It’s sophomore year of high school, the end of another sacred lunch period, and from across the table, I get the most distressed, well-mascaraed gaze known to any 16-year-old. OMG, it’s a menstrual emergency.
“Do either of you have a tampon?” Unfortunately, neither of us could meet her request. “I just changed mine, but I don’t have another and I really need to pee!”
“You know you can pee with a tampon in, right? That’s like a completely different part of your body…”
The mysticism surrounding what’s up downstairs for young women is getting old. So let’s break down some of the basics, from anatomy to fun facts and even some resources.
Dr. Doe, a sexology teacher, and awesome YouTube creator, would describe the female anatomy as the vagina’s neighborhood because, for starters, the collection of your bits and pieces is called the vulva, not the vagina.
At the front, you’ll find the clitoris which has parts on the outside and inside of your body and is made of 8,000 nerve endings.
The clitoris is covered by a hood and extending from that are two sets of “lips.” The labia minora are considered the inner lips, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and shades.
The outer lips are called labia majora and act as a protector, looking more like your thighs than the minora do.
These, like many parts down south, can and likely will grow hair.
Guess what? You can do whatever you want with it.
Shave it, grow it, dye it blue. That, my dears, is up to you.
(This has been an original Shelby Hoffman rhyme. Just kidding, surely someone has thought that up by now.)
Anywho, the space in between these lips, or the center of the vulva, is called the vestibule. This is where you find the meatus or urethral opening, vaginal introitus or vaginal opening, another space called the perineum, and the anus.
Okay, breathe. We just talked about buttholes and vaginas in the same sentence. It’s kind of funny, and awkward, and ought to be at least a little bit empowering. Onward.
Your Vagina Cleans Itself
Your lady business was designed to take care of its own business if you know what I mean. It has its own “good” bacteria to keep itself regulated and discharge is a sign of a natural cleaning process.
Your Vagina Is Acidic
The average of pH of your vagina is between 4.5 and 3.5 on the pH scale. The acidity of your discharge can vary slightly more, but if you’ve ever wondered what mysteriously bleached your favorite black panties, that natural cleaning system of yours is to blame. #NancyDrew
Your Hymen Does Not, And Should Not, Break
The hymen is a thin membrane that covers varying amounts of your vaginal opening. It rarely covers the whole thing and if it does that calls for a doctor visit. The myth of “popping your cherry,” breaking your hymen, or anything along those lines is false. Any number of things can stretch this membrane. It’s super important we acknowledge this reality because the idea that bleeding or tearing should be expected in your “first time” experience is inaccurate. I repeat: inaccurate.
Maintaining a healthy diet benefits your whole body, including your vagina. But if you’re looking for positive bacteria boosters, the hottest cuisines for your southern friend are yogurt, garlic, and cranberry juice.
I, like many collegiate gals, attended the Vagina Monologues this weekend on my campus. DePaul University made a move towards inclusivity this year by opening the performance to personal additions of many powerful natures, from the transgender experience to asexuality and mental illness.
The overwhelming message of the VMons is to know, love and celebrate your vagina. Where sex education systems and social expectations are failing us, we have a responsibility to carry this message well outside of Valentine’s Day Weekend.
Love your body and know your body. Every part of it. Shamelessly.