Ah, the vagina. One of those mysteries of life that we’ll just never understand…or at least that was the case until recently. We’re finally seeing more studies and funding for vaginal reproductive health research.
You may not be out there putting vaginas under the microscope (but a huge ‘thank you’ to you, if you are), but there’s still a few things you should know about the vagina and all that it does.
It’s Actually A Vulva
Many people use the term vagina to refer to the entire sex organ, but the correct term is ‘vulva.’ The vulva encompasses the inner and outer labia, clitoris, urethra & vaginal opening. The vagina is the 3-6 inch canal, leading to the cervix, that sits beyond the vaginal opening
Vagina is now used as a colloquial term for the whole package, so if you want to keep using it, that’s cool. But you should know the correct terminology and be prepared to school people when necessary. The vulva is already way too shrouded in mystery for people to not know its real name.
It’s Got pH Levels
The pH level of a vagina is naturally moderately acidic. You can compare the level of acidity of a vagina to a glass of wine. It can sit between a 3.8 – 4.5 pH, although 40% of African American and Hispanic people experience higher levels of pH (around 4.7 – 5.0). This is still normal and healthy and has to do with differing levels of lactobacilli in the vaginal microbiome.
It’s Self Cleaning
Unlike my kitchen, the vagina cleans itself!
The bacteria that keeps the vagina at a healthy pH level, also dispose of any harmful bacteria through your discharge. Because of this, you shouldn’t use any harsh chemicals, scented soaps or perfumed toiletries on the vulva. You don’t have to clean inside your vagina at all. The vulva, however, is not self cleaning. You can clean the labia and around the vaginal opening with water and natural soaps.
Not All Women Have Vaginas and Not All Vaginas are Attached to Women
People with vaginas can identify as women, men, non-binary, gender fluid, transgender, agender, pangender, gender neutral, genderqueer, third gender, two spirit or any combonation of those identites.
Genitals are not an indicator of gender identity. If you are unsure of how someone identifies, you can ask what pronouns they use. It’s still up to them whether they feel like revealing their gender to you, but offering up your own pronouns and gender identity is one way to create space to discuss gender, should they choose.
You Can’t Lose Anything Up There
Vaginas are not black holes. What enters is not forever gone.
The cervix does not have a large enough opening for a tampon or any other object to pass through, so anything that is inserted into the vaginal canal will stay there until removed. It is possible, however, to get something stuck inside the vagina.
If you lose a tampon or other object inside the vagina, you can try squatting and bearing down and/or removing it with your hands, but if you’re concerned see your doctor.
Your Clitoris is Connected to Everything
When it comes to the clitoris, there’s more than meets the eye!
For a long time, the clitoris was thought to be just the tiny nub we can see and feel on the outside of our body. But as it turns out, the clitoris is actually a sophisticated system that extends inside the body as well.
This wasn’t even discovered until 2008! Only proving that we need to fund more clit research.
The inner workings of the clitoris may explain something that’s baffled scientists for ages…The G-Spot. The G-Spot is a pleasurable spot a few inches inside the vaginal canal, but science could find no reason or evidence to support this idea. Turns out, the clitoris may be at play. Pressure on the inner vaginal wall may just be stimulating the clitoris from the inside.
The Hymen Is Not A Sex Detector
The hymen serves no reproductive purpose. Virginity is not a medical term, but a social construct created by religious and social circles. There is no accurate testing that can be done to prove or disprove virginity.
Although the hymen can tear during sexual activity, it can also tear from physical activity, tampon use or any number of things. Some hymens never tear and some people are even born without one altogether. If the hymen does tear, it repairs itself.
Virginity testing is an extremely harmful practice that can be traumatizing for anyone who experiences it. It can also lead to self harm, drastic measures, like at home hymen repair or even suicide.
You Can Get Wet Without Wanting Sex
Yes it’s true. Your vagina can’t be trusted.
Just because you’re wet, doesn’t mean you’re turned on. People with vaginas experience something called arousal non-concordance which is when you experience the physical attributes of being turned on, but you’re not mentally aroused or vice versa. It’s completely normal and nothing to worry about. Pretty much all people with vaginas experience this.
What we can learn from it is a wet vagina does not equal consent. Just because you’re wet, doesn’t mean you’re into it and if you’re not wet it doesn’t mean you aren’t into it (that’s what lube if for).
Consent is verbal, not a bodily fluid.
You now have 8 more facts to add to your vagina information arsenal! Go out into the world and spread the word and/or your legs to all who you deem worthy.
Jennifer Doan is a sex educator, coach and the host of the podcast Taking Back Slut. Jennifer is committed to helping people connect to their sexual power in a way that feels safe and comfortable to them. Connect with her on Instagram @jenn_doan for sex rants and unapologetic nudes.