your sex life, relieve stress, or feel more feminine, why not try masturbating? It’s backed up by science, doesn’t cause infections, and best of all, it’s free.