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5 Myths About The Vagina You Need To Know Now

January 19 2023 | Written by Rhea Kumar (She/Her)

Considering the lack of sex education and healthy conversation surrounding natural bodily functions, it comes to no surprise that the many myths of the mysterious vagina are alive and well. Should it look a certain way? Must it smell a certain way? Is there really a way to make it appear more ‘sexy’? Here lies a certain reluctance to address the vagina for what it simply is: anatomy. It’s not a decoration. Its existence isn’t connected to the satisfaction of visual appeal. After all, all body parts come in many shapes, sizes, and colors- so why is there so much concern about the vagina? I mean, to be fair, we do place a lot of attention on other body parts as well, but let’s save that conversation for another day!

Absent in popular depictions of vaginas is reality. Porn is just the start: perfectly manicured vaginas seem to exist for entertainment. Education about the vagina is even more of a desert. In fact, only 13 states require sex education to be ‘medically accurate’. It’s no surprise that many people with vaginas give into myths about it, and oftentimes, most of these myths are just wrong. 

But as always, we’re here to help. Here are 5 myths about the vagina.

Your Vagina Needs to Smell A Certain Way 

woman holding papaya by pelvic area

Probably the most angering misconception about the vagina is that its scent must be reminiscent of a daisy. Well, the truth is that like all genitalia, a scent is individual. Dr. Karen Boyle MD FACS, says that it’s normal for the vagina to have a slight odor, and this odor is dependent on your menstrual cycle and other lifestyle considerations like whether you’ve been sweating a lot, or just had sex. 

However, if you realize that your vagina doesn’t smell like its normal self and has an odor you’ve probably never smelt before or is particularly strong, it’s best to make a visit to the gynecologist for an examination. There are distinct causes of abnormal vaginal odors, such as bacterial vaginosis. 

The point here really is: the vagina is not predestined to smell like a perfume bottle. It’s an organ.

There is a “Right” Way That a Vulva Should Look 

peaches cut out to look like vulvas

In the age of rising concerns over visual aesthetics, it makes sense that the hysteria over perfection would cross into the vaginal territory. (I mean, where has it not?) When most people refer to the vagina, they’re often referring to the vulva: the external, visible part of your genitals. 

Sorry to break the news, but aesthetics aren’t that crucial for the maintenance of your vagina. Yes, it’s true. The pageantry of the vulva is basically useless. After all, like all other body parts we were born with, the vulva comes in many shapes, colors and sizes. Some people can have a dangly labia, a puffy labia, or even one that’s barely visible. 

Pain Is Normal

woman grabbing their stomach with menstrual cramps

Thanks to Fleabag, we can (kind of)  laugh at the pain that most menstruators experience, but in all honesty, the pain is no joke, and it certainly should not be taken lightly. Pain, in certain cases can be normal, for example during menstruation. However, it’s the extent and duration that might be a sign that something deeper is going on. Yes, some light cramps can be totally normal, but if it's impacting your ability to live your life, it's not something that we should just "put up with."

Mensturators, or people with vaginas often take their pain as a side effect of simply having a vagina. While this can be quite ‘noble’ in thinking, don’t be afraid to check in on that pain, and to seek medical advice when you think it’s abnormal. 

We may be built with the organs that can often cause pain, but that doesn’t mean that you should be experiencing pain all the time, especially vaginal pain. 

Vaginal discharge is a sign that something is wrong 

grapefruit with plain white background. grapefruit has white liquid on it.

Sadly, many people with vaginas learn far too late that vaginal discharge is healthy! If you fall into the category of people who didn’t learn that ‘cottage cheese panties’ (thanks, Jenny Slater) are completely normal, then we are here to tell you that it is in fact normal.  Vaginal discharge is simply a fluid that is released through the vaginal opening and is a signal that your vagina is a well-oiled, self cleaning machine. 

Vaginal discharge is a common concern amongst women, and while in the majority of cases it’s normal, some types of discharge can be an indication of a deeper underlying issue. For example, grey discharge could signal a case of Bacterial Vaginosis. Check out the Marlow discharge guide to learn more. And, as always, if you have any concerns, it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor.

Vaginal Penetration is The Key to An Orgasm 

Are we still seriously having this conversation!? It’s 2023, and that means that we’ve got to address the elephant in the hypothetical room. Vaginal penetration is not the key to an orgasm. Though it can be. But most people require some clitoral stimulation. (In fact, there are numerous ways to orgasm that don’t even necessarily include genitalia).

The vagina is a source of pleasure, of pain, and can be a helpful tool to indicate certain changes in health. We use it everyday and yet there lies so much mystery within this body part.  So, let’s work on changing that, one conversation at a time.