The TikTok “Vabbing” Trend, Explained
You’re on TikTok, looking for something, but you don’t know what. You wander down what seems to be a promising path, turn a corner and encounter a pleasant-looking woman with balloonish words hovering over her—“VABBING 101”—and you pause.
“Vabbing,” she explains, is the technique of wearing one’s vaginal juices on the skin. Its prosthelytizers swear it’s a powerful practice that will have men flocking. Simply wash your hands, insert a finger into your vagina, and dab the fluid onto your pulse points, just as with a bespoke perfume. Wear it to the bar. To the gym. Even to a job interview.
The Arizona-based TikToker Jewlieah, a content creator who went viral for her videos on vabbing, tells me that she first heard about the trend from a fellow TikToker (whose name we’ve omitted here upon request). “I thought, This sounds like a fun thing to do content on, if it works,” she says. “So I tried it out on Fourth of July at my community pool here in Scottsdale. And I just never had those types of interactions with men before. I thought I was going to be just the girl who just wiped her coochie juice on her neck for shits and giggles. It turned out to be so much more than that.”
Krystal (@Kulture of Krystal), another viral TikTok vabber, also first heard about it on TikTok. “I create content on spirituality and using feminine energy to get what you want in life,” she says. “The algorithm is so smart—it shows me things related to those topics. I came across a girl who had this whole series called ‘whore tips,’ including vabbing.” Krystal, although married and not currently prowling for a partner, tried it out on a girls’ night out at a concert: “I swear this guy just, like, came out of nowhere. We were a magnet, and he was drawn to us.”
It’s a tough world out there. Dating has become increasingly online. Another viral trend, of listing off where you met everyone you’ve slept with, suggests that Tinder is now the dominant meeting place for the young and sexually active. There’s something almost old-fashioned and sort of sweet about vabbing; it harkens back to a time of meeting strangers IRL. It’s all about vying for attention in the real world, outside of a screen. No personality branding or groomed photos, just yourself in the unflattering fluorescent lights of the gym and your smells, pheromones and all.
Vabbing practitioners cite pheromones, which are secreted through glands in the body and expressed in our sweat, urine, saliva, and vaginal juices, as the attracting force. There’s inconsistent scientific research around the connection between vaginal smell and magnetic, unconscious attraction. Studies on pheromones have typically been done on animals, who have a varied and different olfactory system than humans. Studies on human pheromonal attraction are spotty at best, and only between heterosexual men and women.
The science might be inconclusive, but it’s almost besides the point. The placebo effect is powerful stuff. Jewlieah says vabbing “gave me a confidence boost. If you’re clean, hygienic, you take care of yourself and get checked out, then your own scent is very empowering.”
In the film Fried Green Tomatoes, Evelyn Couch is in an empowerment seminar where the leader says, “We will examine the source of our strength…. our vaginas,” as she hands out mirrors. Couch runs out of the room, confessing in shame: “I can’t even look at my own vagina!” Vabbing, at the very least, encourages people to be in touch with their own bodies. Most of the women who are making content about vabbing appear to be in their 30s, which is older than the average TikTok user—women ages 18-24 are the largest demographic on the app. Creators like Krystal and Jewlieah are mature and openly display the comfort they have with their bodies in a space largely populated by young people who are still discovering theirs.
While both Krystal and Jewlieah at first received an overwhelmingly positive response to their vabbing content, the almighty algorithm spread their videos outside of their usual, supportive audience, and into corners of the internet that were far more vitriolic. A YouTube video called “Vabbing Exposed: New TikTok Trend (Satanic Ritual)” calls vabbing “crazy, absurd, and insane,” but “if you try this rubbish, it’s going to work, because this is incited by Jezebel, the chief priestess of all the whores of the world.” The aforementioned TikToker whose video inspired Jewliah to try the trend deleted her vabbing video because of the backlash and threats she received.
Jewlieah says she “grew up in a very religious household and anything regarding sex, even regarding periods, was shamed. I carried a lot of shame about my body. There’s so much ignorance and hate when it comes to vabbing, even from women. It breaks my heart because I used to be the same way.” Expressing a similar sentiment, Krystal says, “I think my videos made it to a side of TikTok where there were a lot of young girls that were like, ‘This is gross,’ and a lot of teenage boys that were like, ‘This is nasty,’ but they're just not mature yet. And I'm like, okay, okay, that's fine, you’ll learn.”