Wednesday, April 4, 2007

You've got a dirty cooter!

Of course you do. Every cooter is a dirty cooter.

A few months ago, Twisty posted The Lysol Thing (which festered in my imagination until I woke up one morning absolutely furious that every damned Lysol ad I've ever seen has been directed at women). Anyway, I figured this would be a good project topic for my Genre Theory class, so I did a little research and discovered that there are a ton of these ads out there. Go ahead, get an eyeful. (Cooterful? Blech.) I also found one of the booklets, "Lysol vs Germs," copyright 1938, on eBay. Because I only have two midterms to write, I have transcribed for you the section on "Feminine Hygiene."

As we all know, there is a vast and unquiet sea between fe-mi-nine hy-giene and female hygiene. I don't have time to comment in the lengthy, withering way I'd like, so I've just colored my favorite bits pink. Besides that, I have altered it not at all.


Feminine hygiene is the regular practice of vaginal douching with a cleansing and antiseptic solution. It is an important means of guarding immaculate personal daintiness. It is a habit of grooming among modern fastidious women.

A familiar case of a feminine nervous ailment which the doctor treats is the married woman who is losing her husband's devotion because of neglect of that intimate cleanliness . . . so important to feminine attractiveness and to poise. What a pity, then, that so may married women never receive reliable instruction in the proper technique of sensible feminine hygiene; and so lose that aura of personal daintiness that is so important to poise and charm.

The LYSOL method of feminine hygiene is used by millions of women as a means to intimate antiseptic cleanliness. LYSOL disinfectant is probably the most widely used preparation for this purpose. It is recommended by many leading gynecologists. (A gynecologist is a medical specialist in the functions and diseases of women.) For nearly 50 years LYSOL has been their prescription.


A generation ago, the douche was used only as a medication in cases of so-called "female trouble." Today, fastidious women use an antiseptic douche regularly as an immaculate personal habit.

The vagina is the passage leading from the outside to the uterus or womb. It is lined with a mucous membrane which produces a secretion as its own means of normally keeping the vaginal passage clean. But as an added means of cleansing, the antiseptic douche may be employed several times a week. If ever there should be anything more than a normal discharge present, a doctor, preferably a specialist, should be consulted.


Your ritual of hygiene must cleanse thoroughly. Obviously, the effectiveness of your practice of feminine hygiene depends on the preparation you employ in your douche. A LYSOL solution is correct for this purpose.

You will not find the LYSOL method difficult to follow. The technique is simple. And it is economical. LYSOL costs less than 1½¢ for one quart of the correct solution for feminine hygiene.


LYSOL disinfectant comes to you highly concentrated, for economy. The only possible harm n the use of LYSOL is through your own carelessness.

If the solution is too strong there may be an unpleasant burning sensation. One the other hand, if it is not strong enough, it will not be thoroughly antiseptic. Therefore, LYSOL should be used in a solution mixed strictly according to directions. Whenever you take a douche, do not trust to memory, but look up these directions and carry them out exactly.

The LYSOL douche, properly prepared, is not only cleansing and antiseptic, but it also soothes if there is a slight irritation. If there is any sensation of discomfort afterwards, something is probably wrong and a physician should be consulted.

For the douche, use two or more quarts of water, which should be comfortable warm to the hand. Never use either hot or very cold water. After measuring the water into a convenient container, add one teaspoon of LYSOL disinfectant for each quart of water taken. Stir thoroughly, and then pour the solution into the douche bag. Never prepare the douche by pouring the LYSOL directly into the bag, because by doing so you cannot obtain a uniform solution.

If you use a hand-douche, pour thirty drops of LYSOL disinfectant into a full glass of water and stir thoroughly. Measure the drops accurately with a medicine dropper.


The nozzle used in the vaginal douche should be one especially made for this particular use. The end should be perforated so that the water is expelled uniformly in all directions.

When not in use, keep the nozzle clean by immersing it completely in a solution of one teaspoonful of LYSOL to a pint of water in a suitable container, e.g. a fruit jar, keeping the container covered.

Before taking the douche, hang the douche bag in a convenient place, slightly higher than the body. Assume a partially recumbent position. Now introduce the nozzle gently, without force, into the vaginal passage and permit the solution to flow in a steady stream.

Following every douche gently bathe the adjoining surfaces with a LYSOL disinfectant solution of the same strength.

Okay, I have to say that, of the whole rich treasure-trove, just waiting to be analyzed and deconstructed, this has to be my favorite line: "The vagina is the passage leading from the outside to the uterus or womb." Wow! I think that's just about the best summary of the patriarchal conception of the female vagina I've ever heard. It is a passage that leads to the womb from the outside. "I've found it, men: the way in!"

[ETA: If you're a dude and you're having trouble processing why this makes me so uncomfortable ("Well, isn't it the way in?"), I don't blame you. That is how we're all taught to look at women's naughty bits. To understand a little better, try this: Imagine that someone has just characterized your mouth as the passage leading from the outside to your stomach. Creepy, isn't it? I mean, yes, the mouth is how food is generally delivered to the stomach, but don't you prefer to think of your mouth as something that's under your control--as a place where you put stuff that you want to have inside your body? Thinking of it as a "passage that leads to the stomach from the outside" makes it sound like stuff goes in of its own accord, whether you will or no. It's the way in. That's a shudder-making thought. I think most people prefer not to have any of their various holes so characterized.]


Marcy said...

Is that for real? They expected women to douche with Lysol? Sure, and while we're at it, let's gargle with some bleach.

I loved the part about the daintiness. It made me want to retch. The problem is, douching can upset the delicate balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina and end up causing some sort of infection, which is definitely not dainty.

Bitey said...

Sadly enough, it's totally real. Here is a contemporary (1936) article condemning the practice.

Yeah, good old daintiness. At nearly six feet tall, I'm way too big to be dainty, for which I thank my lucky stars.

Bitey said...

Also, I'm pretty sure "female trouble" means pregnancy. In some ads, it's pretty clear that Lysol is being sold as a contraceptive douche; I guess it was also used as an abortifacient. Which, eww, but also, it could probably be worse.

Anonymous said...

Ahh the good ol days when you could order Heroine, and hypodermic needles from the Sears Catalog. Cocaine was an active ingreediant in cola, and any concoction could be sold to have a myriad of health bennifits. Not to mention almost everything was cooked in lard. It's amazing anyone made it to see the ripe old age of 40.

Let's not forget the good ol midevil forms of birth control such as sea sponges soaked in lemon juice, or a healthy application of crocodile dung. It's a wonder we ever survived at all!

Nothing like dry cleaning yourself from the inside out (Or is that from the outside in; I'm confused) to put that spark back in your love life.

And Bitey, you are correct, thanks to the Comstock law, most "birth control methods" at the time where marketed as feminine care products.

Douche as a contraceptive, now there is a novel approach, nothing helping the little buggers along. (sadly enough there are still people who think douching after intercourse will help prevent pregnancy.)

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