Vaginas are confusing, we know

What’s funny about vaginas is that nobody knows too much about them. Men see vaginas the way women never do, which is front on, from behind, from the side, with tastes and smells that few heterosexual women ever enjoy. Women experience their vaginas primarily by touch, a lot of imagination, and a top-down approach.

The vagina is invisible, even the woman who owns it. There are so many bits of wet or dry, wrinkly skin, it’s amazing anyone ever figures it out. Lots of women don’t know much at all about their vaginas, so next time you find yourself perplexed, you can consider yourself in good company.

As we go through life, there are many vulvovaginal or reproductive issues that women will face. Often, a partner will be there by her side, going through these issues with her. These problems can range from annoying infections to devastating cancers or other debilitating or life-threatening diseases. Life is not always kind.

Having a bit more information on these issues as a partner can be extremely useful, since there is so much tied up in our pelvis besides our reproductive system. How women feel about their vaginas is influenced by our societal values, what we are taught, and what we manage to figure out on our own. Having something go wrong can have far-reaching emotional effects.

Welcome! Don’t forget, if you have any questions, Aunt Vadge knows everything and she’d love to help you.

Know your anatomy

There are so many jokes about clueless guys not being able to find the clitoris, but it’s not that funny when it’s you who can’t find it, or worse, thinks you’ve found it, and it’s not it, but it’s too excruciating to say anything.

Knowing your anatomy starts with theory, naming body parts, and understanding how each one functions and what it’s there to do. The inner labia, for example, is highly vascular and extremely sensitive, whereas the outer labia are just not cut from the same cloth at all.

Knowing basically where everything should go is your first job.

The best teacher of a body you have is your lover, so if you’re not sure, stop acting like you know what you’re doing, and ask for lessons in her anatomy. Each woman is a bit different, since her pelvic nerve bundles are packed in there somewhat randomly compared to men’s pelvic nerve bundles, which means what feels divine to Kiara will be different to what feels divine to Rebecca.

The pelvic nerve bundles and why each woman is genuinely built differently to another

Think of an orderly row of street lights standing to attention down your spine and into your pelvis. Those are your pelvic nerve bundles. Now think of a tangle of 100 fairy lights thrown into her pelvis. That’s what her pelvic nerve bundles look like. It’s now your job to find the access points, the sweet spots, to the bundle – from the outside.

Like a challenge? Good. You’ve got one. She might have no idea where these sweet spots are either, so you’ve got a choose-your-own adventure on your hands.

The arrangement of these nerve bundles is why every woman can be so different in terms of what she likes and doesn’t like in terms of touch and sex, and why generally speaking men are pretty predictable. Some women orgasm intensely from anal sex, while others just have no idea what the big deal is, despite a good effort – thank you nerve bundles.

These nervous arrangements are also why finding the magic set of areas on her body that she may not even know about is so important for her to be satisfied sexually. If you manage to find them, then you have to learn how to touch them, but that’s another story. (We suggest OMGYES for you both for this undertaking.)

You may not know, but the clitoris is more like the Starship Enterprise than a cute little button. It has legs and arms that get erect, just like your penis does, but inside her body. Your job is to give her a boner, or sex won’t work, just like you. If you are paying attention, you will see that a turned-on woman’s vagina and vulva are quite different to when she is not turned on or not turned on enough.

Skip to the bottom for more sex advice.

Birth control and contraception

Reasons to think harder about contraception:

  • Be in charge of your first-born
  • Don’t spread bad vag around (yes, you guys are spreading fishy vagina around)
  • Don’t catch a nasty STD

We’ve written up an important post about how men can start being more in charge of no babies. If you are enjoying many lovers, you need to be very, very careful where your sperm ends up. Don’t leave it to chance or up to someone you don’t really know.

Know thine enemy and become friends – hormones

Women’s hormones go in a predictable cycle of – if we take vaginal fluids as our cue – bleeding, dry, bit moister, silky smooth egg-white ovulatory phase, bit moist, wetter, bleeding again. The lowest ebb of her cycle is the bleeding and dry bit at the end of her period. The most fun part is while she is ovulating. That is, in a woman who is not on any hormonal birth control and has regular monthly cycles.

We don’t live in a perfect world – many women have irregular cycles, underlying medical concerns, and even more are on a form of hormonal birth control that dulls out everything cyclic. If you don’t live in the perfect world of a healthy menstrual cycle, it would pay to educate yourself on how your lover’s cycle may differ from the norm, which will help you to understand what to expect from her.

Hormones do not exist in a reproductive vacuum – they affect every single part of who we are and how we do things, just like men. If you take testosterone away from a man’s body, he’ll get fat and depressed. This applies, albeit differently, to women’s bodies – women need oestrogen and progesterone for their bodies and minds to work optimally.

Progesterone, for example, is a hefty natural anti-anxiety, but you have to ovulate (e.g. not be on hormonal birth control) for progesterone to be released.

The reason progesterone is only for two weeks of every month is because it’s what holds a fertilised egg in the side of the uterus when a woman gets pregnant, until the little foetus can start its own food supply chain. It is also the base hormone from which adrenaline and cortisol are made.

That’s just an example. Your lover(s) may or may not have much idea about their own hormones, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take an interest. It’s pretty interesting stuff!

Vaginal (and penile) infections you should know about

Men can and do catch and pass on the bacteria from the women they have sex with, since vaginas are full of bacteria. Usually it’s friendly, but it can very easily not be.

Men can catch:
  • Your regular, run-of-the-mill sexually transmitted infections (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, etc.)
  • The bacteria that cause women to have fishy-smelling vaginas (bacterial vaginosis), but men get no symptoms usually
  • Yeast infections

Men with foreskins collect more bacteria and pass on more bacteria to female partners, particularly bacteria that form biofilms. These biofilms can develop in the urethra an around the head of the penis, being conveniently deposited into vagina after vagina. You may get a clear STI screening, but this does not mean you haven’t left a trail of bad vag behind you.

If you have a history of women with smelly vaginas or vaginal problems, including urinary tract infections, consider reading Killing BV: Guide for Men. If a lover has bad smells, you need to tell them, so they can go and get tested, and you can both be treated if necessary.

Don’t ever put your penis into a vagina that smells bad without a condom. It’s got bad germs, and you can catch them.

Sex advice

Having better sex is everyone’s problem to solve, and while having a real lover who teaches you everything you need to know is ideal, it doesn’t always work like that.

Here are some basics to get you started:

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.