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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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The Misconception You Probably Have About Your Vagina

The Misconception You Probably Have About Your Vagina

Or, What Most People Call the “Vagina” is Not Actually Your Vagina

Did you know that vagina actually only refers to the part of your anatomy that things can be inserted into? That’s right, your “vagina” is only the hole. What most people are talking about when they reference their vagina is actually the vulva. ‘Vulva’ is “a term used to describe those external organs that may be visible [...]. The vulva consists of the following organs: mons pubis, labia minora and majora, hymen, clitoris, vestibule, urethra…”. (via) Did I just blow your mind?

I’ve spoken before about my absolute displeasure with the state of sexual education in public schools. The tragedy that always comes to mind when we think of the consequences of skipping sexual education is teen pregnancy, but I’m noticing another one: kids don’t know shit about their own bodies.

With the lack of sex ed, kids don’t know anything about their own anatomy. Then, they turn in to adults who don’t know anything about their own anatomy and, in turn, fail to teach their own kids anything about their own anatomy. It’s just a chain of ignorance here and it’s lead to one of the widest misconceptions about sexual anatomy out there.

Female Genitalia Diagram
Lack of information leaves many young (and old!) people under the impression that there’s something “wrong” or “abnormal” about their vulvas. This likely has something to do with the fact that they’ve never actually seen photos of the spectrum of what normal, healthy fun-bits can look like (because that would be pornography!!! apparently). I remember being twelve years old, in the throes of puberty, using Google to get a sense of whether or not my genitals were normal and instead finding sites about labiaplasty. So to any self-conscious vulva-owners reading this, please take a gander at Love Large Labia to actually get some idea of the very wide definition of “normal.”

Basically, any time you’re trying to refer to your junk as a whole, the word you want is “vulva.” This is such a wide-spread misconception that it’s going to take a whole lot of work and a whole lot of information to undo the damage. How many people have even heard the word “vulva”? I have heard so many people use the phrase “shaved vagina” — but people don’t even grow hair on their vagina! And sticking a razor in there would be quite painful, I’d imagine.

Keeping reproductive anatomy a mystery is just another facet of sexism in our society: trying to discourage girls from being sexually liberated. The more you know about your body, the more educated you’ll be on how to enjoy it safely, and a lot of people don’t really want you to do that. But it’s also dangerous: if we don’t arm people with the correct vocabulary to describe their anatomy, they won’t know how to explain various health issues they might experience; they won’t know how to accurately tell their doctors what’s going on. And if we continue acting like knowing your sexual anatomy is shameful, they’re not going to want to speak up when something is wrong.

Gynecological Self Exam Mirror

I encourage anyone reading this to get to know yourself if you haven’t already. That is, take a hand-mirror, lock yourself in the bathroom, drop your underwear, and, yes: explore between your legs. Use a diagram as a guide and start learning.

Written by Hannah Braswell
Reposted with permission from

  • Lauren Slavin

    Naomi Wolf’s new book “Vagina” is an awesome read that makes you think about your reproductive system in new ways (mostly by not calling it your “va-jay-jay”)

  • lolnope

    how about we just call it a vagina like we have for the past century and everything will continue to be fine

    • mdcooper

      Yep, semantic shift, yo. Ex: “man” used to just mean a person of either gender way back in Old English, now obviously means a male (which is why I think renaming things like with -man suffixes to be more gender neutral is a relatively silly fight out of all that’s wrong in the Patriarchy; at least historically it was gender neutral) Language changes, not much can be about it.

      - a (not so cunning) linguist,