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On the vagenda: Your ultimate guide to your vagina

There’s so much to learn about loving and caring for a part of us that’s been shamed for many centuries.

Nearly half of all the people in the world have it. Most of us were even born out of one. Yet we rarely talk about it— when we do, it’s often just the punchline to a green joke or a topic that makes you squirm.

That’s none other than our vagina, ladies. And for the record, it doesn’t deserve to be treated as your dirty little secret down south.

What’s all the fuss about our vagina anyway? This word has ironically been a subject of both fascination and revulsion, even pleasure and pain. As women, we’re not really sure what to make of it anymore. Which makes you wonder: How did something potentially life-giving end up censored by society?

To love and care about this controversial part of ourselves, we don’t just have to learn more about it. We also need to unlearn centuries of harmful myths and cultural misconceptions before we can reclaim what is ours.

Rite of passage

Think you’re already very intimate with your own vagina? If you think it’s whatever you see between your legs, then you might be off to a bad start.

Contrary to what most people were taught, your vagina is actually the elastic, muscular tube between your cervix and your vulva, the external part of your genitalia. Here’s where a lot of things come in— the penis, fingers, tampons, menstrual cups, sex toys, you name it. On the other hand, it’s where menstrual blood and babies leave your body.

This might come as a surprise to you, but the vagina hasn’t always been taboo. In fact, the female genitalia was revered in ancient mythologies; the Egyptians and Japanese alike celebrated it as a symbol of life and fertility. Their goddesses provided bountiful harvests and warded off evil spirits with— you guessed it— their vagina.

Unfortunately, the Western civilizations of the succeeding era started to see it as a dirty and inappropriate topic for conversation. They skirted around the subject so badly that it wasn’t until the 1680s that the scientific term came into being⁠: Vagina is the Latin word for the “sheath” or “scabbard” of the man’s “sword.”

Galen, a Greek physician and philosopher, thought that the vagina was simply a penis turned inside-out.

Slowly but surely, the vagina transformed from a symbol of fertility to a figure of promiscuity in our vocabulary.

“Women’s genitals are so sacred or so taboo that we can’t even talk about them at all, or if we do talk about them, they’re a dirty joke,” said Christine Labuski, cultural anthropologist and author of the book It Hurts Down There. Here she discussed at length the widespread negative attitudes about our vagina throughout the years.

No wonder we know so little about a part of us that has gone unspoken for centuries. How can we show our appreciation for something that we can’t even say out loud?

In the vag

But we have to keep talking about the vagina. It’s not just something to be ashamed of, much less deemed as a mere object of pleasure for a man’s penis. It’s a structure that stands on its own, made out of different parts with many other functions.

First, there’s the vaginal opening, also known as the vestibule or introitus. It’s the only part of the vagina visible from the outside along with the rest of your vulva.

A few centimeters into it is the thin layer of tissue we know as the hymen, which can vary in appearance but is usually shaped like a crescent. You might recognize it as the “litmus test” for virginity, but this isn’t true at all. The hymen can also “break” during other physical activities, and whenever it does, it can heal and repair itself quickly enough.

Do you know that according to one study, only 43% of women experienced bleeding during their first intercourse? 

Then you have the vaginal lumen or cavity, which is around 3 to 4 inches long and takes the shape of an “H” or “W” when it’s in a relaxed state. The vaginal walls also contain rugae or folds of tissue covered with mucus.

So what happens to your vagina when it’s aroused? It expands, pushing your cervix and uterus upwards in a process called vaginal tenting. Then your vagina produces some natural lubrication to make you feel wet down there. That’s how you know you’re ready to get the penis (or sex toy) in the vag.

A tight spot

It’s normal for the vagina to change over time as you age, especially after childbirth. Yet a lot of people idealize the “tight” vagina that’s the so-called measure of virginity. You might have witnessed this unrealistic expectation sprawled across publications or perpetuated by your family and friends.

What if this societal pressure makes you want to go back to the way it was before? Cosmetic surgeons offer a solution for that: the vaginoplasty.

Simply put, it’s a procedure that promises to tighten your “loose” vagina and make it more sensitive during sex. But the Food and Drug Administration warns against this surgery marketed as “vaginal rejuvenation” or “revirgination,” which can have many complications like pain, discomfort, and bleeding.

In one international survey, less than 50% of women felt comfortable with discussing their vagina with their OB-GYNE.

With all these issues in mind, science communicator Florence Schechter founded the world’s first-ever Vagina Museum to break the stigma against this reproductive organ of ours. Thanks to a fundraising campaign, the exhibition now features glittery novelties that are sure to entertain just as they inform.

“There’s more fear than there is inquiry because people do not want to be seen as inappropriate, but they are part of the conversation,” Sarah Creed, the curator, told the New York Post.

So what do you need to keep in mind about your own vagina to appreciate it more?

  • Your vagina isn’t ugly, nor is it something to be ashamed of. In fact, it can even potentially be a life-giving part of the female body.
  • Vaginas aren’t just the scabbard or sheath to the men’s sword, the penis. The existence of the G-spot in your vagina shows that intercourse is also for your pleasure, not just his.
  • The vagina changes over time, especially when you age or after you give birth. That’s something we ought to embrace— surgically tightening it won’t guarantee you’ll be enjoying sex more. It could lead to even more pain!
  • Using lube during sex won’t make you less of a woman. Whether you feel your natural lubrication isn’t cutting it or you’d just like to experience a different sensation, everyone is welcome to apply it liberally.

Down your alley

It can be difficult to be confident about a part of us that’s been treated with embarrassment for centuries. For those who have been made to feel ashamed about your vagina, the path towards cherishing it can take months or even years. 

But don’t get disheartened just yet— the lifelong journey to self-love always begins with a single step. What’s the best way of getting down to it?

  • Finger it out. Put your finger (or fingers) on that most sensitive part of your vagina— the G-spot! You’ll find out what gets your vagina off once you start exploring it on your own terms.
  • Lube it up.Whether you’re feeling a little too dry down there or just wanting to enjoy a new sensation in bed, lubricants are your best bet. There’s no shame in getting saucy!
  • Have the Kegel balls. Think of Kegel balls as your vagina’s personal trainer— they’re small, circular weights that strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. They come with many perks, including bladder control, pregnancy recovery, and better orgasms. And they said women don’t have the balls!
  • Be body-safe. Not all sex toys are made equal. Only those that are made of materials like silicone, stainless steel, glass, or ABS plastic can be deemed body-safe. Luckily for you, NOTI’s got all the good stuff right here.
  • Wrap it up. Do you know that condoms do a lot more than keep you safe from STIs? One 2013 study shows that these can also maintain your vagina’s pH level to prevent bacterial vaginosis, UTI, or yeast infections.

Since we now know a lot about our own vagina, we can already start caring for this intimate area a little more. After all, it’s just about giving our body the love and appreciation that it deserves. No hidden vagenda here!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the vagina?

Unlike what most people think, it’s not what we see between our legs. The vagina is actually the stretchy, muscular canal that leads to your cervix and uterus⁠— from where menstrual blood and babies leave your body. And it’s where the penis, fingers, tampons, menstrual cups, or sex toys come in.

What happens to my vagina whenever I’m aroused?

The vagina is about 3 to 4 inches long, but it can even be longer and wider whenever you’re in the mood. The uterus gets pulled upward to stretch it through vaginal tenting. Plus, your vagina produces some natural lubrication to make you feel wet down there. That’s how you know you’re ready for showtime!

Will my hymen break and bleed during my first time?

Probably not. According to one survey, only 43% of women said that they experienced bleeding during their first intercourse. Plus, it doesn’t really break in most cases— more often than not, it stretches to accommodate the penis. No need to worry either way; the hymen can heal and repair itself quickly enough.

Why does my vagina feel sore after sex?

A little friction can heat things up in bed. Too much of it can be uncomfortable for your vagina, though, so take it easy if you don’t like it rough. Then there’s also the possibility of medical conditions like yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or endometriosis. Talk with your OB/GYN if the soreness persists.

What should I do when my vagina feels dry?

Vaginal dryness is a problem that can be caused by many factors such as stress, depression, childbirth, breastfeeding, or menopause. You can never go wrong with applying lube to help ease your discomfort between the sheets. Using it can even give you a new, pleasurable sensation down there!

What’s queefing, and should I be concerned about it?

Many people call it the “vagina fart,” but it’s not really the same as farting from your anus. Queefing happens involuntarily when your vagina releases air trapped in its folds, usually when inserting a penis, fingers, or sex toys. It’s totally normal, so you don’t have to get embarrassed when it happens. Queefs are odorless!

What do Kegel balls have to do with my vagina?

Think of Kegel balls as your vagina’s personal trainer— they’re small, marble-sized weights that you insert in your vagina to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. They come with many perks, including bladder control, pregnancy recovery, and better orgasms. And they said women don’t have the balls!

What is vaginoplasty, and when would I need to get it?

Women are often shamed for having a “loose” vagina, especially after childbirth or as they get older. That’s why vaginoplasty promises to “tighten” your vagina or even make it more sensitive during sex. But the Food and Drug Administration warns against “vaginal rejuvenation” or “revirgination,” which can have complications like pain, discomfort, and bleeding.

Will vibrators make my vagina less sensitive in the long run?

Sometimes using a very powerful vibrator to directly stimulate your vagina can make you feel numb down there, but there’s no need to worry. The good vibes won’t ever be a permanent buzzkill— just give yourself time to rest before going for another round.

Posted by Prism Kristensen

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