Whether you have a vagina or not, understanding what a vagina is and learning about its different anatomical parts can be really important. The vagina is an elastic muscular canal with a flexible lining. This lining helps provide lubrication and increase pleasurable sensations during sexual activities. The vaginal canal is what connects the uterus to the outside of the body.
The vulva is what we call the external genitalia that includes the labia, clitoris, vaginal opening, and the opening to the urethra.
The labia are the folds of skin around the vaginal opening. The outer labia is usually fleshy and covered with pubic hair while the inner labia is inside the outer lips and begins at the clitoris and ends under the opening of the vagina. When aroused, the labia becomes extra sensitive and will swell. The color, texture, and size of the labia is unique and varies from person to person. In other words, no two labias are the same!
The clitoris is located at the intersection of the top of the vulva and inner labia. Although the clitoris varies in size from person to person, all clitorises are covered by a clitoral hood. The clitoris is made of spongy tissue that swells when aroused and has thousands of nerve endings (more than any other part of the body). In fact, the clitoris has twice as many nerve endings as the penis.
The urethral opening is a small hole that urine comes out of and is located just below the clitoris. The urethral opening is also where any fluid or ejaculation is produced, including the fluid that comes from 'squirting' during sexual activities.
The opening of the vagina is just the opening to the vaginal canal. It is located right below the urethral opening and is where menstrual blood is produced.
The anus is the opening to the rectum and contains sensitive nerve endings.
The hymen is made of thin, fleshy tissue and stretches across part of the opening to the vagina. Society has constructed a myth that the tearing of the hymen is directly associated with ‘losing your virginity,’ but this is not true! While some might experience bleeding the first few times they engage in penis-in-vagina (P in V) intercouse, many won’t. Both of these are normal experiences. Some might also have torn their hymen prior to sexual activity from horseback riding, falling on something, etc. Overall, the hymen pretty much indicates nothing. Just know that if you bleed or do not bleed upon penetration, there is nothing to worry about!
The G-Spot is located at the front of your vagina and is a few inches inside. When aroused, the G-Spot will swell and increase pleasurable sensations.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of false information that spreads regarding vaginas and vaginal health. Below, we have debunked some myths.
All labias look the same
No two labias will ever look the same. On top of this, there is no standard for what is “normal” when it comes to labias. All labias are amazing and you should never feel insecure about what yours looks like!
Vaginal discharge indicates that there is something wrong
Vaginal discharge is your body’s natural way of cleansing the vagina (which is pretty cool!). Your discharge will also likely vary depending on where you are in your cycle. During the period where you are the most fertile, your discharge will likely be wetter and resemble egg-whites. When you are less fertile (right after your period), your discharge will be a bit thicker. The only time you should be concerned about your discharge is if there is some kind of discoloration, pungent smell or a sudden increase in production.
Your vagina naturally smells bad
While vaginas do produce some kind of odor - and this odor can vary depending on your phase in your menstrual cycle, if you just had sex and if you’re sweating a lot - vaginas do not naturally ‘smell bad’. If the vagina does smell particularly pungent, it could be a sign of infection or the presence of bacteria. If this is the case, you should consult your doctor to treat it immediately.
Your hymen only breaks when you lose your virginity
You can tear your hymen doing other activities before you are even sexually active. Additionally, this is a problematic statement because it suggests that losing your virginity is a loss that can be marked by a physical characteristic. It’s not a loss at all, especially given the fact that your hymen really is not associated with sexual activity.
Gynecology is the field of medicine that will treat and manage any health concerns related to breasts, the uterus, ovaries, the vulva, and the vagina as well as urological and gastrointestinal symptoms for those AFAB.
Everyone is different, so the timing on when to start going to a gynecologist varies. In general, if you have any questions regarding menstruation, pregnancy, fertility, sexual health, or contraception, you might want to go to a gynecologist. Some other reasons that you might see a gynecologist are the delayed onset of puberty (breast tissue change), delayed menarche (no menstrual cycle prior to age 16) and painful menstrual cycles. Overall, a good rule of thumb is to start seeing a gynecologist when you become sexually active (or plan on becoming sexually active soon) or when you turn 18, whichever one comes first.
A pap smear tests for cervical cancer by collecting cells from the cervix. A pap smear is performed by your gynecologist and is generally painless. Also, cervical cancer that is detected early from a pap smear increases the likelihood of recovery.
You should start getting pap smears at 21 regardless of your sexual activity.
Sources: Web MD, Planned Parenthood, Mayo Clinic, Breastcancer.org