Friend groups, skinny jeans, zip-lock seals. These are things that are tight! But vaginas? Not so much.
Actually, the myth that vaginal canals are supposed to be narrow, compact, little, and tight are all myths perpetuated by misogynistic, sex-negative society in order to make vulva havers feel self-conscious of their bodies. Ugh.
Below, sexual health professionals bust the common myths behind vaginal tightness in more detail.
They also outline what to do if you genuinely feel that your vaginal canal is too narrow, or the shape (or elasticity) of your vaginal canal is causing your discomfort in life or lovemaking.
If you’ve ever had P-in-V intercourse — or any other form of vaginal penetration — and found it uncomfortable or painful, you might be wondering if your vagina is too small for sex.
The short answer: No, it’s not.
There are exceptions, but few vaginas are anatomically too small to be comfortably penetrated.
The long-form version of this question is: Is a vaginal canal too tight (or small) to fit a penis?
It’s a question rooted in cis-heterosexuality because it suggests the sole purpose of a vagina is to accommodate a penis, and that everyone with a vagina desires to accommodate a penis!
That said, occasionally folks will say their vagina is too tight if they cannot comfortably insert a tampon or other menstrual product.
As it goes, “the idea of tightness is subjective,” says Heather Jeffcoat, a doctor of physical therapy who specializes in sexual dysfunction and incontinence and author of “Sex Without Pain: A Self-Treatment Guide to the Sex Life You Deserve.”
If you have concerns that you’re too tight (or too small) she suggests interrogating what that means. “What are you actually noticing?” she asks.
It may be rare for a vagina to be too tight. However, it is common for a vagina — and in general, the body — to be unprepared for penetrative sex.
Basically, the body requires more nonpenetrative play before penetration.
Why can more pre-play help? In its unaroused state, the vagina is just 3 to 4 inches long, which isn’t long enough to comfortably receive some penises or sex toys.
But when you’re aroused, the upper portion of the vagina lengthens and pushes your cervix and uterus inside the body more. Basically, the vagina grows longer and wider.
If you’re having difficulty with penetration that’s making you think you’re too tight, it could be a sign you weren’t adequately aroused prior to trying penetrative. And not that your vagina is, as a rule, too tight.
Adequate arousal also supports the natural lubrication process. And lube — whether physically produced or store-bought — can make penetration not only pleasurable but possible.
Questions about whether a vagina can be too tight (or too loose), imply that there’s one optimal length and width for vaginal canals to be. And that every other shape is “bad.”
Let the record show that this isn’t true! Plus, placing value judgments on your body in that way isn’t healthy or productive.
That said, there are underlying medical conditions that can make someone feel like their vagina is too tight, says Jeffcoat.
Lack of arousal isn’t the only reason a vagina can feel too tight.
Pain and the sensation of being too tight during penetration can be a sign of a condition such as infection, injury, or congenital abnormality.
1. Pelvic floor over-reactivity
“It’s common for someone to say, ‘my vagina is too tight’ when in reality the issue is that the muscles around the vaginal canal are overactive or non-relaxing,” explains Jeffcoat.
Common diagnoses for this include having a hypertonic pelvic floor, non-relaxing pelvic floor, or overactive pelvic floor.
“These muscles can be rehabilitated just like other muscles in the body that are limited with activity,” says Jeffcoat. Meaning, with proper care the muscles can adapt to help you accommodate the body parts and products you want (or need) your vagina to accept.
Vaginismus is another pelvic floor muscle condition that can make penetration feel painful.
Treatment often involves a combination of therapies. In addition to sex therapy or talk therapy, a doctor or other healthcare professional will work with you to use vaginal dilators or trainers. These dildo-shaped devices can help you gain control of your pelvic floor and learn to release the involuntary muscular reaction you experience before penetration.
A perineoplasty is a form of plastic surgery that involves altering the area between the front and back holes.
The most common version of this involves suturing (stitching) the patch of skin between the two holes following vaginal childbirth.
According to Jeffcoat, it’s possible for someone to be sutured too much, causing the opening of the vaginal canal to truly become too small.
“It wasn’t uncommon in the not so distant past for OB-GYNs to perform an extra stitch after vaginal delivery, known as the “husband” stitch, to increase tightness at the vaginal opening,” she explains.
Childbirth aside, some vulva owners elect to have a perineoplasty done by a plastic surgeon in order to narrow their vaginal canal.
4. Sexually transmitted infections
To be clear: Infections don’t change the shape or tightness of the vagina.
However, they can make sex more painful. They can also cause inflammation in the internal canal that can make the vaginal canal feel smaller or tighter than usual.
Whether it’s a sex-induced injury, a sex toy mishap, or a childbirth-induced tear, if you have a pelvic or genital wound, penetration can feel painful.
If you know you have a wound, wait until you’ve fully healed before engaging in sexual activity.
If you discover a wound and don’t know where it came from, consult a doctor or other healthcare professional ASAP.
6. History of trauma
If you’ve ever been sexually assaulted, any sexual encounter may be difficult without adequate therapy.
7. Congenital abnormality
Some vulva owners are born with hymens that are thick or inflexible. A penis, sex toy, or menstrual product pushing against the hymen may feel painful.
Even after the tissue is torn, it may be painful when hit during penetrative sex.
If you see yourself in these conditions, breathe.
Penetration doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, and you shouldn’t endure feeling too tight or inelastic. Many of the conditions that can lead to this feeling are easily treatable.
Talk to a doctor or other healthcare professional
If you have the means, this should be the first step in addressing your concerns about being too tight.
Generally, you’ll want to start by going to the OB-GYN. They’ll be able to rule out any underlying infections. If they give you the all-clear, you’ll want to work with a pelvic floor therapist next.
The vagina is designed to expand and elongate during arousal, meaning that arousal is a prerequisite for penetration.
There are a number of different things you can do to ramp up arousal. You might try:
When you’re aroused, the vagina also releases some natural lubricant so that when penetration occurs, it’s less painful or difficult.
If penetration begins too soon and you’re not lubricated, you may experience pain.
For some, adequate pre-play can help ensure you have enough natural lubricant. However, for others, that natural lubrication may not be adequate on its own.
Luckily, there are store-bought, water-based lubricants that can be added in.
Perform doctor-approved exercises
When you hear the phrase “pelvic floor exercise” or “vagina exercise” you probably think about Kegels.
Although you *do* want to perform some pelvic floor muscle moves, you *don’t* want to just be doing Kegels, according to Jeffcoat.
“Like any muscle in your body, the pelvic floor muscles should also lengthen or stretch,” explains Jeffcoat. “Sitting around and just doing Kegel exercises can make your muscles short and tight over time, which can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction.”
Talk to a healthcare professional about dilators
“Your doctor might prescribe medical dilators which can be used to naturally and gradually provide stretch,” says Jeffcoat.
Usually, the process involves coating the dilator and your entrance with lube, then sliding the device in and allowing your pelvic muscles to relax around the device for a few minutes at a time.
“Medical dilators come in a kit with sizes that are very slim — like petite tampon slim — and gradually increase in size,” she explains.
Yes! The vagina is just like other body parts in that it changes a lot over a person’s lifetime.
“When someone is postpartum and postmenopausal, there is less estrogen on board, which makes vaginal tissue thinner and less elastic,” explains Jeffcoat.
If someone accompanies pain alongside a decrease in elasticity, she says people are often prescribed a local vaginal estrogen cream or suppository that helps increase the durability and elasticity of the vulvovaginal tissue.
Gossip between friends may lead you to believe a vagina can “wear out” or expand too much. However, that’s simply not true.
Again, the vagina does change a lot over the course of a lifetime.
After labor and delivery of a baby, for example, your vagina may feel different, and that’s to be expected. But that doesn’t mean it’s not as tight as it once was, or that it’s too loose now.
Each vagina is different, and there isn’t one single right degree of tightness or looseness. Any person or media personality that suggests otherwise is full of it!
Still, you know your own body best. So, if something doesn’t feel right during penetration (of any kind!) reach out to a healthcare professional. They can help you come up with a solution that works for you (and your partners, if applicable).
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.