Vaginas of the Playa -- Female Repro Health at Burning Man

Picture this…  


You find yourself skipping across the playa at 7am, dreamily following your intuition to find your lost bike. Those white parties never end so you’re still up from the night before. Goddess energy is vibeing strong. Slightly haggard? Sure. High on life and don’t give a fuuuck? You betcha. Until a friend points out that the crotch region of your fuzzy leopard pants is covered in blood. More like SATURATED. But it’s not usually that time of the month for you. Confusion and panic sets in. What gives???


Those were my fuzzy leopard pants last year at Burning Man. Looking down, I was so confused because I didn’t think I “should” be bleeding at that time, according to my moon cycle. And there was SO much blood. To be deeply and vulnerably honest, the first thing that crossed my mind was miscarriage. It came on very quickly like a flood of bloody emotion. I was the ancient Hawaiian goddess, Pele, releasing a tidal wave of energy from my hoo-ha. From what others had described to me about miscarriage, this scene seemed to fit the part. I felt heartbroken and confused. Thankfully my loving partner was very supportive.


I carried this confusion and fear with me for several days until the final night, after watching the Temple burn, I made my way to First Aid to seek guidance. The line was HUGE and they advised I check in with their alternative camp. I hopped on my bike (yes, I had found it earlier through an intuitive process) and, by the grace of Jah, instantly met a dear, older woman. Little did I know she had been the head nurse of Burning Man for over a decade and would be my fairy godmother for the night. If you’ve been to BM, you know that synchronicity picks up tenfold out on the playa—and this was one of those glorious, fateful, “chance” encounters… I had these dope lasers mounted on my bike that projected a light-up dance floor onto the ground in front of me. My fairy godmother APPROACHED ME to tell me she liked my lights! We made fast friends. Obvi.


This grandma godsend went on to inform me that what I had experienced in my nether region was actually a common occurrence out on the playa. Yes, you heard right, unexpected female bleeding is a common experience at Burning Man!




For starters, the pH of the playa is extremely alkaline. It’s pretty harsh on our bodies. Clearly it’s not very conducive for skin health-- ya’ll ever heard of PLAYA FOOT? (**soak feet in a bucket with ACV to help restore pH balance and avoid cracked skin). It turns out our hoo-has respond to this drastic change in pH as well. They may feel irritated. (After all, in normal conditions, a healthy vagina is quite acidic). And lezzbee honest, we’re not exactly suiting up in protective gear out there. More likely we’re stripping down to thong leotards and ass-less chaps because… well, why not? So that super alkaline playa dust is easily making its way to our undercarriage for a meet and greet.


Additionally, Burning Man includes an intense amount of biking! (**A friend of mine wore a tracker last year and averaged 20 miles a day!! Holy crap, no wonder I come back 5 pounds lighter every year…) A lot of us hunnies’ honeys aren’t used to all this bouncing and shaking, (along with direct physical pressure down there), which amplifies as the week wears on. Trekking across the Esplanade on day seven after 60,000 burners have been carving up the dust all week?—that is one bumpy fucking bike ride, my friend. And a great leg/butt workout too. But it can be pretty agitating to the vagina and uterus to experience constant bumpy biking. As my fairy godmother explained, waving her hands and forcefully shaking an imaginary ball in front of her face, “it literally shakes up the female reproductive system, which can be a lot on the body.”


So we’ve got a harsh environment combined with strenuous activity that literally shakes up the womb. Add in your own ingredients (like partying, all night dancing, alcohol, sleep deprivation, heat exhaustion, baby wipes, sex without showers, etc.) and frankly we’ve got the perfect cocktail for a delightfully stressed out coochie. And a female repro system under stress has one main line of defense: it tends to shed. If the situational environment is perceived as overly stressful, the body knows it's probably not the best time to carry a potential baby around so it sheds it's lining. This type of shedding can happen even under normal physical conditions, if a woman is under prolonged chronic stress (I've seen and experienced this). And I'm gonna go ahead and claim the playa does not yield your average conditions, so chances of bleeding increase.


Now, here lies a feminine situation that the former head nurse has confirmed is a common thing at BM… but nobody I’ve spoken with has ever heard of it. Nobody seems to be aware. Why not? We’ve all heard of pee funnels and Sriracha fisting competitions (if you don’t know, now ya know). If something as natural as unexpected bleeding is so common, why is no one talking about it?


Screw it, let’s go off on a real quick, 234-word feminist tangent, okay?... Settling my nerves and assuring me that my experience was normal, that night my fairy godmother said she had seen bleeding happen MANY times on the playa. It can be frightening (or at least startling and inconvenient) for women to suddenly flow like the Nile in the middle of the desert. For this reason, my grandma godsend said for years she had urged Burning Man officials to spread awareness of this situation. She pleaded with them to write about it in the Burning Man Survival Guide (which gets shipped to everyone with tickets) or cover it on the website, so people can be educated and come prepared. Women deserve to know what goes on out there. Sadly, her requests were turned down every year because “they saw it as taboo… they don’t want to cover that topic in the print.” What a disappointment. I have so much love for the Burning Man community and value what it offers to the world. But come on, this is hypocritical bullshit. Shame on you, nay-sayers, who think it won’t look cute to print about vaginal health in your guide for a weeklong party where "anything goes" and radical self-reliance, expression, and inclusion are foundational. I’m gonna make a wild guess that the people who made the decision to stifle that sacred info had never experienced the distressing uncertainty of opening floodgates… maybe we should call it Burning Woman?


Okay, my 234-word limit is up. Let’s turn this party back around. The theme this year for Burning Man 2017 is Radical Ritual. I like “radical” and I like “ritual.” So, full disclosure, I LOVE this theme! <3 Perhaps I’ll get in the spirit by creating my own radical ritual of sharing experience and information with other lovers. Maybe a blog post will get the ball rolling :) … or get the sage burning... whatever you hippies prefer.


And ya know what? In true Burning Man fashion, I am here to happily assure you that EVERYTHING is going to be alright (and even more than alright if you bring extra period-ware just in case). I share my story here because I want to inform others of the challenges and changes our bodies go through out on the playa. This story of ruining my leopard pants was a difficult time for me. Being confused about what I experienced at the time made me feel disconnected from my body and my power. I felt disheartened. However, now that I understand what happened through me, I look at the experience as yet another instance of the glorious yoni, the divine feminine, the seat of power taking center stage in her own time. As well she should. Perhaps it was a reminder for me to slow down sometimes. Or an opportunity to bond with my partner and get a taste of how we feel about the sacredness of having children together one day. Perhaps the purpose was to get me back in touch with my sweet self; to reignite a spark. Or maybe those fuzzy pants just did not make my ass look as phat as I thought and we needed a blunt intervention to make space for something new. Any way you look at it, I have a lot of gratitude for this experience. And I have SO MUCH gratitude for YOU, sweet friend, for reading this post to the bitter end! Thank you! The light in me honors the light in you. Please share this information with friends, fam, and the women of your BM camp so we can lessen shock and normalize vaginal bleeding.


Empowered women empower each other, so let’s do this together.

See you at home, my love. xoxo