I speak to lots of men and women about sex and sexuality as well as overall health and wellbeing. Even with all the information we have out there on sexuality, I find that there are many people who use the word “vagina” in a way that makes it clear that they don’t really understand what that word means.
What is a vagina anyway?
Even though the word “vagina” is often used by both men and women to describe the entire area of woman’s genitalia, that is not what a vagina is. Too many times people use the word “vagina” when they really mean to say “vulva”. Trouble is, there are many people who don’t really know what a vulva is either! All of this confusion proves that we (parents, teachers, society in general) are not having accurate conversations about sex with our children as they learn about their bodies and its function.
The structure of the vagina
The vagina is a completely internal structure. What this means is that the vagina is found on the inside of a woman’s body with only the opening reaching the outside. It is a muscular structure shaped like a tube that is usually flattened, but stretches when something is placed inside of it (tampon, penis, etc.) The opening of the vagina is covered by two labia (lips) on either side which are flaps of skin that are joined at the top to form a hood over the clitoris. The opening of the vagina is found between the urethra (where urine leaves the body) and the anus (where feces leaves the body). The whole area that includes the clitoris, the labia (lips) surrounding skin, and the opening of the vagina is called the vulva.
Using the right names for sexual parts
When children are growing up, there are very curious and may even touch themselves if they find that it feels good. Parents can get quite upset or anxious and feel embarrassed about naming actual body parts to kids as they are developing. This can leave kids with the wrong terminology or slang terms that can easily be misunderstood. Let’s teach our children the right words for their body parts so there is less anxiety, less confusion, and straightforward conversation about sex and sexuality.