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Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to vaginas. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there.

So much of what we hear about vaginas growing up — they shouldn’t smell, they get stretched out — isn’t only inaccurate, but it can also make us feel all sorts of unnecessary shame and stress.

So we put together a bunch of totally true facts about vaginas and vulvas to help you navigate the labyrinth of lies and appreciate your body in all its glory.

1. Your vulva is not your vagina, but we know what you mean

The vagina is a 3- to 6-inch-long muscular canal that runs from the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, to the outside of the body. The vulva is all the outer stuff — including the labia, urethra, clitoris, and vaginal opening.

You should know the difference because it’s empowering to understand your body’s anatomy and because it might be helpful or even necessary to distinguish between the two — for example, when fooling around with a partner.

But if you find yourself casually referring to your whole area down there as your vagina, don’t sweat it. Language is fluid after all.

2. Most people can’t orgasm from vaginal penetration alone

Sorry, Freud. A little over 18 percent of vagina owners say they can reach orgasm from penetration alone. For the other 80 percent, the key orgasmic ingredient is the clitoris.

Some people can experience both a vaginal and clitoral orgasm at the same time, also called a “blended orgasm,” which may sound rare but it’s totally achievable. There are also plenty of perfectly healthy bodies that rarely or never get all the way to orgasm.

3. Not all people with vaginas are women

Genitalia is not an indicator of gender and it can be harmful to assume so.

There are many people who have a vagina who aren’t women. They may identify as a man or nonbinary.

4. Vaginas do tear during childbirth, but this is normal

Hold the horror movie instrumentals — this is a normal part of childbirth and your body is designed to bounce back.

Upwards of 79 percent of vaginal deliveries include tearing or require an incision. These “injuries” can be minor tears or a longer cut (called an episiotomy) made intentionally by a healthcare provider when, for example, the baby is positioned feet-first or the delivery needs to happen faster.

Scary? Yes. Insurmountable? Not by a long shot.

Your vagina is resilient and, due to ample blood supply, actually heals quicker than other parts of the body.

5. If you have a ‘G-spot,’ it’s likely because of your clitoris

Pop culture has been obsessed with the G-spot for decades, leading many to feel pressure to find the supposed erogenous mecca.

But then a 2017 study failed to locate the G-spot and another large study found less than a quarter of people with vaginas climax from only penetration. So there isn’t strong evidence of the G-spot’s anatomical existence.

If you love having the front wall of your vagina touched or stimulated, your clitoris’s internal network is probably to thank.

6. The clitoris is like the tip of an iceberg

Historically, the clitoris was understood to be a pea-sized collection of nerve endings tucked away under a fold of skin called the clitoral hood that, as many a bad joke goes, men had a very hard time finding.

The actual dimensions of the clitoris went largely unacknowledged by the public until 2009, when a group of French researchers created a life sized 3-D printed model of the pleasure center.

Now we know the clitoris is an expansive network of nerve endings, the vast majority of which exist beneath the surface. Reaching 10 centimeters tip to tip, it’s shaped like a four-pronged wishbone. It looks very hard to miss.

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7. The ‘A-spot’: Possible pleasure center?

The anterior fornix, or the “A-spot,” is a little alcove that sits way back on the belly side of the cervix, a good distance deeper in the vagina than the G-spot.

According to a 1997 study, stimulating your A-spot is an easy way to create more lubrication in the vagina. Not only that, 15 percent of participants in the study reached orgasm from 10 to 15 minutes of A-spot stimulation.

8. Cherries don’t pop. And can we please stop calling them cherries?

Most people with vaginas are born with a hymen, a thin piece of skin that stretches across part of the vaginal opening.

Despite what you may have heard, at no point in your life will this piece of skin ‘pop.’ It’s not a piece of bubble gum, after all.

Hymens often tear before a person ever has penetrative sex, during some unsexy activity like riding a bike or putting in a tampon. But it’s also common for the hymen to tear during sex, in which case a bit of blood is to be expected.

9. The clitoris has twice as many nerve endings as the penis

The famously sensitive penis has around 4,000 nerve endings. The famously “hard-to-find” clitoris has 8,000.

All the more reason to give your clitoris the attention it deserves.

10. Vaginas are supposed to have a smell

This should be common knowledge by now but it’s not. The bottom line? The vagina contains a highly specialized army of bacteria that work ‘round the clock to keep your vaginal pH healthy and balanced.

And like other bacteria, these do have a smell.

So that oh-so-special tanginess you occasionally get a whiff of is totally normal and nothing that needs to be covered up by scented body washes or perfumes. Of course, if you’re noticing a new scent that’s odd or pungent, see a doctor.

11. The vagina is self-cleaning. Let it do its thing

The aforementioned army of specialized bacteria exist for the sole purpose of keeping your vaginal pH at an optimal level to ward off other hostile bacteria.

It’s totally normally to see discharge — which may be thin or thick, clear or whiteish — in your undies at the end of the day. This is the result of your vagina’s cleaning efforts.

Cleaning techniques like douching are a bad idea because they can throw off this natural balance, leading to problems like bacterial vaginosis and infection.

12. You can get ‘wet’ without being sexually aroused

When a vagina is wet, the person must want to have sex right? Wrong. Vaginas can get wet for a bunch of reasons.

Hormones cause cervical mucus to be excreted daily. The vulva has a high concentration of sweat glands. Also, vaginas can automatically produce lubrication when they’re touched, regardless of arousal. (A phenomenon called arousal non-concordance, that’s more common in women.)

Remember: Vaginal wetness should never be considered a signal of consent. Consent has to be verbalized. Period.

Oh, and pee often finds its way onto the vulva.

13. Vaginas get deeper when we’re turned on

With sex on the mind, the vagina opens its doors.

Normally, the vagina is somewhere between 3 to 6 inches long, and 1 to 2.5 inches wide. After arousal, the upper portion of the vagina elongates, pushing the cervix and uterus slightly deeper into your body to make room for penetration.

14. And they also change color

When you’re horny, blood rushes to your vulva and vagina. This can make the color of your skin in that area appear darker.

Don’t worry though, it’ll go back to its normal shade after sexy time is over.

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15. Most orgasms aren’t earth-shattering and that’s ok

The media’s overly theatrical portrayal of what it looks like to have an orgasm has created an unrealistic standard for what an orgasm should be. The truth is, orgasms come in all shapes and sizes — and that means intense lip-biting or back-arching doesn’t have to be involved.

Many orgasms are short and sweet, while others feel more powerful and profound. Try not to get too fixated on the size of your orgasm. Remember, sex is a journey, not a destination.

16. You can lift weights with your vagina

Vaginal weightlifting — the act of inserting an ‘anchor’ into the vagina that’s attached to a weight on a string — is more than click bait, it’s actually a way to strengthen your pelvic floor.

Sex and relationship coach Kim Anami is a vocal advocate for the exercise. She says stronger vaginal muscles can make sex last longer and feel better.

17. Some people have two vaginas

Due to a rare abnormality called uterus didelphys, a very small number of people actually have two vaginal canals.

People with two vaginas can still get pregnant and deliver a baby, but there’s a much higher risk for miscarriage and preterm labor.

18. The clitoris and penis share a hometown

In the beginning, all fetuses have what’s called a genital ridge. For both male and female fetuses, the ridge is indistinguishable.

Then around the 9th week after conception, this embryonic tissue begins to develop into either the head of a penis or a clitoris and labia majora. But the point is, we all start off in the same place.

19. Childbirth doesn’t permanently stretch out the vagina, but expect some changes

In the days directly after giving birth vaginally, your vagina and vulva will likely feel bruised and swollen. It’s also common for your vagina to feel more open than normal on account of the human that recently passed through.

But don’t worry, the swollenness and openness subsides within a few days.

Then there’s the dryness. The postpartum body makes less estrogen, which is partially responsible for vaginal lubrication. So you’ll feel drier overall after giving birth, and especially when breastfeeding because this further suppresses estrogen production.

Although your vagina will likely remain a little wider than it was pre-birth, you can keep your vaginal muscles toned and healthy by practicing regular pelvic floor exercises.

20. You can’t lose a tampon — or anything — in your vagina

That moment of panic during sex when you realize you definitely put a tampon in that morning? Yeah, we’ve all been there. But don’t worry, your tampon will only go so far.

At the deep end of your vagina is your cervix, the bottom portion of your uterus. During childbirth, your cervix dilates — opens up — as the baby passes through. But the rest of the time your cervix stays closed, so you can’t really get anything accidentally lost or stuck in there.

However, what’s common is forgetting about a tampon for days or even weeks. In which case it might start to give off a rotten, dead organism-like smell.

While it’s totally safe to try to extract a forgotten tampon yourself, you may want to see a doctor to make sure you get all the pieces.

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21. The size and location of your clitoris matters for orgasm

According to a 2014 study, the reason some people with vaginas have trouble orgasming during penetrative sex could be because of a relatively small clitoris that’s located a bit too far from the vaginal opening.

22. When you’re pregnant, your underwear becomes a mini slip ‘n slide

In order to protect you and the little human growing inside you from infection, your vagina goes on a cleaning spree resulting in a semi-constant stream of discharge. Expect the amount of discharge to keep increasing as your pregnancy gets further and further along.

You can expect the discharge to be thin and clear to milky colored up until the final week of pregnancy when it’ll take on a pinkish hue.

It shouldn’t ever smell pungent or fishy, or have a chunky texture, so if it does it’s best to see a doctor.

23. Got cramps? Your vagina might help with that

Try giving yourself an orgasm to stimulate the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. The natural pain-relieving effects of these chemicals can ease pain from menstrual cramps, and the afterglow of an orgasm relaxes muscles.

When masturbating, some people enjoy using a vibrator or watching something sexy to get in the mood. And if you’re curious about touching yourself in new pleasurable ways, check out our guide on female orgasms.


Ginger Wojcik works on Healthline’s production team. She loves surfing, writing, and breakfast — in that order. Follow more of her work on Medium.