Unlocking the Mysteries of the Vulva

by Kristin T.

September 17, 2023


Hopefully everyone that’s received any kind of education (or at least watched Kindergarten Cop) knows that “boys have a penis and girls have a vagina”. Unfortunately for some, that’s about where the anatomical & biological knowledge stops.

There is so much confusion about the female body – especially the genitals – that I felt the need to do some humorous myth-busting. There are so many meme-able posts and threads all over the internet with men just clearly showing they don’t know how the female body works, and that’s sad.

If you don’t know much about the female genitalia, that’s fine…you can educate yourself and learn more…but until that point, don’t try to pontificate like you’re the pastor of pussy, or mansplain and argue about things that you, as a man, clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

Sadly, we live in a world where men who make decisions about what women can do with their bodies, some of whom think a woman’s body can “shut down a pregnancy” in the event of “legitimate rape”. And also where celebrities creepily discuss monitoring their daughter’s virginity by going to her gyno appointments with her for “hymen checks”, referring to the hymen like it’s some sort of freshness seal (it’s not). We desperately need everyone to know more, and for those who don’t know anything to be quiet. As Abraham Lincoln put it, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt”.

Let’s start where it starts – the confusion over vulvas.

I assure you it’s a word AND a thing.

Ah, the vulva. A source of great consternation for many (almost exclusively men) who don’t understand what it is. There’s even the great tale of this guy who tried to mansplain why the correct word should be vagina (on a collection of art photographs of vulvas) TO A FEMALE GYNECOLOGIST who has literally written books about female genital anatomy. The vulva refers to the external female genitalia which includes the vaginal opening (yes, the entry to the vagina…the word vagina actually refers to the part inside the body that you can’t see from the outside), but also the many parts that surround said vagina. There’s a lot more to it than just the vagina, and that’s why there’s a different name for it. See the image below for clarification. The vulva is real and we all need to know how to talk about it correctly, regardless of whether or not we have one! Also, my dude, your profile pic is terrifying.

But wait, there’s more.

Now, onto even more meme-able ignorance about the female genitalia. Mind you, there are entire websites and articles that just list HUNDREDS of these, with titles like “Not How Girls Work” and “35 Times Men Were A Little More Than Confused by Women’s Anatomy”. Many of these conversations are pulled from Twitter, text conversations, or Reddit (hence the hilaribad subreddit just for sharing them, r/badwomensanatomy), so these misconceptions are clearly rampant. This is just a handpicked few that I thought could use a little extra commentary or explanation. Enjoy…when you’re done cringing about how bad they are, at least.

She tried to tell him…

Fun fact: Vagina owners DO in fact have a “3rd hole” that they pee out of. While men only have one opening in their penis which they both pee and ejaculate from, women have a separate urethra. It’s a tiny hole in between the clitoris and the vagina, and it’s connected to the bladder and just for pee. Not pleasure or sex or reproduction…just pee. Men and women both have anuses, and I think this guy’s actually the one talking out of his.

Nope, that one’s NOT a hole!

This poor bloke seems very confused about the nature of the clitoris. While women do have 3 holes down there as we just established, the clit is absolutely not one of them…nor should anyone “make one” into it…fuckin’ OUCH!!! He has clearly never been anywhere near a clitoris, and probably never should be until he learns what it is and how to properly provide sexual pleasure by stimulating it…which is NOT by “sticking anything into it”.

The gynecological exam is never pleasurable.

This guy was trying to pretend he knew what he was talking about, but fell flat on his face by implying that women enjoyed going to the gyno. Just because they’re sticking things in our vaginas doesn’t mean we’re going to orgasm or “moan” like we’re taking pleasure…we’re not. The metal contraption (called a speculum) OP mentions is meant to hold the vagina open so the doctor can visually examine and then SCRAPE YOUR CERVIX (the muscular, tunnel-like organ that connects your vaginal canal to your uterus – it’s very sensitive, btw, and not in a good way) with a little metal spatula and wood & cotton swabs. It’s not pleasurable. It doesn’t feel good. We’re never going to moan or orgasm or take pleasure in it. Oh and while we’re on the subject…because I saw plenty of posts about this, too…inserting or wearing tampons also doesn’t get us all hot n’ bothered. If this is what you think women enjoy sexually, you need a crash course in pleasing a woman.

Meaty lady boners??

This guy is clearly very wrong, to the point of confusing all women who stumbled upon the post, but at least he’s confidently wrong? While we can only conjecture about what he’s actually talking about, this fellow seems to think women’s “meat be hangin'” when they are aroused. I’m going to assume he’s talking about the labia, maybe? And that he thinks they swell and hang down more when a woman is horny? But that’s definitely not a thing, so I’m just going to assume he’s never actually been around a horny woman and has no idea wtf he’s talking about, as the first commenter so aptly puts it. While men get very visible erections when they are aroused, nothing that shows on the outside will tell you whether a woman is horny or turned on. If you imply her ‘meat is hanging out’, though, you’ll probably very quickly turn her off…of you…for good.

It’s not a myth just because you’ve never seen one.

This guy who felt the need to comment on an otherwise empowered post about the clitoris needs a lesson or ten. The clitoris is not a unicorn. It’s not a myth “perpetrated” (I’m gonna assume he meant perpetuated, but clearly not too bright here) to complain about “nice guys” – aka, again, assuming from context, guys who don’t know how to find the clitoris or pleasure a woman sexually. The clitoris is a very real, very sensitive sex organ that is very important for many women to be able to experience sexual pleasure and orgasm. Penetration alone just doesn’t do it for most! So if you think the clit doesn’t exist because just you’ve never been able to find it, check out the diagram at the beginning of this post and gain some knowledge for next time.

Our current Sex Ed system is clearly a failure.

So, these posts definitely show a certain level of weaponized stupidity to the point of being silly and hilarious, but they point to a larger, very real issue. And I’m not even getting into the many, many posts about guys confused about how periods, feminine hygiene products, pregnancy, childbirth, UTIs, yeast infections, or virginity work…this post would go on forever. There’s that many of them. So unless aaaalllllll these people actually do know their stuff and are trolling – which seems unlikely – we have that many men out there who have zero concept about the female body & genitals…inside or outside.

Guys, we’re not saying it’s you and only you that don’t understand how things work down there, either. Most girls in most schools just aren’t taught this stuff, either, even though it’s very important! Many people with vulvas grow into adulthood without knowing the names & functions for all the parts of their own genitals. This can present a problem at doctor visits, and it also makes pleasure communication difficult. How can you tell your partner where your clitoris is if you don’t know yourself? Your own private parts shouldn’t be a mystery to you!

As you can probably tell from just this handful of posts, we need better sex education, STAT. Girls who don’t get basic sex ed. grow up needing to learn it from their moms or another grown-up woman in their life – who may provide misinformation or pass on internalized misogyny because that’s what they were taught – or not learning it at all. Comprehensive sex ed. needs to be taught in all schools in all states & countries, by qualified teachers, at developmentally appropriate stages across all grade levels, and both sexes clearly need to be taught at least the anatomical & functional basics of their own bodies AND those of the opposite sex. It’s just not acceptable that so many kids make it through school and to adulthood without understanding such an important part of the human body…and how the human reproductive system works (because I also found lots of posts by men saying women needed to orgasm during sex to become pregnant…boy, do we have news for them!).

Rely on self-education.

Until a perfect sex ed. program is standard, in the meantime, many of us are stuck educating ourselves. While the internet is chock-full of dubious information, there are lots of reliable sources, too. Websites of reputable medical institutions like The Cleveland Clinic & Johns Hopkins have lots of great resources. Scarleteen, which is aimed mainly at “teens and emerging adults” but is chock full of GREAT information for everyone, has “Innies & Outies” pages about the real inner & outer parts and workings of the female sexual anatomy as well as the male sexual anatomy. Our Bodies, Ourselves has a great resource clarifying all the parts of the vulva, too.

Lover’s Lane has always been a leader in providing educational publications, too. On the topic of female genitalia and pleasure, the following books are unbeatable!

No matter what bits you have downstairs, you owe it to yourself to educate yourself. Whether you have a vulva or spend any time near one, doing some research in the sources above will help you immensely. Unlocking the mysteries of the vulva (or of the penis and prostate if that’s what you know less about) will help you:

  • Understand your own body better.
  • Understand your partner’s body better.
  • Provide more pleasurable stimulation & communicate with your partner about pleasure.
  • Use the right names for parts of the female genitalia.
  • Communicate with your doctor about concerns in your vulvovaginal area.
  • Understand what’s normal and what’s not to stay on top of your own vulvovaginal health & hygiene.
  • Show you know about female reproductive biology and anatomy, even if you’re a male.
  • Avoid mansplaining about things you know nothing about and becoming a meme with your internet posting like some of the folks in this article. 😉

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