If you have a vagina, you may have felt insecure about it at some point. Maybe the beauty ideals in porn led you to believe your labia were the wrong size or shape. Perhaps you were taught that vaginas didn't smell good. Or maybe you were afraid that period sex would be aversive to your partner. It's hard to deny that those with vaginas have been subject to an enormous amount of shaming. But here's the good news: As OB/GYN Jen Gunter demonstrates in her book The Vagina Bible, vaginas are not unsanitary, unattractive, or anything else misogynistic marketing makes them out to be.
Even as taboos on female genitalia lift, we've somehow become subject to even more unrealistic standards. The rise of products like vaginal wipes and washes are partially to blame, as are celebrities who promote unnecessary treatments like vaginal steaming and vaginal vitamin E. These products and therapies often advertise themselves under the guise of improving health, but they really thrive off body shaming.
"Shaming women about their healthy vaginas and vulvas is not a new phenomenon," Gunter tells Bustle. "Products that claim (falsely, of course) to treat vaginal odor or to 'cleanse' or 'tighten' have been around for decades, if not centuries. These products (as well as home-made versions) predated our understanding of the vaginal ecosystem and of contraception. They were from a time when a woman's worth was measured in the weird duality of her being virginal as well as being able to produce offspring. Despite the fact that we now have decades of research telling us that a vagina is just fine, thank you very much, these products are proliferating instead of going away."
But you know better than to listen to them — or, if you don't, you will soon. Here are some vagina worries that may have been drilled into you but that you don't actually have to worry about at all.
Not Experiencing "G-Spot" Pleasure
The myth that there's a "G-spot" inside the vagina that will produce wild squirting orgasms whenever it's touched often makes women who don't reliably orgasm through intercourse — aka the majority of women — feel abnormal. But in fact, the clitoris is necessary for most female orgasms, and there's no proof that the G-spot even exists.
Dr. Graffenburg, after whom the G-spot is named, actually never described an anatomical structure, Gunter points out. When he wrote about a sensitive zone on the front wall of the vagina, "he was likely describing the body, root, and bulbs of the clitoris as they envelop the urethra," she writes. "As expected, multiple studies have found no macroscopic structure other than the urethra, the clitoris, and vaginal wall in the location of the so-called G-spot."
So, while some women find pleasure in internal stimulation because it accesses the inner clitoris, many don't, and that's OK. "Basically, all pleasure roads lead to the clitoris," Gunter writes. "It is best to do away with terms like vaginal orgasm and G-spot as they are incorrect. The goal is female orgasm and it can be achieved in so many ways."
Many women feel like they're missing out if they don't squirt, but there isn't any relationship between whether you squirt and how much pleasure you feel. And often, the desire to squirt is not for the sake of the woman herself but for the sake of her (often male) partner.
"Some women feel they are inadequate if they can’t squirt and there are already enough sex myths that reduce a woman’s pleasure to a male metric," Gunter writes. "A good sexual encounter is not about optics that make a man (it’s usually a man in this scenario) feel as if he has achieved something. A good sexual encounter is about pleasure. As long as you are having an orgasm or two, who cares about anything else?"
What Underwear You Wear
"There is always some 'non-expert expert' willing to endorse the idea that a vagina is constantly in a source of near panic," Gunter says. "No one is worried about the rectum, though, and that is full of stool."
Due to the view of vaginas as accidents waiting to happen, unnecessary attention has been paid to what kind of underwear women wear. You sometimes hear that you should wear white, cotton underwear to avoid yeast infections, but according to Gunter, it doesn't really matter.
"The vulva can handle urine, feces, and blood and vaginas can handle blood, ejaculate, and a baby so this idea that a black lace thong is the harbinger of a vaginal or vulvar apocalypse is absurd," she writes. And contrary to popular wisdom, spending the day in a bathing suit probably won't hurt your either. Nor do you have to forgo undergarments. "Many women tell me they don’t wear undergarments so their 'vagina can breathe,' but the vulva and vagina don’t have lungs," Gunter writes in one of the best lines of the book. So, wear whatever kind of underwear you want, or none at all. It doesn't matter.
How Much Lubrication You Produce
Some women feel ashamed of needing lube because they believe they should be ready for sex whenever they want it. But that's not always the case. "Sometimes your mind is raring to go and your body hasn’t quite caught up yet, so a boost from a bottle can get you there faster," Gunter writes.
Others fear that they're producing too much vaginal lubrication, but there's really no such thing. "I hear from women that some male partners 'don’t like' lubricant or say it affects their erection," Gunter writes. "It’s only a few milliliters of lube (far less than an ounce) so it’s not exactly as if his penis is encased in pudding. I’m no urologist, but if he uses this excuse this 'too wet' excuse, then either he doesn’t know what an excited vagina feels like or he is projecting his medical condition, typically erectile dysfunction, onto you."
Your Vagina's Cleanliness
Despite what all the vaginal hygiene products out there would have you believe, your vagina is already perfectly clean. It's self-cleaning, so you don't need to use any products on it. In fact, you shouldn't, because they can irritate the skin and disturb your vaginal microbiome.
"It is important to remember that the concept of female cleanliness has largely been driven by a male dominated society that for centuries, if not longer, has decided normal female genitals and secretions are 'dirty,'" Gunter writes. "The idea that a healthy vagina is unclean and/or requires some kind of prep for men is a great example of the dangers of ancient medical beliefs."
Your Pubic Hair
According to a 2016 study in JAMA Dermatology, 83.8 percent of American women remove their pubic hair, and 59 percent think this improves their cleanliness. This is a complete myth. In fact, pubic hair actually serves to keep the genitals clean. "Its function is likely protecting the vulva by providing physical protection, trapping microscopic dirt and debris, and maintaining humidity," Gunter writes. It's your choice to remove your pubic hair, and it won't kill you, but it does increase your risk for STIs, as well as injuries like cuts and razor burn.
So, when do you have to worry about your vagina? In short, when it's causing you discomfort. If you're not having symptoms, like itching, burning, pain, or dryness, there is probably nothing wrong with your vagina. "Women should try not to worry about any body part that is not causing symptoms," Gunter says. "If they do have symptoms, they should see a doctor or nurse practitioner, not follow a recommendation from Instagram or a celebrity."