Get to know your body through a better understanding of your anatomy and find the answers to some of your most common questions.
Because of the stigma, fear, and misinformation around the female body, a number of myths and misconceptions have made their way into our cultural discourse. We're here to bust them, once and for all.
As women, we've been made to feel like something is wrong with our bodies by various industries, from plastic surgery to porn. The ideal vulva we see portrayed over and over again is one that is often without any pubic hair, or with a very neatly arranged strip of pubes, that has the complexion of a Hollywood star, and with inner labia that tuck perfectly inside the outer labia without protruding.
This research paper by Gynodiversity looked at 310 different vulvas and classified their variations. Their goal? "Hopefully this document will help empower the young women who feel these anxieties, because they now have hard evidence that they are perfectly normal."
The truth of the matter is, however, that very, very few vulvas look like this, and that even fewer look like this without the help of photoshopping or expensive, potentially dangerous treatments.
On the hunt for this “ideal” vulva, women across the Middle East -- and indeed across the world -- are turning to female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS) to achieve this ideal. Labiaplasty, surgery for reshaping or resizing the inner labia, is the fastest-growing type of plastic surgery in the world.
The reality is that no two bodies are alike and very few bodies look like the ideal we've been sold. It's the same case with our vulvas.
Some blossom outwards, some are symmetrical, and some are a bit darker. Indeed, it is entirely normal and common for your vulva to be darker in color than the skin in other parts of your body. There is nothing to be "fixed". Your vulva is beautiful, and we want you to take pride (and pleasure) in that.
Disclaimer: Unless you are experiencing pain or discomfort, it is likely that your vulva is completely normal. Physiological changes, pain, or a sudden lack of pleasure are all signs that something could be wrong and that you should see a doctor.
In 2016, 45 percent more labiaplasty procedures were carried out than in 2015, according to data gathered by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Your vagina is actually self-cleaning. This is the result of an incredibly delicate and precise ecosystem that stops harmful bacteria from spreading and uses discharge to carry dead skin cells out of your body and avoid infection. Trying to clean your vagina can actually cause a number of health issues.
Women have been fed this myth that their vaginas should be tight, or that there is such a thing as a “loose” vagina to be avoided. As a result, a number of procedures like laser vaginal tightening have become available in many cities.
Sexual intercourse will not cause your vagina to “loosen’. Childbirth can cause it to lose some of its elasticity, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, it won’t be stretched out permanently and, with correct attention and care, will return to its original form.
This myth of the “loose vagina” is actually so harmful that it is often cited as one of the main causes for women electing to have a C-section over a natural birth. The Cesarean birth, like any other operation, carries with it a number of risks, but these mom-to-be would rather brave those than chance a loose vagina.
Similarly, we’ve been told by a number of leading OB-GYNs in the region about something called “the husband stitch”. If you’re not familiar with it, allow us to explain this to you: During natural childbirth, there is a chance of tearing that happens when the baby’s head is too big for the vaginal canal. The tears may happen naturally, or your doctor may choose to do something called an “episiotomy” and make small cuts to avoid bigger tears. These are totally common, and the doctor will normally just stitch up those cuts or tears as soon as the baby’s out. In some cases, however, patients or their families will ask for an additional stitch or two to be added to make the vaginal opening even smaller than it was before the delivery. This in no way serves to tighten the vagina itself, with naturally expands to deliver the baby, and there is evidence of it resulting in extremely painful sex for both partners.
Finally, it’s also natural for your vagina to change over the course of your life, and this is mostly attributed to age.
The vagina is actually fully inclosed. It would be impossible to lose anything in your vagina or for an object, like a tampon, to migrate deeper into your body.
If you place your index finger inside your vagina, you’ll find that it can only go so far. You should be able to feel the top, or cervix, which acts as somewhat of a gatekeeper for your uterus.
The hymen is not a sign of virginity. Given the variety in hymens, they simply cannot be used as proof of sexual activity.
It stretches, is incredibly elastic, and can tear naturally from activity or sports. In fact, many women won't have an intact hymen long before having sex.
In some cases, the elasticity of the hymen can allow it to retain its shape even after penetrative activities, depending, again, on the person’s body. Hymens can tear during sex or they might rip a bit to make room for the penis, but they can also be elastic enough to handle vaginal intercourse without sustaining any damage. So, in many cases, while sex may alter the appearance of the hymen, it won’t make it disappear.
There is simply no medical way to tell if someone has had sex by looking at their hymen.
The hymen has relatively few blood vessels that – even if torn – may not bleed significantly. Forced penetration and lack of lubrication may cause lacerations to the vaginal wall, which are most likely to be responsible for the “blood-stained bed sheets,” rather than trauma to the hymen. In fact, several studies have documented that bleeding is not routinely observed after a woman’s first sexual intercourse.
Remember: Knowledge turns the tide.