Category Archives: cunts

Taking Back Cuntrol: a post-Brexit marmite made from vaginal yeast

Content note: this post is about food

A few weeks ago Britain had its first taste of food shortages after it voted to crash its economy. Unilever briefly stopped supplying Tesco due to a dispute about prices. Around the same time, disgraced former former minister Liam Fox, who is currently in charge of figuring out post-Brexit trade, issued a call for innovative jams to become one of Britain’s chief exports.

In this climate, I decided there was no time like the present to start making a yeast extract from my vaginal sourdough starter: again, it’s my damn scientific mind, which sparked previous weird experiments. It took me a while, but the results were quite promising, and if Liam Fox won’t eat it, it just shows he has no confidence whatsoever in Brexit. Or British Values, because I’m sure making my own cunt marmite when there was a shortage is the epitome of that make-do-and-mend Blitz Spirit.

So, the headline: yes, it’s possible to make a quite tasty yeast extract spread from vaginal yeast, but my god, it’s a massive *puts on sunglasses* faff.

could

Now, the full recipe is currently available to patrons only, although will be made public in a little over a month. For as little as $1, you can read the recipe now, completely free from the trappings of recipe stories on blogs. When I make it public, there’ll be a lot of scrolling.

Let’s begin at the end, when I finally ate the damn stuff. What did it taste like?Final product

Answer: not like marmite, but tasty anyway. It was sort of sweet, like chutney, with a strong umami edge: not as strongly umami as marmite, but more like the more delicate flavour of vegemite. The closest thing I could compare it to is brown sauce. I had very low expectations for the project, with my bar set at “Troll Everyone” with bonus outcomes being “Actually Produce Something Edible” and the most unreachable desirable outcome being “Edible And Actually Quite Nice”. Somehow, I succeeded in the Edible And Actually Quite Nice, with nobody being more surprised than me.

And why was I surprised? Because it started life as this:

yeast

That right there is some of my sourdough starter (to which, you’ll remember, I added some vaginal juices when I first started growing it), modified to make it more liquid and therefore frothier. Literally nobody, as far as I could discover, has ever made yeast extract from sourdough starter, so I was having to improvise the whole thing from start to finish. Recipes tended to call for either bakers’ yeast or brewers’ yeast. Having neither, I settled for making something which had a consistency somewhere between the two of them. It took a couple of days to get the yeast ready.

Yeast extract is made by autolysing yeast. In lay terms, this means forcing the yeast to eat itself and then enjoying the delicious, tasty by-product of its own self-destruction. It’s probably a pretty decent metaphor for the Tories, which is another reason why Liam Fox should definitely eat my vagemite, unless he’s too chicken.

In practical terms, autolysis is triggered by incubating the yeast at a precise temperature, or under a precise pressure, or a little bit of both. It’s also helped along by salt.

If you’re making yeast extract in a factory, you’ll need specialist equipment to put it under pressure, keep it at a very precise temperature, getting the pressure right, and so on and so forth. Hell, if you’re making it at home, you probably need some specialist equipment: some recipes call for a pressure cooker, while others call for a hob where you have a decent amount of control over the temperature. I have neither of these things, but I jury-rigged a very high-tech incubation chamber anyway.

15 hours in

The full recipe explains exactly how I autolysed yeast without any specialist equipment, and it actually did work, to my utmost shock. The picture above shows the yeast after the incubation. The dark band is the yeast extract itself. That’s what yeast extract is: a dark liquid that comes off of autolysis of yeast.

I incubated it in total for about 26 hours: I’d intended to do 24 hours, but I was playing a really awesome game called Night Witches with pals, so I was out for a bit longer. Strongly recommend playing Night Witches, by the way, if you like any of the following things: communism, planes, women’s history, yelling DAKA DAKA MOTHERFUCKER at imaginary Nazis.

A few hours into the incubation, it started smelling a bit like marmite. 15 hours in, and it definitely smelled like marmite. Once the incubation was done and I strained it, I sneaked a taste of the yeast extract, and it tasted… not like marmite, nor vegemite, but maybe the cheap off-brand yeast extracts you might end up accidentally buying.

I left it to separate further for a couple of days, and then my next task was to reduce it down from a liquid to something with a consistency of marmite, and to flavour it. While you can eat yeast extract on its own, and you can buy that from health food shops, it’s pretty horrible, so you need to flavour it. Even proper marmite is flavoured a bit.

I used the water from boiling vegetables to flavour mine. Specifically, I boiled up two carrots, a small pumpkin, some baby pickled onions and a normal onion. This probably explains why it has that sweet edge to it, because carrots and pumpkin are both quite sweet, and maybe my tastebuds are weird, but I also think baby pickled onions are sweet. Incidentally, I only used pumpkin because the recipe I’d seen called for turnips, and they didn’t have any in the shop, but they had loads of pumpkins. Here’s what it looked like when I multitasked reducing the yeast extract and boiling veg:

reducing

I then plonked the vegetable water into the pan with the yeast extract, and let that reduce. While it was still liquid, it would have made a passable gravy.

not gravy

Sadly, I had to keep on reducing. And I reduced and reduced, until eventually, after a week, I managed to produce… probably about 3 tablespoons of vagemite.

finished

I let it cool, and then I ate it. I ate the whole fucking lot of it, because it was surprisingly nice. It seems like sourdough starter doesn’t produce quite as much yeast extract as more conventional yeasts, so if I were to do it again, for, say, when Liam Fox eats it to prove he has confidence in Brexit, I’d probably use a lot more sourdough starter than I did here.

I think it would probably go quite nicely with a sharp, mature cheddar in a sandwich, or perhaps in a savoury cheesecake made with quark.

So what have I proved here? That, in the event of a second marmite shortage as prices rise after Brexit, you can make it at home reasonably cheaply, but it won’t particularly taste the same. That it’s probably much better mass-producing the stuff. That it is a lot of fucking effort to make marmite, but it is possible. That you can make it out of sourdough starter and it doesn’t–as all the forums said while dismissing the idea–taste in the least bit funky. That Liam Fox is a fucking wanker… but I didn’t need to take a week of fiddling about with yeast to know that.

Full recipe on Patreon.

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Great Pussy Bake Off: the results

This post appeared last month on my Patreon, as a Patron-only post. Sometimes, I post patron-first content. If you’d like to read this work before anyone else, become a patron

Originally posted August 4th 2016.

Content note: this post discusses food

Tragically, my original, controversial sourdough starter passed away recently, due to me being such a good pet owner that I forgot to feed a bloody sourdough starter for over a fortnight. On the fortunate side, this presented me with an ideal opportunity to undertake the more-scientific approach I’d wanted to take since pretty much 24 hours after I first mixed flour, water and a vaginal sample.

So, this time round, I decided to do a head-to-head comparison. The question I wanted to address was:

Is the growth of my sourdough starter due to the vaginal yeast, or would it grow anyway with just wild yeast?

The tl;dr answer is…

The vaginal yeast seems to make a bit of a difference for the better and I have no fucking clue why.

The long answer:

Growing the starters

I started my cunt sourdough and my control sourdough on 30th July. The control starter consisted of 1 espresso cup of plain white flour and 1/2 espresso cup water. The cunt starter contained the same, plus a small sample of my own vaginal fluids, which were harvested by sticking my fingers inside myself and then rubbing them on the fork I used to stir the starter.

Cunt sourdough on the left, control on the right, just after mixing. 

Please note that this time there was an additional variable: I don’t have a yeast infection. So the sample would have contained vaginal yeast, along with everything else in my fanny, including the friendly bacteria that check yeast growth.

This might have affected the results somewhat, although if it did, it was in a completely unexpected way.

Each day, I added 1 espresso cup of flour and half an espresso cup of water to each starter.

To avoid cross-contamination, I always stirred the non-vag sourdough first, and the one with the vaginal yeast afterwards, using a different fork.

Even early on, I noticed differences between the cunt sample and the control. The cunt sample seemed to react slightly quicker, developing its first bubbles before the 24 hour mark.

By the third day, it was noticeably wetter and frothier than the control starter.

Cunt sourdough on the left, control on the right.

This isn’t to say the control starter did badly. It also came to life. On the third day, both starters began to smell, which is how you know they’re alive. I also had to move the control starter to a bigger container; I’d put it in a too-small pot because part of me hadn’t expected it to work.

By the fifth day, 4th August, both starters were ready to cook with. They had developed the characteristic mature sourdough smell (which smells a bit like yoghurt, a bit like nail polish remover and nothing at all like pussy). I had made 500ml of each starter.

The cunt sourdough starter, mature and ready.

 

The control starter, mature and ready.

For no goddamn reason whatsoever that I can discern, the cunt starter was still wetter than the control starter.

Even more peculiarly, at every step of the way, the control starter had behaved like the original cunt sourdough starter I made last November, while this new cunt sourdough starter was more liquid than either, and grew slightly faster.

The crumpet test

I am an impatient person, so rather than bake up bread, I decided to make crumpets, which are quicker and easier, and one can make a hilarious pun about crumpet here.

Recipe:

250ml sourdough starterHalf a teaspoon salt1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Whisk the salt and sourdough starter together.

Add the bicarbonate of soda. At this point, it will start fizzing like a salted slug.

 

Crumpet batter (cunt sourdough sample)

Grease a saucepan and crumpet rings (or metal biscuit cutters if, like me, you don’t own crumpet rings). Heat to a medium heat, and pour or spoon some crumpet batter into the bottom of the rings.

 

Crumpets heating in the pan

Heat gently until the crumpets slip out of the moulds, and continue heating. At this point, you can pop some more into the moulds and have two mini-batches on the go. Do not turn the crumpets over: they’ll lose their lovely bubbly tops. 

Cunt sourdough crumpets

Once the bottom is dark brown, remove from pan and place under the grill for 5-7 minutes, until fully cooked on top. Or, if like me you don’t have a grill, put in the oven at 180C for 7 minutes, and then toast in the toaster.

Which crumpet was nicer?

All the way along, the cunt crumpets were better. As you can see from the picture above, they were much bubblier.

The cunt starter also made more crumpets: I got five crumpets out of the control starter, and seven out of the cunt starter, so I suppose on average this recipe makes six crumpets.

 

Control crumpets, before toastingCunt crumpets, before toasting

You can probably see from my frankly terrible photos that the cunt crumpets were lighter and bubblier. This made a great impact on the experience of eating them.

Bluntly put, the control crumpets were fucking horrible. They were heavy and doughy and I couldn’t even finish one little one. Meanwhile, the cunt crumpets were nice. They tasted like and had the texture of crumpets.

Conclusion: I have more questions

I made two batches of sourdough with in the same kitchen, with the same bag of flour, so therefore any wild yeast would have been the same wild yeast. The starter to which I added some vaginal flora (including yeast) performed consistently better, and produced edible crumpets, while the other was too thick to make good crumpets. So what the fuck happened?

I don’t bloody know, but I have a theory.

I mentioned earlier that the control starter grew and behaved similarly to my original yeast infection starter. This suggests to me that the original yeast infection starter was always just wild yeast and nothing else. Meanwhile, this new starter would have also contained the other stuff that keeps the growth of yeast going at a healthy rate, and therefore helped make the starter a little healthier.

It’s also possible that perhaps I subconsciously made the cunt starter slightly better: the cup I use for feeding the starters isn’t exactly an accurate measure, and maybe I ended up adding a tiny bit more water to the cunt starter each time.

At any rate, the slightly more liquid consistency of the cunt starter helped make better crumpets: you need crumpet batter to be wet.

The control starter has now gone to live with my partner, who will keep it alive and see if it matures better over time, while I’ll look after the cunt starter and see what happens.

Please do try making crumpets yourself, if you keep a sourdough starter. When they come out nice, they’re really, really tasty!

Update: As of September 5th, I’ve baked three batches of bread with the winning starter, and they have all come out really well. My partner has also baked three batches of bread with the non-vag starter. It’s performed quite well, although their loaves seem to come out a bit flatter than mine. However, this might be due to them continually making their dough ever so slightly too wet.


The Great Pussy Bake Off: Cunt Sourdough vs Regular Sourdough

IMAG0888

I’ve been continuing with my experimental baking, and decided to compare a freshly-made sourdough starter containing a sample of my vaginal flora with a control starter that didn’t contain any vaginal yeast. One of them performed really well, and the other… didn’t.

The full report will be published on this blog on September 4th, but if you’re desperate to find out whether vaginal yeast improves sourdough, or makes it inedibly gross, you can read it on my Patreon page–it’s patrons only, but you can access it by pledging as little as $1. Also included in the post is a recipe for quick, simple crumpets!

Read: The Great Pussy Bake Off.


Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: trans women are not shutting down discussion of vagina

Content warning: this post discusses transmisogyny and genitals

Today, I would like to talk about a particular transmisogynyistic trope which shows up with alarming frequency: apparently, trans women are trying to prevent cis women from talking about our genitalia.

As a cis woman, I’d like to take a moment to say it’s complete and patent bollocks. I have no idea of the origin of this meme, but it seems to be spouted mostly by transmisogynists–for example, non-Lambda-Award-nominee Alice Dreger perpetuated the trope while saying how one could be an ally to cis women (!).

Apparently, cis women are unable to talk about vulvas, vaginas, periods and so forth without being shut down by trans women. Except, er, no.

I initiated a project of writing to an anti-abortion MP with gory details about reproductive systems. If it were true that trans women were silencing fanny-talk, presumably they’d’ve sided with Nadine Dorries and declared the whole thing evil. Actually, trans women participated. And boys with wombs. And basically, women with all genital configurations and men with uteruses all kind of have a vested interest in reproductive health because the struggles of reproductive justice, bodily autonomy and transgender struggles are intrinsically related.

I have a tattoo, at the top of my spine, of an anatomically-correct, roughly life-sized clitoris. To me, it signifies two things. The first is that that’s a really sweet spot on me. The second is that medical science really fucking sucks, in that they didn’t discover that the clit was bloody enormous and pretty much anatomically indistinguishable from the penis under the skin–that they wanted to believe there was some sort of big difference between whether your genitals were an inny or an outy, beyond whether they were an inny or an outy. There’s a bonus third thing: it looks fucking cool, it’s a really nice shape.

Guess what? No trans woman has ever tried to flay that tattoo off my skin.

I livetweeted a fanny injury on twitter, and not a single trans woman told me to stfu. Instead, I got nothing but sympathy because ultimately any woman who’s had SRS, or is considering it, will have nothing but sympathy for a sore pussy.

Oh, and then there’s the whole bread thing. You know what I mean. If the TRANS WOMEN ARE SHUTTING DOWN FANNY TALK thing were true, one would expect that trans women would’ve been leading the charge in the bizarre anti-stavvers-bread fandom which seems to have sprung up. Except they… didn’t. There might have been an eyeroll or two, but to be quite honest, I’m pretty inured to eyerolls (especially regarding that) and it was nothing–nothing–compared to the outright hate and disgust which poured mostly from cis men, with a supporting wave of cis women.

I actually got a lot of support from trans women, and the demographic of people who have actually eaten the goddamn bread has included trans women and transfeminine people represented at way above population level (around 40% of people who have eaten it).

One can also add that if there is this huge conspiracy against cis women being able to talk about their minges, I should’ve had a lot of support from the cisterhood, and yet bizarrely there were precisely no lucrative New Statesman opportunities for me to talk about how silenced I’d been. To be honest, I expect that the cis media feminists were wholly grossed out, and not expressing how squicked they were was about as supportive as they’d get. They should probably get over their internalised misogyny there 😇

So, basically, I’ve blathered on about my cunt and never once been silenced by trans women. There’s a chance, maybe, that it’s because I’ve surrounded myself with trans women who are sycophants, although I doubt that it’s possible that literally every trans woman I have ever spoken to has received some memo to allow stavvers. Instead, I suggest that what’s going on here is that there is no grand pussy-censorship conspiracy. It’s just that those who perpetuate the meme are intellectually dishonest transmisogynists.

Actually, scratch that. They’re plain old misogynists, viewing women as just vaginas.

I talk about my cunt in purely personal terms because ultimately it’s purely personal to me. It might resonate with other women: some things do, some things don’t. That was probably the most important thing the Dear Nadine Dorries project taught me: that no two experiences are alike, that we’re diverse as people. Talking about a vaginal experience as though it would apply to everyone is an absolute nonsense. If you do that, I’ll fucking shout you down, too.

There’s no trans conspiracy to shut down general fanny talk, just acting as though owning a vagina is a universal experience of womanhood. Just acting as though having periods is a universal experience of womanhood. Just acting as though getting pregnant is a universal experience of womanhood.

Is it uncomfortable talking about your genitalia as your own genitalia, rather than a generalisable thing that all women share? Absofuckinglutely.  But it’s also the only honest way to do it. It’s so much easier if you pretend it’s a general thing that all women share that your cunt kind of smells like feet around your period, or that your pubes can grow to easily over two inches long is a universal female experience, or that one of your flaps is a different colour to the other and about three times bigger is totally something all women have: hell, it was easier typing these sentences with “your” rather than “my”. However, none of this is universal, generalisable or in any way pertinent to all, most, or even some women.

Talking about vaginas has its place, but let’s not pretend that experiences are generalisable across women or that the fanny itself if a thing which all women share.

So please, please, fellow cis women, let’s shout down the trans-women-are-shutting-down-pussy-talk meme wherever we see it. It does nobody any favours.


“Bathroom bills” terrify me far more than trans women having a wee

Content warning: this post discusses transmisogyny, transphobia and sexual violence

A bill that would empower people to inspect your genitals on demand came one step closer to being law across the pond yesterday. Calls for such legislation are becoming increasingly popular, because of transmisogyny.

How bathroom bills work is like this:

  1. People must use bathrooms that fit with their genitals.
  2. The ladies’ bathroom is actually for people with vaginas, the gents’ for people with penises.
  3. However, nobody is proposing changing the names of the bathrooms to make this clearer because they’re cissexist pigs.
  4. Anyway, it’s illegal for people with penises to use the ladies’ and people with vaginas to use the gents’
  5. ??????
  6. SOMEHOW END RAPE AND KEEP WOMEN SAFE

Make no mistake. The entire rationale behind bathroom bills is rooted in transmisogyny. It’s a neat little way of excluding trans women from public life by denying them access to the toilet. To sweeten the deal, such bills make things just a little bit easier for creeps and rapists.

This is presumably why many of the most vocal supporters of bathroom bill are the kind of crusty misogynist old white dude conservatives who also like to curb our reproductive rights and blame us for getting raped. They’re salivating over increased and legal access to grope and peek at women.

Ultimately, this is what such bathroom bills do. There’s no way of knowing what genitals someone has unless you have a pat or a shufti. All venue owners, bouncers, security guards and so forth need to do to demand access to your genitals under a bathroom bill is to say they suspect you’ve got the “wrong” genitals, and then it’s simply a case of expose yourself, or hold. The latter option is often unfeasible, because bodily functions need to happen. Essentially, they have given men a legal excuse for sexual assault.

The other impact of bathroom bills is it means there will definitely be men in the ladies’ toilets, because trans men need to wee too, and some of them will have genitalia that requires them to use the toilet for vaginas. Trans men have pointed this out on social media. This has some truly awful implications: it would actually make it easier for cis male perverts and rapists to access ladies’ toilets. Rather than having to go to the trouble of disguising themselves as trans women, they could just swan on into the ladies’ and say they’re trans men.

Essentially, bathroom bills increase the risk of sexual violence surrounding using the toilet, which, you’ll recognise, is the complete opposite of what any reasonable person would consider a good idea.

And yet there are self-identified feminists advocating for measures that can only raise one’s odds of being a victim. Their transmisogynistic bigotry has blinkered them to anything else. They prop up the deeply misogynistic conservative men, adding a veneer of feminism to a measure which literally exposes more women to sexual violence. Their bigotry is their weak spot: they’re so obsessed with what genitals a trans woman might or might not have, that all thought and reason flies out of the window.

Anybody who opposes sexual violence should be vocally opposed to bathroom bills, not cheering them on.

As a cis woman, bathroom bills terrify me, as all it takes is someone deciding my hairy arms mean I should have the contents of my knickers checked. I’m not even the primary target of these bills, nor would I be most at risk from the violences inherent in such bills. Those most at risk are, of course, trans women: it’s yet another avenue for increasing the risk of victimhood to a group who are already far more at risk of becoming victims of sexual or violent crimes.

It’s disappointing and infuriating to see anyone advocating for legalisation of sexual assault, which is the crux of what bathroom bills entail. Objectively, it’s going to be to pee with these panty police abroad than with trans women using the loo.

 


Proving myself: #cuntsourdough fougasse (that I fed to a party!)

IMAG0688

I’ve branched out in my vaginal baking adventures! The sourdough starter is still alive and well, and it’s been going into different types of bread. In advance of a party, I asked if people would like to try some of my bread. Since there was a little bit of excitement over that, I decided to do something special, and baked a fanny fougasse. Two fanny fougasses, in fact.

Patrons on my Patreon get exclusive access to the recipe, more pictures, and the reaction to this next step on my baking adventure. If you want to get outraged, you’re going to have to pay!

Find out more about fanny fougasse!


Cervical Cancer Prevention Week: what’s a smear test like?

Content warning: this post discusses medical procedures performed on vaginas

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, so let me start by saying if you have a cervix and haven’t had a smear test in the last three years (or you’re over 25 and have never had one), book yours now. Sometimes you won’t always get the reminder letters–this seems to especially be an issue for trans men (GP surgeries often only bother sending the letters out to those marked “female” on their records). So, get your test.

Smear tests, from my own personal experience, are fucking unpleasant. I’ve had three now, and it’s grim, but the worst of it quick. My experience is entirely with GP surgeries, although some sexual health clinics also do smears. It goes a little bit like this:

Booking:  You need to book your smear test for a day you’re not on your period. My surgery likes it two weeks from the first day of your period, although that’s not set in stone. What they want most of all is for you not to be bleeding out of your cervix while they’re trying to swab it.

For me, booking a date isn’t difficult, because my periods are regular as clockwork thanks to the combined pill. If you’re lucky enough not to have periods, then book for whenever the hell you want. If you’re irregular, I would suggest calling up to book your appointment on the first day of your period, so they can schedule it for exactly two weeks’ time, which saves you having to faff about with calendars, apps and ouija boards to work out when’s good.

Preparation: Some people like to make their cunts look nice for their smear tests, by shaving or waxing. This is strictly optional, and unnecessary. Nonetheless, if hair removal is something you like to do, there’s no harm doing it either.

Don’t wash with soap or special fanny soap or apply special fanny perfumes before your smear tests. Not because it will fuck up the test result, but because you don’t need that shit anyway. Your cunt is self-cleaning, and almost certainly smells fine.

Personally, I’ve never bothered with hair removal. Before my last smear test, though, I decided to apply conditioner to my pubes to make them nice and soft–this is something I sometimes do before dates or orgies, too. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the conditioner I used was smoothing conditioner. Do you know what this does to pubes? It straightens them. And so I turned up at my smear test with a bush that looked exactly like Vegeta. The nurse, being a well-trained NHS worker was too polite to comment, and while I cringed, I know she’s probably seen weirder.

Before the test: Before the nurse does the test, they’ll sit down with you and have a quick chat to verify that you definitely need the test, that now’s the right time to do your smear, and to see if you have any symptoms.

They’ll ask you about if you’re sexually active. As healthcare workers, they will be non-judgmental about it. In my experience, they won’t call you a slut (or even side-eye you), but they won’t high-five you either (sadly). It’s OK to be vague if you don’t want to go into exact numbers. Even if you’ve only had sex with other people with vaginas, you need to get your smear test because the HPV virus, that causes most cases of cervical cancer, can be transmitted by sex involving two or more vulvas.

You’ll also be asked about discharge and all sorts of things like that. Be as frank as you like. If something’s worrying you about your downstairs and whether it’s normal, mention it.

When all the small talk is over, it’s time to get behind that curtain and wiggle out of your tights, because it’s time for your smear test.

Assume the position: You lie down on the couch and spread your legs in a different way to the way one would if anything pleasant were to happen to your cunt. For the smear, you put your ankles together, and let your knees drop.

The nurse will probably talk to you throughout, letting you know what they’re going to do. If the nurse doesn’t offer the information, ask them to. You’re well within your rights to.

The speculum: A speculum is a plastic doohickey that looks like a cartoon duck. They should use lube when they put it inside you–if they don’t, ask them for lube. I once had an STI test where a speculum went in without lube and it was the second most horrible cunt experience of my life (here’s the most, not for the faint-hearted).

Even with lube, I’m not going to lie to you. A speculum does not feel very nice at all. As it goes in, it feels like any phallic object penetrating does–so if you have any issues surrounding that feeling, take a lot of time to psychically prepare yourself and do what you need to do. Then after that, the nurse cranks it open, and that feels downright weird: you feel yourself getting a bit bigger on the inside. I imagine it’s how the TARDIS feels when anyone steps into her.

The speculum is not painful, but it is uncomfortable.

However weird it feels, you’re not actually being cranked very far open, just big enough for the nurse to be able to see your cervix and insert a small plastic brush.

At every smear test I’ve ever had, at this point the nurse has exclaimed over what a “beautiful” cervix I have. I do not know if this is a normal part of the procedure, or if I have a particularly aesthetically-pleasing cervix. I’ve never plucked up the courage to ask, and I always forget to bring a hand mirror so I can have a little shufti myself.

The actual smear test bit: Most resources about cervical smears say the procedure is completely painless. For me, at least, that is untrue. I am not going to lie: when they swab my cervix, it hurts a bit. Not much, and not for long, but it hurts.

The little brush they use to take the swab has stiff bristles. The nurse scrubs it around for a second or two on your cervix. It feels exactly like a stiff-bristled brush scrubbing around on your cervix. Have you ever caught the side of your hand with steel wool while washing up? It feels like that, except up your fanny. Oh, and with the added sensation of that weird feeling when something bangs on your cervix.

So yes, it might hurt. But–and I cannot stress this enough–it’s over within seconds. Again, if you have issues with this sort of thing happening to your vagina and cervix, prepare yourself. Have your self-care prepared, try to dissociate through the procedure… whatever will get you through it, because it’s not nice, but it is important you get it done.

Afterwards: The speculum is out of you before you know it, and you’ll be handed a tissue to have a little wipe with. It’s usually just lube, although during my second smear test I bled slightly from vigorous swabbing. The test shouldn’t do any physical damage which will prevent you from getting home immediately (although, once again, if you have any issues surrounding things being done to your vagina, you might want to take a few minutes to be sure you’re OK to go).

For me, I get slight twinges in my cervix for a few hours after a smear: not pain, exactly, but discomfort. This is perfectly normal and happens to some people, although some people feel nothing afterwards.

Results: You’ll get your results within a couple of weeks, usually by post. The letters are quite clear as whether the result was normal, abnormal or inadequate, and what you need to do with that information. Luckily for me so far, I’ve always had normal results.

For a normal result, that means “see you in three year’s time”, and congratulations, you’ve made it through your smear test. If it’s inadequate, bad luck, you’ll have to go in again because they didn’t collect enough cells during your smear. If it’s abnormal, don’t worry yet. My mum and my sister have both had abnormal smears and both are fine–my sister had her first baby recently, and my mum celebrated her 60th birthday! It doesn’t definitely mean you have cancer, and when they catch anything abnormal on your cervix, they can deal with it before you have any problems. It could save your life.

So, to conclude, get your smear test. It is approximately five minutes of awkward conversation, thirty seconds of discomfort and slight pain, and then, potentially, decades added to your life.