Chile Peppers? In My Vagina?

{Graphic: "Centipedes? In my vagina?" meme photoshopped to say "Chile peppers? In my vagina?" instead}. Photoshopping credit: Kelsey Atherton.

{Graphic: “Centipedes? In my vagina?” meme photoshopped to say “Chile peppers? In my vagina?” instead}. Photoshopping credit: Kelsey Atherton.

My partner is a native New Mexican. He loves cooking things with green chile. This was dinner last week.

{photo: red and green  chile  vegetarian enchiladas}

{photo: red and green chile vegetarian enchiladas}


And chiles also aren’t just for food. They’re also good for arthritis pain (just ask Piper on Orange is the New Black).

But there’s one place I do not want chiles. And given that this is a feminist health blog, it’s not hard for you to guess where.

This post has been making the rounds on Tumblr. Apparently, capsaicin (a derivative of chile peppers) may be an ingredient of Trojan Fire & Ice condoms, but nobody really knows for sure.

Trojan Fire & Ice will make things hot…a little too hot. These condoms will spice up your sex life…in all of the wrong ways. Instead of clearing your sinuses, it’ll clear…you know what, we’re not going to go there.

The sexual health expert in me was naturally curious about whether chile peppers are often used in vaginas. Though I learned that apparently orally consuming a high-chili diet can change one’s vagina’s pain threshold during vaginal “self-stimulation” (and apparently Columbia University is considering? was considering? a study using capsaicin to help with labor and delivery), most of the Google results were basically “ouch” (and a snarky Jezebel article), and rightfully so. It’s chile peppers, and we know how that feels when we get them in our eyes, and vaginas are mucus membranes. I can do the math.

I’m not a doctor, so I don’t really know the research on the safety of vaginal capsaicin. But wouldn’t it be great if we knew exactly what was in the condoms we buy? After all, I can run to my bathroom and check the ingredients of the many lotions, soaps, and shampoos we have on hand, and most people don’t even (usually) use those internally. But as I’ve written before, the FDA does not require that condoms publish all of their ingredients (even if we know they can cause yeast infections), just a few select ingredients, like whether it has (potentially harmful) spermicide and the body of the condom (latex, lambskin, polyisoprene, etc).

If the consumer had the power to look at the back of a box and say, “hey, what causes this “Fire& Ice” sensation? Oh it’s capsaicin? No chile peppers for me!”, we could have much more autonomy over our health. But instead, we have to rely on reports from Tumblr, Condom Depot, and other third-party accounts to speculate what we’re putting in our bodies.

So-called “stern” warnings from the FDA are not enough. We need stricter label regulation now.

Vaginas, mouths, and rectums everywhere depend on it.


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