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The Vagina Files

We’re not afraid to get real about sexual health. But have you got the low-down on your lady bits?

Clare Baxter

It’s been a while since we were in awks-inducing sex ed classes labelling fallopian tubes. But even as adults in 2019, we could all stand to learn more about our vaginas. Luckily, it seems they’re quite the hot topic right now. Athletes, such as Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui and fitness guru Kayla ltsines, are candid about how periods affect their performance, while celebs share everything from vagina-steaming pics (Chrissy Teigen, we’re looking at you – doctors advise against it, BTW) to stories of endometriosis. Heck, singer Janelle Monáe even wears vulva-shaped trousers in her music video for Pynk. And we’re 100 percent here for it. So, in the spirit of myth-busting, behold the trivia you never knew you needed to know about your vagina et al. Class is officially in session.

WHAT ACTUALLY COUNTS AS THE VAGINA?

A The stretchy, muscular passageway from the vulva to the cervix.

B Everything going on down there.

C The lips outside the genitals.

ANSWER: A. High-10 if you got this one right: a British survey by The Eve Appeal found 44 percent of women couldn’t point out the vagina on a diagram of the reproductive tract. “People often get mixed up with their vagina and their vulva,” says family-planning specialist Dr Deborah Bateson. So, how can you tell them apart? Think of the vagina as the stretchy, muscular internal passageway from the opening of the vagina to the cervix at the top, which leads to the uterus. Whereas the vulva is the outside part of your genitals, including the inner and outer lips (labia), the clitoris, urethral opening (for pee) and vaginal opening. V enlightening.

How long is the average clitoris?

A 1 to 2cm

B 5 to 6cm

C 9 to 11cm

ANSWER: C. Yep, you’re packing down there. The pea-sized part you can see (named the head or glans) is just the tip of the iceberg – a tip that contains 8 000 nerve endings (double the amount in the penis, not that it’s a competition). “The clitoris is a large organ hidden beneath the surface, with four legs and a long neck,” explains Dr Nina Brochmann, co-author of The Wonder Down Under: A User’s Guide To The Vagina. “It can measure up to 11cm within the body, surrounding your genitals.”

Your body needs a break from hormonal contraception.

A True.

B False.

ANSWER: B. A US survey of almost 900 young women published in the journal Women’s Health Issues (no relation) found that more than half thought they should hit pause on their contraception to stay healthy. But unless you’re trying to get pregnant, there’s no need, says Bateson. “If you’ve found a pill that works for you, there are no health benefits in stopping.” In fact, stopping and starting may cause unwanted side effects because of the fluctuations in the reproductive hormones. Better to do your research first. “A growing number of women would rather have something more natural – either lower doses of hormones or no hormones at all, so it’s important to be aware of your options,” she says. “If you do want to switch, make sure you’re aware of the need to take other precautions if you don’t want to become pregnant right now.”

Lady boners: the real deal?

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July 2019

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