My 29 years of life have so far been spent preparing for my 30 years. I have tried several times to quit liking sweets (to no avail) and left behind the constant stream of a full time career to try and become a Bali based freelance writer. More recently, my obsession with aging shifted to my vagina, thanks to the Diva Cup. In the spirit of being a healthy and environmentally conscious adult, I decided to forgo tampons. Enter the DivaCup. Although I wasn’t sure which model I would need – Model 1, according to the site, is recommended for women under the age of 30 who have not yet given birth or are having a Caesarean section, and the model 2 is for women 30 and older who have given birth and / or had a Caesarean – I figured I would start with Model 1 and go from there.
I stopped worrying about my vagina from the drama of moving to Bali, but it turned out to be exactly where I needed to be. Indonesian women strive to keep their vaginas (or “Miss V” as they call it) clean, tidy, and tight. This means that once a month, after their period, they go to a vaginal spa or v-spa for a traditional Javanese ratus treatment. A ratu treatment is when you get your smoked and steamed vagina until its vitality, fragrance and form are restored. It might sound weird, but treatment has a long history and a whole host of supporters. A ratus treatment originated on the Indonesian island of Java where the Javanese princesses used the treatment to prepare their vagina for their wedding day. The tradition continues today for Indonesian brides as a way to “cool off” for their wedding night. Just as a Western bride can get her body ready for her wedding day by plucking unwanted hair (or not, because it’s all up to you to decide), getting a manicure, or finding the perfect shade of eye shadow, an indonesian bride uses the ratus tradition to make sure everything under the belt is in pristine condition.
Considering I had just learned that my vagina was being expanded, I found the tightening claims particularly interesting. How often are you in the middle of a crisis before 30 years old to realize that you find yourself in a country where vagina dreams really do come true?
Let me set the scene: It was a hot and humid day and I had just come out of a yoga class, which meant my body was incredibly sweaty. To top it off, I had an ear infection. Not particularly my best condition, but it’s hard to complain when you’re about to re-steam your vagina in your 20s.
My friend had found a legitimate looking v-spa online and we planned to put the treatment together and empathize. The day before, we had dinner with a Javanese friend and asked her what to expect. His down-to-earth reaction quickly took away our giddiness. For her, it was routine. Something that you do on a regular basis, like a haircut or a Pap test. She had received the full treatment before her marriage and a regular ratus was part of her personal interview.
Upon arrival we were greeted out of the heat with cold washcloths and rose petal aloe juice and told we had to go one at a time. I went upstairs to meet my vagina smoker. Her name was Eka and she was 17 years old. She directed me to a room where the treatment was to take place and it was there: the throne. By throne I mean a wooden box with a door covered with a vinyl cushion. In the middle of my new chair was a prominent toilet-sized hole. Eka motioned for me to undress and wrap myself in a sheet. She covered the vinyl cushion with a towel and went to get the merchandise. It was time to leave.
I sat alone on the throne, feeling very naked (obviously because I was), wondering what I had gotten myself into. As much as I am proud to be open to new experiences, I also felt exposed and incredibly vulnerable. What if it is too hot? What if I smelled bad? Before I could get too deep into my nervous mind, Eka returned with a steaming ceramic pot the size of a soup bowl. She spread my legs, opened the door to the box, and centered the pot under me. It was comfortably warm and immediately filled the room with a grassy, earthy smell (which meant I didn’t have time to dwell on how I felt). While Eka gave me a neck massage, I tried to glean some information about the treatment. She said ratus is a powder that is sprinkled on hot coals. It contains cinnamon, sandalwood, and other spices and herbs. She gets one every month after her period to clean and reset her vagina. It’s okay, she assured me.
After a few minutes it started to get hot. Truly, really hot. I felt like my vagina was dripping with sweat, which I’m pretty sure it was. I sat on this puppy for 45 minutes, feeling my swamp crotch grow as I tried to remember all the affirmations I had read online. Ratus smoke is intended to eliminate unpleasant odors, reduce discharges and improve blood circulation. It supposedly cures yeast infections and is antibacterial and antifungal. Then there is the clincher, the claim that spices and herbs strengthen the pelvic floor muscles tighten the vagina. Some critics have praised them that they left a ratus treatment “feeling like a virgin again.” While going back to my 16 year old virgin self was not something I wanted from treatment, I was not against going back a few years to my slowly widening 30 year old vagina.
After my 45 minutes of heat, I jumped out of the pot so that my friend could get her fill. As I waited for her downstairs, I wondered what my husband was going to think. I did this a lot for myself, but I was curious what he would think of the whole ordeal. He knew I was getting the treatment, but neither of us really thought it was going to be more than a holistic way to air things out.
That night we made love in the name of research. I mean, we had to, right? To be honest I wanted to put on my ear infection drops and go to bed, but within moments a big smile appeared on my husband’s face. “It’s different,” he laughed. “I actually think it’s tighter.” I tried to be objective. Of course we would be thought it was tighter after the day’s build-up, but I couldn’t deny my renewed sensitivity. My husband claimed that I felt like my whole vagina had contracted, like I was use my kegel muscles All the time. I just felt more sensitive and aware than I ever remembered feeling. We both finished the mission with giant, satisfied smirks.
My friend and her boyfriend reported similar results. We went to the outdoor market and bought several bags of what should be every woman’s best friend: ratus powder. After all, don’t our vaginas also need love? I spend a lot of money on creams to fight wrinkles, treatments for perfectly highlighted hair and hours to make sure my legs are hairless, but somewhere along the way I realized I forgot my biggest asset, the very thing that makes me feel like a woman. Instead of giving it the care and attention it deserves, my to give life the vagina receives cotton piled up once a month for seven days in a row and suffers from an annual sting at the gynecologist.
Until I visited Bali, I never would have thought of giving my vagina a spa day, but now I can’t imagine without it. As the treatment grows in popularity in the West, it will only be a matter of time before more and more women try it. I realized that not only is it time to start taking care of my vagina, but that I also need to start giving myself some self-esteem. My 29 years of life have been filled with pressure, anxiety and worry, so I’m determined to make the first year of my 30s quite the opposite. If I have learned anything from my intimate experience, it is that regardless of the age, current state of life or size of the DivaCup, all it takes is just a little effort. , some love and maybe some ratus powder, my vagina is as powerful and wonderful as ever.