Let’s Talk About Vaginas

Every year in America there is one dreaded day in fifth grade; a day that leaves everyone in the room avoiding eye contact, shifting around uncomfortably in their seat, and permanently blushing. A day that warrants no response when mom or dad asks “How was school today?” Sexual education day.

Having experienced this awkward day years ago, I feel the need to say sexual “education.” All you learn is that erections exist and that you’re going to grow a bush (and then learn a few years later that you’re expected to rip it all out with wax). You can’t really identify something as education when it leaves so many boys getting to college still thinking girls pee out of their vaginas.

Like most middle schoolers, I craved to be let in on the secret of sex when I was going through puberty. Why the hell was I suddenly so horny? How far could a penis go in there? What do people do when they’re having sex­­stare at each other? What does a penis even look like? (For a long time I didn’t realize there was a head and for some reason I thought that they were all purple like a swollen vein.) I understood that there were going to be new smells and hairs and pimples, but I wanted to get down to the important part of sex ed. I didn’t understand that vaginas are the important part, because I would go on believing for years that I could become “loose” if I had too much sex and that my changing labia were a form of punishment for putting p­to­v.

Our sexual education system is failing us. Most don’t know the difference between a vagina and vulva (the vulva is the outer area and the vagina is the actual hole). Many people will spend their whole lives believing the “loose” myth. Many women will be shamed into thinking their nether regions are ugly because of their labia size. Many of us don’t even know the difference between the labia minora and labia majora (the majora are the two outer lips and the minora are the two thinner inner lips).

So let’s talk about vaginas.

The truth is that the v is a badass, not a tube sock. The muscles of the vagina have an elastic quality that allows it to expand and contract; it’s not like you put something in it and it loses its shape forever. In fact, frequently using a muscle makes it stronger, not stretched out and weak. I didn’t understand this the first time I heard someone compare sex to “throwing a hotdog down a hallway.” But it really isn’t a difficult concept to grasp; if penises come in all different shapes and sizes, why wouldn’t vaginas? Some are just naturally wider, and that has nothing to do with the amount of sex or numbers of sexual partners someone has had. In fact, if someone is too “tight” during sex it’s not because she’s new to sex, it’s because she isn’t aroused enough. During good, healthy sex the vagina should be thoroughly naturally lubricated in order for the muscles to form and fluctuate around whatever sized penis, finger, or dildo is going in.

Vaginas, especially vulvas, are constantly being trash talked because most people don’t know much about them. There are numerous revolting terms and phrases used to shame the v, one of my least favorite being “meat curtains.” Slut shaming has become so ingrained in our society that most of us grow up believing it’s all true: that long labia are gross, that female pubic hair is even more gross, and that vaginas smell like fish. Women spend millions of dollars a year on waxing, soaps, and even labiaplasties just to avoid the judgment perpetuated from these beliefs and the ongoing acceptance of vagina jokes and vagina shaming.

We are made to believe that the “perfect” vagina is the prepubescent, childlike vagina. It should be small, hairless, and have no exposed labia minora. The world’s first vaginal beauty contest was held in 2015 and the top three winners met all of these specifications (and yes, you can view images of all the contestants online). Holding genital beauty standards like these is not only extremely disturbing, but problematic when so few women look that way but are lead to believe any other way is gross. Labia extend naturally due to hormones in order to protect the vaginal opening. Some are long, wrinkly, skinny, chubby, smooth, or uneven lengths. And they’re not gross; they house many nerve endings which actually helps create more pleasure down there.

At the very top of the labia minora is the infamous clitoris. I most definitely didn’t learn about that or its magical powers in sex ed. However, at some point along the way almost all of us have learned that it’s the epicenter of nerve endings and the golden ticket to an orgasm. What we don’t talk about is that everyone’s clitoris is a different size. Some people don’t have any exposed nub at all­­but don’t panic, it’s still there. Most of the clitoris is beneath the surface so whether it’s big or small doesn’t matter, it can still get the job done.

We also don’t talk about the variations of color that can occur throughout the vulva. Some people have darker skin there, or lighter, or even both. We are lead to believe that the “perfect vagina” is all one­­usually light­­color, but that just isn’t the case with the majority of vulvas. Just as we celebrate uniqueness in personality, we should celebrate uniqueness in vaginas.

In order to undo the wrong that has been done to vaginas for so long there are many things that need to happen­­and the most important part goes all the way back to that day in fifth grade. We shouldn’t be separating students by gender in order to learn about genitals. This instills that an open dialogue about body health is embarrassing and creates a barrier. Vaginas and penises become hush­hush which over time is harmful. Girls grow up only hearing about their vaginas in punchlines and are so unaware of what is actually going on. They grow up to be objectified and overly sexualized but then told their maturing vaginas are bad and that their natural functions (menstruating, discharge, childbirth) are disgusting.

But they aren’t disgusting. What is really disgusting is the judgment surrounding an organ that exists to create life. So love the v and help spread awareness of these misconceptions; the more knowledge of the v is more love for the v.

Photo Credit to Barack Schloss