For this blog, I asked some of my gal pals some questions about their vaginas and the experiences they’ve had because of them. As I’ve grown up I’ve learnt that I wasn’t alone in a lot of my embarrassment, confusion and awkwardness. But, as I’ve become a woman I have felt I need to talk about our most amazing body part more and more. If I knew what I knew now about my vagina, it probably would have saved me a lot of time and unnecessary shame.
What do you call your vagina?
There are so many different names out there for our vagina, probably because our parents could never say vagina like it was a rude word. I just call it my vagina but in my house we say “bits”, which I personally think is more cringe than actually saying vagina. All of my friends use different terms, from the good, ol’, simple vagina to foo, kitty, noon, and fanny.
What were you taught in school about your vagina?
Very little. To put it bluntly. All I remember is being separated from the boys in my year 5 or 6 class to learn about periods. Most of my friends were in agreement they had very little education about their vaginas other than the basic information on periods and giving birth. I have never understood why the boys were taken off. They need to learn about periods just as much as we do. However, one of my friends believes there should be a space for women when we were old enough to genuinely take the information in and share our experiences, which I do agree with. But, everyone needs to be taught so much more. I know guys who believe the most ridiculous myths which could be avoided with even a basic education.
Other topics that must be taught more is consent, STI’s, the parts of our vaginas, busting myths and common misunderstandings, how ovulation works, and important facts that we don’t know, along with so much more. This would normalise vaginas, healthy sex, and probably avoid teenage pregnancy. There are so many other European countries that teach a healthy attitude towards sex and they have some of the lowest teen birth rates in the world.
Can you name all the parts of a vagina?
Pretty much everyone answered no, including myself, or they say knew the parts but wouldn’t be able to label it. Some knew more than others but most named the parts that are common knowledge, like the clitorous, vulva and labia. Fun fact – the vulva is actually the whole thing, the vagina is just the tube bit.
Have you ever felt shame, embarrassed or awkward about your vagina? If so, why?
Nearly all answered yes to this question and a common theme was boys. I’m sure a lot of us have been there or overheard boys discussing girls vaginas in either a crude and horrible way, or saying what they “should” be like. This is extremely detrimental to a girls confidence and self assessment. If we hear what boys think a girls vagina looks like, we may think that ours is weird or ugly and be ashamed of ours if isn’t this superficial, “porn star” vagina. Body hair is included in this, whether that’s the presence of it or ingrown hairs. We are taught that our pubes are disgusting and unhygienic, when in reality it is there to protect our vaginas. If you keep it clean and hygienic then who cares. I think this goes back to the lack of education. If girls and boys were taught about vaginas, that they’re all different and body hair is normal, then maybe boys wouldn’t discuss what vaginas “should” look like so much and girls wouldn’t be ashamed thinking theirs is “ugly”. It is almost like it is a way for the patriarchy to keep girls from being sexually confident and exploring their womanhood while being respected.
Have you ever felt shame, embarrassed or awkward about talking about your vagina? If so, why?
This was a bit of a mixed bag of answers. Similarly to some others, growing up I felt it was a taboo subject and if there was something I was worried about that is completely natural, I probably wouldn’t of asked my friends. Even periods were seen as something embarrassing and we didn’t really discuss. However, most women asked said they couldn’t think of a time they’d felt embarrassed talking about their vagina, every woman has one so why should we be made to feel awkward? As I got older I definitely started to feel this same way, and found comfort in talking about these things with friends.
Has anyone ever made a comment about your vagina to make you feel embarrassed?
Majority was no, not directly to or about them but they had definitely heard comments, like those mentioned above. Some comments were about body hair and how they should shave, leading to them not wanting to have sex unless they’d groomed. Or they would worry that someone would spread a comment to embarrass them. I feel we have internalised so many comments we don’t even notice or remember them anymore.
Have you ever heard someone talk about vaginas in a crude way? If so, give an example.
We’ve heard it all, from slut shaming, fishy smell, beef flap and camel toe to random associations like if you have a small mouth, you have a small vagina. One person mentions an example in Emily in Paris where a French man tells the main character he wants American pussy, which everyone can relate to that being a typical crude, male comment.
Have you ever not let someone go down on you because you felt awkward about your vagina?
The bulk of answers were yes at first but they became more comfortable when they got boyfriends or girlfriends, or as they got older they became more mature and educated. Some, still have internalised issues that prevent them from feeling comfortable. It also goes back to the body hair issue as well of being worried that you weren’t groomed enough and the comments boys made about their look and smell.
As you’ve got older have you felt more confident in yourself and felt less vagina shame? If so, why do you think this is?
100% agreement. To me it makes sense that people feel less shame as they grow up because we learn more and we experience more. As one respondent put it, “we have the chance learn more about things from a female perspective, whether it’s through reading stuff online or talking to other women or being exposed to more medical material from women and for women, and see that there’s nothing wrong with vaginas, they aren’t disgusting, and learn more about our personal experiences with them in terms of using them for our pleasure, to give birth, to have periods etc.” And probably one of my fave quotes from the responses “If you judge someone on something they have no control over you’re a twat”. Simples.
Is there anything that happens or happened to your vagina you didn’t realise was normal until you spoke to others or researched it?
I personally feel it is very common for women to not realise what they are experiencing is a normal thing that happens to a lot of women. This may be because we aren’t taught about these things or that we don’t really speak about them. Discharge being one example that was a common theme in the answers I received. I never really thought much of it, but I remember seeing it for the first time and being like ‘?? What on earth is this ??’. Something so simple and so natural could have easily been explained by a teacher but instead we have to ask our mothers and our friends or the internet (which could cause a whole lot more scaring). STIs, another extremely common thing that is really shamed upon in society. People might not even go get checked because they think that could never happen to them or they are too embarrassed. Get checked hunnies (after EVERY partner, even your boyfriends), it’s important. Other examples are thrush or UTIs, lumps and bumps and your first period. How are we meant to know what a period really looks like if the liquid shown in the adverts is blue? Dunno about you but I’ve never seen a blue period personally.
Do you feel you have had enough education about your vagina and reproductive system?
No. The only decent education I got about my vagina was from the internet and all the research I have done, which many of the respondents said also. Some believe there should have been classes for girls that was more of a safe space to ask questions so it wasn’t so awkward. Others said that if we had a better education and boys learnt more about the female body then they may not have made as many jokes and comments.
Are there any myths you thought were true that aren’t? If so, what?
You’ve got to love how crazy some myths are that people believe. But we don’t know any better so how are we meant to know that when we have our period a little egg doesn’t come out? Some examples from the responses are: your wee comes out your vagina; your vagina means the whole thing; there are lots of myths around fertility, like when you are actually fertile or that it is impossible to get pregnant when on your period; discharge isn’t a normal thing and it’s a sign something is wrong; if you did the splits then losing your virginity wouldn’t hurt; on that note virginity as a whole concept and your hymen “breaking”, or popping the cherry should I say; that your cherry would pop if you got fingered; you catch feelings from having sex.
Is there anything you didn’t realise was true you now know is? If so, what?
You shouldn’t wash your vagina with soap (don’t do this, it throws off the delicate PH level down there); the vagina is self cleansing; most girls feel vagina shame too; vaginas are made for pleasure, not just men’s dicks, so why is it okay for them to wank and not women; carrying that theme on, women masturbate and we enjoy sex!!
Is there anything that you still don’t understand about your vagina or reproductive system? If so, what?
Some answers included: how it works; what is discharge and why it happens? When should you go to the doctors? What is the proper way to care for it? Contraception such as the pill and what is good and what’s not? The reproductive system; what each part is and what it does.
While I feel there is still so much I need to learn, there is also a lot I learnt by educating myself, so whether you have a vagina or a willy or anything in between, please do a bit of research into common misconceptions about the vulva.