In schools at least, some variation of this question is reasonably common – people worry either that a vagina isn’t big enough to accommodate a penis/sex toy/ tampon, or that it will become stretched out of shape by any of those things.
The vagina is a tube, about 8cm long. It isn’t quite hollow – but it can stretch a lot. To make space for a baby’s head, for example – which is much bigger than pretty much any penis.
The vagina might change shape after childbirth (after any number of children). But the idea of it becoming ‘baggy’ is probably more of an exaggeration.
As well as facilitating Sex Ed workshops in schools for the last month, I’ve been involved in a few events aimed exclusively at adults. Although the style of presentation has been different, these have all involved using an arts & crafts or D.I.Y approach. These events reaffirmed my belief in this as a particularly good medium for exploring personal issues in a fun, engaging and accessible way.
The first was a ‘genital making’ workshop, hosted by the Candid Collective. Adapted from an activity used to teach children about anatomy, puberty and health, this saw us showing adults how to make vulvas and penises with air drying clay to then be turned in to fridge magnets! Held in a cosy upstairs room of a pub in South London, it had a very different feel to the classroom and was lots of fun.
The second was a talk for the antiuniversity lecture series – in which a group of us took to a local park to talk about arts and craft as a medium for discussing bodies and our own experiences of sex ed. This culminated in making a ‘zine page about some of the issues that had been brought up.
There are a couple of future crafting themed sex and relationship events (in London) for adults that you may be interested in:
Thanks to Lisa, Leah, Adam and Bel for the images!
This non-fiction graphic novel is a glorious, witty and visually engaging look at a history of attitudes towards vulval genitalia throughout the ages. It kicks off with a run down of top 10 men who were interested in vulvas in unhealthy ways. I was educated, outraged and entertained, all in equal measures. This is a book I wished I had doodled!
I’ve stumbled across a few examples of misunderstandings about (cis/typical) female genital anatomy that have really surprised me recently. A common one seems to be that the vagina (entrance to the uterus) is the same ‘hole’ as the urethra (where wee comes from). In humans at least, it isn’t. This comes up on the labour ward a fair bit- perplexed partners asking how baby can ‘get out’ if a catheter is put in. An episode of The Guilty Feminist included a confession by one of the presenters that she didn’t know where her urethra was, “even though I’ve pushed a baby out of it.” I am very sure she hasn’t.
Above is a diagram. Imagine you are standing next to someone laid on their back, legs akimbo. There are three ‘holes’, all shown in red. The top one is the urethra- connected to the bladder. Wee comes out here. The middle one is the vagina. The lowest is the anus. It is my dream that one day everyone will be able to sketch it as easily as the hairy penis with balls. You know the one I mean. You’ve probably seen it scrawled on a bus seat, toilet door or similar.