6 Myths About the Vagina You Should Stop Believing ASAP
6 Myths About the Vagina You Should Stop Believing ASAP
The vagina is a mythical body part. For millennia, regardless of gender, people have been fascinated by them. Unlike the penis, which sticks out from the body in an obvious way, the vagina is more of a hole — an entrance, an opening or a void much more inconspicuous.
From Freud’s ideas about women suffering from “penis envy” to Georgia O’Keeffe’s vulvic flower paintings, the vagina has captured imaginations and intellects for years and years. But regardless of all the thinking men have done about vaginas, in practical terms, there remains much that they don’t understand.
Part of that can be chalked up to the poor quality of most sex education, even in the 21st century. There’s still a heavy focus on concepts like abstinence and the prevention of STI transmission rather than pleasure, and otherwise quite well-educated men are often at a loss when it comes to anatomy.
Not to mention, there are lots of myths about the vagina floating around at any given moment. Basically, they’re rumors that get passed from one person to another, from writer to reader and from screen to an audience that inevitably get accepted as hard truths even though they couldn’t be further from it.
To help you better understand the vagina, here are a few myths it’s time we all stopped believing, as well as the truths we should update our mental ‘vagina’ files with.
And yes, this will help you have better sex.
Myth: The Labia and Clitoris Are Also Part of the Vagina
For some, the vagina is the spot between a woman’s legs, and that’s all there is to it. Inside? Vagina. Outside? Vagina. Clitoris, labia minora, labia majora? Vagina, vagina, vagina.
Reality: In fact, that’s … not quite how it works.
“The vagina and vulva aren’t the same thing,” says Kayla Lords of JackandJillAdult.com. “The vulva is the entire area and includes the vagina. The vagina is where fingers, a penis or a sex toy are inserted.”
Why It’s Harmful: As vagina myths go, this one is actually not all that harmful, but it is pretty sexist — it implies that you don’t know or care enough about vaginas to get the terminology right.
If a woman referred to men’s testicles as being part of the penis, she’d be wrong — and pretty obviously so. That’s essentially the equivalent of what’s going on when men refer to a vulva as a vagina.
Myth: Vaginas Get Loose or Saggy From a Lot of Sex or Multiple Partners
There’s a common (and pernicious) belief by men, of course, that a vagina gets saggy if it’s penetrated by a lot of penises. Guys love to imply that a woman is no good if she’s had sex with too many men, since her vagina must be all loose — a classic (and horrible) example of slut-shaming.
Reality: In fact, that’s not how vaginas work at all.
“The vagina is a lot like an elastic band, you can stretch it and stretch it, but once you let go, it returns to its shape,” says Mackenzie Riel, a sexpert for TooTimid.com. “A lot of penetration over time will not compromise the size of the vagina, unless there’s a large amount of trauma.”
In fact, vaginal tightness, which many guys hold as the ideal for male pleasure, is actually not a good sign.
“When a woman is heavily aroused, her vagina will naturally relax, which makes it easier for intercourse and to actually derive pleasure from it,” notes Riel. “The vagina tenses up for a number of reasons, a lot of time from anxiety, depression, generally low libido, or they’re simply are not aroused enough.”
Why It’s Harmful: Telling women that they shouldn’t be able to enjoy sex the same as men do is a deeply problematic double-standard. Not to mention, throwing in baseless myths about vagina size worsens the problem.
Imagine being a little boy and growing up scared that if you had sex too many times, your penis would become tiny because you heard women joking about promiscuous men’s penises getting squished by tight vaginas.
Myth: The Vagina Is the Most Important Part
It’s no surprise that lots of guys are vagina-obsessed. After all, the most valorized form of sex is penetration, almost to the point where many people don’t even count things like oral sex or manual stimulation as sex at all. Porn tends to focus on penis-in-vagina penetrative sex above all else, too, adding more fuel to the fire when it comes to the topic.
Reality: The truth is, there’s more to a woman’s anatomy than the vaginal canal, and there’s much, much more to her pleasure.
“Yes, you might want to stick your dick in it, but the entire area deserves, needs and craves attention (for many women),” says Lords. “Play with her clit. Touch her mons (pubic mound). Pay attention to her outer or inner labia. These are all super sensitive spots that will likely drive her wild with desire.”
Why It’s Harmful: Imagine if you were having sex with someone and they only wanted to play with your balls. You might not hate the sensation, but the fact that they were ignoring the shaft and head of your penis would probably be disappointing, and you’d be pretty unlikely to achieve orgasm.
That’s more or less what’s happening when you ignore the clitoris and labia in favor of the vagina — the sex is just not going to be as fun for the other person. And as Lords notes, “When she has a better sexual experience, so do you.”
Myth: Penetration Alone Will Lead to Climax
If you’re used to what goes on in porn, another thing you might believe is that women all orgasm from penetration. All it takes is a good, hard pounding from a big, erect penis to send them over the edge into sexual ecstasy, right?
Reality: Unfortunately, that’s deeply untrue, and while it might be exciting to see it happen so simply and easily in an erotic video, in real life, the female orgasm can be a bit more complicated.
“Only about 18-20 percent of women can climax from just penis-in-vagina sex,” says SKYN sex and intimacy expert Dr. Emily Morse, “and of those women, it’s not even every time.”
“Most women won’t get off from penetration alone, no matter what porn has lead you to believe,” adds Lords. “Yes, some people with vulvas enjoy G-spot stimulation and can get off that way, but a bigger number of people need clitoral stimulation alone, or both clit and G-spot action at the same time.”
Why It’s Harmful: Well, for starters, it means less sexual pleasure for about half the global population.
“Most women need some kind of clitoral stimulation to orgasm, yet so many people (men and women) think that the old in-and-out is enough,” says Morse. “The more time you spend on other aspects of sex, the happier the both of you will be.”
Beyond the likelihood that one of the two people involved in a given sex act won’t come anywhere near having an orgasm, there’s also the reality that not being able to make your partner climax can feel deeply embarassing and humiliating. Being said partner can also make you feel like there’s something wrong with your body, when in actuality, all you need to do is add a little clitoral stimulation to the mix.
Myth: Touching the Vagina Will Lead to Immediate Arousal
If you have a penis, you’re probably used to the idea that your penis being rubbed will lead to arousal. It’s somewhat logical to then assume that the same applies to vaginas. If you start fingering your partner’s vagina, they’re automatically going to get turned on … right? Not so much.
Reality: According to Morse, the primary modes of desire are different for most men and women.
Spontaneous desire, which is how many men operate, means you can get turned on of your own accord, and fairly easily. Responsive desire, which is how many women operate, means she needs a bit more help.
“Your girlfriend could walk through the door and as soon as you see her, you’re instantly turned on and want to take her right then and there,” says Morse. “However, your girlfriend just got off work, has to go to the bathroom, and is starving — so sex is the last thing on her mind. She might need some warming up to get into the mood.”
In this case, warming up means psychological stimulation, not physical. Simply jamming your fingers at her crotch is more likely to piss her off or freak her out than anything. Instead, you want to take things slowly and allow her to feel comfortable with the pace before you try to touch her genitalia.
Why It’s Harmful: Misunderstanding how, when and why your partner gets aroused is a bad idea regardless of your gender or theirs. It’s likely to lead to confusion, frustration and (likely) pain, both physical and emotional. You’ll try to do something that they don’t like, and they’ll respond negatively, and the whole moment will be ruined.
Just remember this: Focus on arousing your partner psychologically before you stick your hands in their pants.
Myth: The Vulva Should Look a Certain Way
Pornography is largely responsible for the misconception that vulvas should look a certain way.
If you’ve watched a fair amount of mainstream porn, you’re probably used to seeing women with no pubic hair and vulvas that conform to a pretty narrow ideal. And if you’ve seen a lot more vulvas in porn than in real life, you might start to think that all vulvas look like that.
Reality: As with every other aspect of the human body, there’s a lot of variation in what happens between a person’s legs. There are short and long penises, fat and skinny ones, straight and curvy ones, dark and light ones — and the same principle applies to vulvas, too.
“There is really no specific look that it should have, unless of course the woman has an STI or is not biologically female,” says Riel. “The vulva comes in all shapes and sizes, depending on the woman and their body.”
Regardless of their ethnic or racial background, she adds that most vaginas are pretty similar in color, too.
Why It’s Harmful: If you’ve ever felt insecure about the size of your penis, or any other aspect of your body, then you can probably relate to what it might feel like if someone told you your private parts didn’t look right.
“There’s the horrible myth of how much labia a woman should have, which is another biological or genetic factor that gives the vulva its appearance and is out of their control,” Riel points out.
Pernicious myths like this cause people a lot of shame, anxiety and feelings of worthlessness, and can lead to people seeking out surgery rather than simply loving their bodies. It’s not fair when assumptions are made about penises, and the same applies for vaginas, too.
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