By our Co-Artistic Director Lizi, who is ready for a pub quiz round on all things vagina related.
The Roaring Girls have often have a good, in depth chat about vulvas and vaginas. This is partly due to the topic being important to a show we’re making all about mensuration. It’s partly because we have the sort of friendship where we’ll let each other know how our smear test went. And it’s party because vaginas are amazing, vulvas are fascinating, and our fannies are deserving of some appreciation.
So here is a list of the best facts I could find about the you-know-what.
And just in case you’re not sure what the difference is, while people often use ‘vagina’ to refer to the whole region, the vagina is the internal tube of muscle leading to the cervix, while the external bits (including the vaginal opening along with the labia, clitoris etc.,) is the vulva.
Illustration for The Devil of Pope-Fig Island where the devil is scared of a woman's vulva.
You go, sister.
Vaginas change in size and shape when aroused. I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that the vagina can make itself a little roomier when needed and return to it’s normal size afterwards. In face the walls of the vagina are pleated to allow for this. What I hadn’t heard before is that the expansion of your vagina - which can double in size by the way - when aroused, is called ‘tenting’. Anyone wanna go camping?
The clitoris is absolutely massive. Much like an iceberg, much of the clitoris is hidden below the surface (and while they’ve never torn into the hull of a ship, they’ve certainly flooded some lower quarters). The clitoris stretches back internally, and can be as long as 5 inches - that’s 12 centimetres. When aroused the clitoris becomes erect, and it can contain 8,000 or so nerve endings (that’s double the amount in a penis).
The scent of your vagina changes throughout the month. A slight scent is absolutely normal, and it varies over the course of your menstrual cycle, becoming more acidic before your period. It still feels strange to me to think of the vagina as acidic, but it is - vaginas are about as acidic as wine.
There are no parts of your reproductive system named after a woman. From the Fallopian tubes (Mr Fallopian thought they looked like tubas) to Mr Grafenberg’s hotly contested discovery of the G-spot - most parts of your anatomy were named by, and ofter after, some dead white guy. The gods have etched their names on us as well - Hymen was the Greek god of marriage.
Looking for a new work-out? You can lift weights with your vaginal muscles. Going one step further than kegel exercises, which are intended to strengthen your pelvic floor, vaginal weightlifting involves inserting a silicon weight and holding it in place. You can also go one step further by tying an object to the weight - see #ThingsILiftWithMyVagina for inspiration. I’m not sure it’s necessary or even advisable to add this to your work-out - that’s a question for your doctor - but I certainly advise looking at some of the pictures.
Throughout history many myths and mistruths have been associated with menstruation - including the idea that the blood is corrosive or damaging in some way. Whilst menstruating you might prevent bread from rising or make the beer go off. Roman wisdom was that it “causes the fruit of trees to fall off, dims the bright surface of mirrors, dulls the edge of steel and the gleam of ivory, kills bees, rusts iron and bronze” amongst other disastrous and bizarre consequences. Granted, if you’d been alive back then you’d’ve had fewer periods so it was perhaps more noteworthy to have one, but this does just seem like they were looking for someone to blame. If anyone is wondering, no menstrual blood doesn’t have this effect on the world around you. If your bread doesn’t rise, you’ve probably just incorrectly followed the recipe.
The word cunt has been in use since at least 1230, where London’s Gropecuntelane was known for its prostitutes. The first surviving written reference in a collection of religious and moral advice from 1325. Roughly translated from Middle English the advice reads “give thy cunte wisely and ask for marriage.” Historic euphemisms for vagina include ‘chapel of ease’, ‘purse’, and ‘tinderbox’.
Here’s hoping they add a vula category to Trivial Pursuit.