Let's all pretend for a sec that we're in anatomy class again. Remember when you first learned what your vagina actually is? It wasn't your lips (those are your labia majora and labia minora). It wasn't your clitoris (did you know that the only known purpose of a clit is so you can climax easier?). It wasn't your vulva—the external part of your genitalia. No, your vagina is the internal tube that connects your vulva to your cervix (the lower part of your uterus). Babies come out of it and things like penises, vibrators, tampons and menstrual cups go into it.
Why is all of this relevant? Because, in preparation for sharing some things with you that you may or may not know about what's going on down below, technically, I'll be covering your vulva (the part of your genitalia that you do see) and your vagina (the part of your genitalia that you don't). I'm hoping that, with these 15 following facts in tow, you'll love your vagina more than you already do.
Because you already show your vagina (and your vulva) lots and lots of love…right?
Your Vagina Smells Differently Throughout the Day
If it seems like, scent-wise, your vagina keeps switching up on you throughout the day, don't stress it; that's totally normal. When you get out of the shower, you may smell nothing but once you exercise, your sweat glands may cause you to smell a little musty down there. If you're on your period, it might smell like iron, after sex it might smell a little like bleach (due to how your fluids interact with the smell of semen) and, if you have an infection of some sort, it might smell like yeast or fish.
While we're parked on this particular point, something else that can alter the smell of your va-jay-jay is your diet. The foods that can make it smell less than pleasant are onions, garlic, curry, alcohol and coffee. Oh, and due to a new partner's distinctive semen, switching up partners can change how "she" smells too.
The Shape of Your Lips Have a Lot to Do with Your Orgasms
In the article "10 Things You Didn't Know About The Male And Female Orgasm", I shared that when a woman's clitoris is about an inch apart from her vaginal opening, it's much easier for her to have a vaginal orgasm. You know what else helps? The way her lips are made. I'm dead serious.
One study revealed that women who have prominent tubercles (which is basically an elevation of extra skin on the upper part of the lips) of her vagina also gave her a far greater chance of experiencing vaginal orgasms. So, if you're one of those women who feels insecure in a bathing suit because you've got what some folks call a "fatty", don't be. You are that much closer to having what reportedly over 70 percent of women don't—a vaginal orgasm!
You’d Be Amazed How “Big” Your Vagina Can Get
Although your vagina is only 3-4 inches long, its stretching capacity is absolutely amazing! So much, in fact, that it can stretch up to 200 percent (which is how babies can come through it). It's able to do this because your vagina is lined with muscular ridges all throughout it.
What this boils down to is you can handle the size of just about any man; at the same time, in order to initially get into the swing of things, you may need to use a vaginal dilator in order to gradually and comfortably stretch the walls of your vagina in order to, umm, accommodate him.
Discharge and Lubricant Aren’t Exactly the Same Things
This point is pretty fascinating. Did you know that there's a difference between discharge and lubricant? Discharge (which is made up of saltwater, mucus and cells) is what helps to rid your body of bacteria. If your vagina is healthy, the discharge should be a clear, white or off-white color, non-clumpy or irritating and you should only produce around 1-2 teaspoons per day. Lubricant is what comes out, only when you are sexually stimulated.
While discharge comes directly out of your actual vagina, lubrication comes out of two pea-sized glands (called Bartholin's Glands) that are located on the outer sides of your vaginal opening.
There’s More to Your Clitoris than Meets the Eye
When babies are first conceived, they all have the same genetic material. Once they are around 12 weeks, that's when either a penis or a labia begins to form. The reason why you might have heard that clitorises are "little penises" is because, like a penises, they have glans, erectile tissue, a tiny shaft and even foreskin (hence, your clitoral hood). They also get erect and expand whenever you're sexually aroused.
Some other fun facts about your clitoris is it contains 8,000 nerve endings (approximately double what a man has in his penis); it's able to create between 3-16 contractions that are able to last 10-30 seconds long; it grows over the course of your lifetime (it's 2.5 times bigger when you're going through menopause vs. when you were an adolescent) and, it's bigger than you probably think that it is (four inches). It's just that three-fourths of your clitoris is located on the inside of your body.
A Healthy Vagina Is Literally Like Fine Wine
One way to know whether or not your vagina is healthy is to check its pH balance (click here if you want a kit that will let you test it from home). If it's in good shape, your pH will be between 3.8-4.5. If it's higher than that, bacterial vaginosis may be the culprit. If it's lower, it could be indicative of a yeast infection (check with your doctor, just to be sure).
Anyway, since a healthy vagina's pH is around a 4 (which means that it's slightly acidic), I thought you might be curious about what else is—tomatoes, beer and yes, wine. This means that if you wanted to compare your vagina to the best of wines, you wouldn't be lying. That is literally the complete and total truth.
A Vaginal Fart Isn’t a Fart at All
TMI? Maybe. I remember the first time I "queefed" with a partner. I was so embarrassed that I picked a fight and we didn't speak for two days. When we finally did discuss how ridiculous I was being, he said, "It just caught me off guard but it's no big deal."
It really isn't. For one thing, queefing is completely normal. Secondly, all that's coming out when your vagina makes a "fart sound" is air; not waste or gas like real fart has in it. It doesn't smell either, so the next time it happens to you, laugh don't freak out. It's all good.
Nothing Can Get “Lost” in There
Your vagina is not a black hole; it does have an end to it (for the most part, your cervix). The reason why it can sometimes be hard to retrieve a broken condom or a tampon that lost its string is because the item is lodged towards the backside of your vagina. Don't worry, though. If you can't get what's stuck out, your physician most certainly can.
While we're on this topic, my great-grandfather used to say (and I quote), "If you wear short skirts in the wintertime, you're gonna catch a cold in your p—sy." Yeah, that's not exactly true. Your vagina is not a gaping hole that's constantly open. In fact, its walls are actually collapsed on top of each other. They expand when they need to and remain closed when they don't. So, please ignore my grandpa's pearls of wisdom. If they were on Snopes, they would be marked as being "false".
Your Pubic Hair Serves Three (Main) Purposes
Something that I personally found to be a plum trip is the fact that pubic hair has a pretty short shelf life. While the hair on our head can last for up to seven years, the hair on our vagina only lasts for three weeks or so. This is why it can only get but so long or bushy.
As far as the purpose that pubic hair serves, for the most part, it's a three-way combo. First, it protects your vagina from debris. Second, it helps to prevent small abrasions from arising on your vulva due to sexual friction (the less small cuts, the less STD risks you have to worry about). Third, so long as you keep your vagina clean, its natural scent gets trapped into your pubic hair, creating pheromones that turns your partner all the way on. Bonus—a lot of my male friends are huge fans of (well-manicured) pubic hair. They say it's because it makes them feel like they are having sex with a grown woman (which co-signs on a study that says the older we get, the less interested we are in removing our pubic hair anyway). Just something to think about.
Your Vagina Doesn’t Need Douching or Steaming
You've probably known for a while now that, because your vagina is self-cleaning, you absolutely do not need to douche it for any reason. Ultimately, all that does is upset the pH balance in your vagina which can cause all sorts of infections up the road. But what you might not know is you shouldn't steam (translation—go somewhere and sit over a hot pot of herbs in hopes to cleanse and tighten your vagina) either. Aside from the fact that you run the risk of burning your vagina (ouch), there isn't really a lot of evidence to support that it does any real cleansing or tightening. You'd be better off using a DIY cleanse and applying it to your vulva (only) instead.
Vulvas Sag over Time
Something that our body produces less of over time is collagen. When this happens, our skin begins to sag, including when it comes to our vulva. It's nothing to feel bad or embarrassed about (men love vulvas and vaginas regardless), but if you do want to give your vulva a bit of a facelift (so to speak), take a collagen supplement and do some kegels regularly. That should do the trick.
Food in Your Vagina IS NOT a Good Idea
Years back, I told a few of my girlfriends a story I heard about a woman who got maggots in her vagina. No one believed me. I can't wait to forward this to them because there is a documented case of a 79-year-old woman who experienced just that (the technical term for it is vaginal myiasis). Although it is rare, I did look for some medical insight on how to insure that it never happens to you. The best way to avoid vaginal maggots (eww…just eww) is to keep food (dark chocolate, frozen bananas and whatever else your creative mind comes up with) OUT of your actual vagina. Vulva (outside) is fine. Vagina (inside) is not.
Multiple Partners Doesn’t Make It Looser. Abstinence Doesn’t Make It Tighter.
Chile, I ain't had sex in so long that I can only hope this point is true! If you are sexually active and you worry that it's "stretching you out", remember, we are able to birth babies through our vagina and still master the vaginal snapback. Ain't no penis able to match a baby's head. You're good. On the flip side, being abstinent for a long period of time is not gonna make your vagina any tighter either (are you surprised?)
According to many medical professionals, the initial discomfort after a dry spell is probably due to not being aroused enough, needing more lubrication upon entry or your partner not knowing what the heck he's doing; not because going months (or even years) without got you "tight and right".
There goes granny's theory about what makes a va-jay-jay looser or tighter. I can't wait to hear what she says when you tell her.
You Can Get an STD. Even with a Condom.
Finally, if you want or need another reason to make sure that you get tested on a regular basis and that you should require to see a new partner's bill of health before doing the do, I've got one. Even if "he" wears a condom, you can still get an STD.
How is that? It's because if he happens to have warts, a herpes flare-up, or pubic lice, your vulva has the ability to come into contact with his scrotum, and—BAM! You could end up sharing more than a good time. Just one more reminder that a condom is not Teflon, so make sure to choose your partners wisely. For you and your vagina's (and vulva's) sake.
There Is No Such Thing as a “Normal Vulva”
Finally, your vulva is a lot like your fingerprint in the sense that no two are exactly alike. The reason why I said "vulva" and not "vagina" is because most of our vaginas are basically the same. But, as far as the genitalia that we can see, there are different colors, shapes and sizes and they're all beautiful.
So, don't spend a lot of time worrying if some extra skin is hanging or your clitoris is on the larger size. God made it that way by design. The right partner will agree—and then some.
Featured image by Getty Images
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Originally published on June 19, 2019