We hear all sorts of mythical things about the vagina nowadays. How can you know what’s true and what’s false? Have no fear: Read these 10 common myths about the vagina.
Myth #1: The whole area is called the vagina.
Maybe the most common mistake of all time, is the act of calling everything in the southern region the “vagina” (like saying, “I shaved my vagina.” Unless you quite literally took a razor to your innards, you probably shaved your vulva. The vulva is the external parts of your genitals including your labia majora (the larger lips on the outside), labia minora (smaller lips on the inside), clitoris, vaginal and urethral opening and anus. It’s not the worst mistake to make, but it’s useful info when it comes to describing what feels good, what doesn’t or what might be in pain to either a sexual partner or doctor.
Myth #2: Your vagina has to look a certain way.
Can we just get over the idea of a “perfect vagina” already? The reality is, most beauty standards are manufactured—certain body types, skin colors, hair textures, or sizes and shapes of genitalia are presented to us through media, magazines and porn as “ideal” but actually hold no validity as being better or more functional. They’re simply made up by companies that want to make money off of beauty products and surgery. No matter what your vulva looks like, unless it’s causing you pain or discomfort, it’s completely normal. And it’s yours! Applaud it! Praise it! Take a pocket mirror and admire it!
Myth #3: Vaginal discharge means you have an STD (or another health issue).
It’s actually quite the opposite. Paying attention to your discharge is a great way to get to know your own body. Why am I assuming you have discharge? Because everyone with a vagina has it; you should have it. Healthy discharge keeps the vagina clean and lubricated and reduces your risk of infections. It’s great! But that doesn’t mean it’s all good. While the color, amount, and thickness of discharge can change depending on periods, sex, or childbirth, it’s important to note what might be unhealthy. If your discharge is grey or yellow, clumpy, or has a noticeable odor, check in with your OBGYN.
Myth #4: If you have too much sex, your vagina will get “loose.”
If you haven’t caught on yet, people don’t give vaginas enough credit. Historically, they’ve been lauded as delicate and private, something to be hidden and then revealed at the sight of lost virginity. The idea that a person’s vagina can be “ruined” after having too much sex is just plain untrue. The vagina is incredibly elastic—not only does it stretch to accommodate size, but it also snaps back to its original shape not long after sex or childbirth. During arousal, the vagina expands in preparation, so a tight vagina might actually be a sign that a person is not ready to have sex. Remember folks, biology has our back. Listen to your body because chances are, it’s built this way for a reason.
Myth #5: The vagina is the same as a penis, but on the inside.
There’s this weird rumor going around that the penis is just the vagina turned inside out. As if you can take a person’s vagina, pull it out of their body and BOOM, they’ve got a penis. I understand why visually this might make sense, but for the sake of accuracy, I must shed light on the true comparison.
The clitoris is actually much more comparable to the penis in terms of purpose, nerve endings, and even physical shape. The clitoral hood (the small piece of skin that protects the head of the clit) can be compared to a foreskin, the clitoris swells when it’s aroused, it has a sensitive shaft (on the inside) and when stimulated, it feels really, really good. But the stuff on the inside of your body? Nope, not a penis.
Myth #6: You can lose a tampon inside of it.
I’ve had my fair share of panic attacks, so don’t worry, you’re not alone. But given the anatomical nature of your body, this is impossible. The vagina is only a few inches long, so if the string gets caught up on the inside, you just have to dig a little to find it. It won’t be floating in your stomach by noon.
Myth #7: Any noises that come from the vagina are weird and embarrassing.
Breathe, breathe, breathe. A large reason “queefing” is even considered gross in the first place is because it’s always compared to a fart. And while farts shouldn’t be bashed either (they’re completely normal), if it makes you feel better, a queef is more like a burp. It’s also likely a sign that you’ve just had vaginal sex! When a penis is moving in and out of a vagina, air might sneak up inside, and it’s got to come back out somehow.
My computer keeps autocorrecting queef to queen, and I’m pretty sure that’s a sign that queefs are royalty and we should be kissing their little queef feet.
Myth #8: Everything comes out of the vagina, even pee.
The vagina is useful for a lot of reasons. It dispels our menstrual blood, discharge, ejaculation and little human beings. Want to know what it doesn’t do? Pee. It might feel like urine is coming out of the vagina because of how close everything is down there, but the steady stream is shooting from somewhere else: your urethra. The urethral opening sits right between your clitoris and your vagina and it’s super, super tiny. If you’ve ever had a UTI, this is where you’re feeling pain. Don’t blame the vagina for things it didn’t do!
Myth #9: If it doesn’t smell like lilacs, it’s probably dirty.
Ditch the scented wash and wipes and embrace your natural scent. I’m not just saying that to boost your confidence, either. Many vaginal washes advertise themselves as being “pH balancing” meaning you won’t get an infection from using them. But remember what I said about biology having your back? Your vagina handles pH like a pro and doesn’t need any help. That means no special products, no tropical island scented sprays and most definitely no douching.
If you feel like your vaginal scent is abnormal, visit your OBGYN before you seek help elsewhere.
Myth #10: There isn’t a wrong way to wipe.
One of the few non-myths out there is the front-to-back wiping method. Trust this one! Wiping front to back prevents fecal matter from entering the vagina and urethra, which significantly lowers your chance of infection. UTIs are the most common infection on the planet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not terrible or preventable.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.