The cultural paranoia about size isn't just for men anymore.
Do you or someone you know have a long vagina? You wouldn't be alone if you have absolutely no idea.
Last night, as I was watching Patrick Moote's Unhung Hero, a documentary examining the importance of penis size, I was astonished at the lengths (heh) one man would go to in order to find peace with his package. Moote spent the entire 80-minute documentary globe-trotting from doctor's office to porn shop, neurotically cross-examining sexologists, adult film performers, anthropologists, and urologists about, what he considered, his lack. Moote's preoccupation with his endowment — studies say the average length of a penis varies anywhere between four and six inches — seemed to be attached to his idea of masculinity, romantic value, and power. “Guys don’t want to talk about this,” Moote told Nerve. “When a woman’s breasts are small, everyone sees it, so they have to become okay with it. But with guys, penis size is our dirty little secret.”
This got me thinking — sure, breast size is a part of women's catalogue of culturally-imposed worries — but what about vagina size? Could it be possible that women have developed a concern over the size — length, width, depth, tightness — of their vaginas in a way that's analogous to men's concern for their own jewels?
Other vaginal worries are certainly built into how we socialize women's bodies. Complexes over odor, color, hair style, and labia shape are just some of the issues women learn to develop over time, from the cultural conversation, their friends, and most recently, a booming industry profiting from the so-called problem areas (last year there was a 109 percent increase in labiaplasty inquiries in the UK). But tackling vaginal size is a more complex issue. There's no standard way to measure a vagina's dimensions; scientific studies have described its shape as everything from "conical," "heart," "slug," and even the hilarious "pumpkin seed." Vaginas themselves are on average only three to four inches long, but they can expand up to 200 percent their original size, sort of like a magical balloon, depending on the situation. Science can't peg down the size or shape of a vagina because it's just too variable and can be affected by age, height, arousal, and motherhood.
If there really is no standard pussy size (there is, of course, no "normal"), then there's less of a chance that women will worry about theirs. Everything is internal, anyway. Do the math: the average penis (four to six inches) can't fit completely inside the average vagina (three to four inches). Nothing to worry about, right?
A few years ago, as I was sitting at a bar shamelessly hitting on an attractive gentleman, he noticed I had small hands. I do. They practically haven't grown since I was 9 years-old. "I wonder what that means," I said, referencing the old myth that men with big hands have big dicks. My sister, who was with me, came up behind me and said, "It means you have a short vagina." I was mortified (and thrown off my game). The next night, I began to make a series of increasingly troubling Google searches, "what's the length of a short vagina?" "back of the vagina length," and "what's it feel like, cervix." My sister, with one joke, had unlocked an unfounded worry in me: I had a tiny vagina, unaccommodating to penises.
I reached out to a large group of women to find out whether I was the only lady who had ever questioned the capacity of her cave or if I, like Moote, was a person needlessly obsessed with the size of my goods. Surprisingly, a lot declined to answer. "I just don't really think about my size. What my lips look like, sure, but I've never even thought about it," one woman replies.
"I am 100 percent a victim of a polite Episcopalian upbringing and therefore we didn't talk about sex. Because of that, most of my thoughts haven't even focused on my vagina, so I wouldn't say that I'm worried about her depth, but in recent years as I get to know her better, I've wondered if I'm normal," another woman admits. "A few weeks ago I asked my boyfriend to fill me in on what he feels is average and apparently I fall within the average range. If anything, I would think a shallow vagina would elicit positive feedback. I've always known length in a female to be a bad thing. Like 'you could hear an echo' kind of witty insults."
Indeed, the unsavory insult, "like throwing a hotdog down a hallway," is used for a reason. If a woman is "loose" — or, apparently, has a longer or wider vagina — some men and women find the idea of sex less appealing. As one woman on Reddit wonders if the tightness or looseness of her vagina will change sex for her partner, some men declare they have a "two finger" tightness rule, while other respondents say the pleasure of a vagina depends completely on arousal. For some men and women, looseness is an asset. A satisfied husband gushes on Refinery29, "Since my wife has given birth she has gotten looser — a lot looser — and I really love it! I've been stretching her even more with my fingers and some toys and she really feels amazing." An entire genre of fetish porn called "wrecked holes" exists to celebrate looser lady parts and the toys, fisting fetishes, and experiences that come along with it.
But a lot of other women are preoccupied with their tightness. "I was convinced, convinced, when I was in high school that my vagina was too tight, to the point of being closed – probably due to some inherent frigidity," one 29 year-old woman claims. "It turned out it worked just fine." A 26 year-old woman who was diagnosed with vaginismus — involuntary muscle spasms that make intercourse painful or impossible — says that she was always worried she'd been too small and too tight for sex. Her early pap smears were excruciating and she began to feel like there was something wrong with her for having a vagina too tight for even her gynecologist's exam. "My first partner refused to engage in eye contact with me during sex, so I couldn't feel connected and relaxed and my vag would turn into a fist," she tells me.
Others have what you might call vaginal hubris. "My doctor said I have the longest vaginal canal she's ever seen," the 34-year-old says proudly. Yet another woman says, "I always assumed my tight vagina was kind of cute. Like, a small petite vagina was what people wanted. It would make me adorable." Laser vaginal tightening, vaginal rejuvenation, shrinking cream, Femilift gyms, and other similar procedures and products are becoming ever popular because of this conception that a tight hole is the right hole. They're banking on that mythology that women and men will think a smaller vagina is more adorable. "Be 18 again," one product advertises. "I personally always worried about my tightness. I have a friend whose vagina doesn't curve, but is straight up and down rather than curved. She worried about that too," a 22-year-old woman confesses.
But our conception about vaginas "loosening up" is, for the most part, very incorrect. A vagina expands during sex and during childbirth, but like an elastic, it always comes back. Stretch out your mouth horizontally with your fingers. Now release your fingers. Is your mouth opening the same size? That's how a vagina works during sex. It's only after several children and through aging that vagina size really changes. The amount of sex partners someone has does not correlate to someone's size. But thinking it does might. "I am less tight, but I'm not convinced that it's purely a physiological change," says one woman, who at 25, is concerned about being loose. She has begun to use Kegel exercises, pelvic floor contractions, more and more during sex.
If all of the women I contacted — the younger, the older, the long, the tight, the wide — all had worries and some misconceptions about their lady bits, then maybe men aren't the only ones who have legitimate size drama. Moote was wrong: women might have to get over boob size issues, but they also have "tight and loose" vaginas to grapple with.
Then one 23 year-old woman says the thing that makes me realize why so many women refused to talk to me about vagina size — nobody's complained, but moreover, their friends won't. "I don't think I've ever worried about it mostly because no one has really given me a reason to. If a guy I slept with mentioned something about it negatively though, or if I found out he said something behind my back or whatever, like the way girls do with penis size, I'd probably lose a hell of a lot of sleep over it." Women might not feel as publicly pressured to have a "correct" vagina size because they (fortunately) miss out on the comparison and competitiveness that men have to face with their penises. A part of size pressure is gendered. There's nobody going around ladies' locker rooms sticking rulers up vaginal canals.
Which is for the best. I wasn't trying to unlock any paranoia by questioning women about the one thing that doesn't really ever come up in girl talk, but I seemed to hit on a tenuous cultural soft spot. Women thinking something must be wrong with their vagina size, but nobody actually knows what it is. We're better off shrugging off complaints about size, for both genders, and instead focusing on the ways we can pleasure one another with what we're born with. In a 2010 study published in the International Urogynecology Journal, it was found that vaginal length has absolutely no correlation to sexual activity or function. But age, BMI, and types of relationships did. And if we're talking about heterosexual couples, if the two cultural ideals — the well hung and the extremely tight — were to meet up for a tryst, things might not go so smoothly. Besides, in the words of a woman who refused to comment about size for this article, "None of that really matters. I just have a happy organ."