Sex & Relationships

Here’s What Women Don’t Know About Their Vaginas

"Pink balls" is a thing, and yes, orgasms can help relieve menstrual cramps.

Photo Credit: pathdoc / Shutterstock

It’s not easy having the bulk of your genitalia located inside your body. Not just because of the lower wages, menstrual cramps and overall inability to walk around without being gawked at—though those things don’t help. The real shame, it seems, stems from the fact that invisibility tends to stifle exploration. Almost all women walk around with glorious and excitable genitalia. Few could tell you anything about how they work.

In attempts to raise awareness in the area, the same folks who brought you the Womanizer (the world’s first suction-based vibrator) have commissioned a survey called Lady Parts IQ. In it, they attempt to correct a few common misperceptions, from ingrown hairs to the female equivalent of “blue balls.”

Let’s start with the latter. According to the survey, 47 percent of women are unaware that it’s possible for them to experience pink balls, a condition that occurs when women attempt to reach orgasm. 

“In addition to feeling sexually frustrated, pink balls can lead to discomfort or pain, which is often mistaken as signs for a variety of other issues such as inflammation from an infection or an STI,” Womanizer’s sexpert Michelle Hope explains. The clinical term for the condition (which can be applied to both men and women) is called vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of the blood vessels. When we get excited, blood rushes to the genital area and causes the erectile tissue to swell. If there’s no release during orgasm, that pressure continues to build and can become uncomfortable. So what’s the big lesson to take home? When you get excited, try to finish the job, either by someone else’s doing, or your own.

The survey also found that a huge majority of women (73 percent, to be exact) do not believe they need to see their OB/GYN every time they discover an ingrown hair. Hope, however, errs on the side of caution. “If you discover an ingrown hair, rash or discoloration you should go see your gynecologist to ensure it’s not something more serious. Often the herpes simplex virus (HSV) can look like an ingrown hair and therefore go unnoticed. It’s important to be proactive about vaginal health,” she says.

Forty-seven percent of women surveyed were not aware that an orgasm can help relieve menstrual cramps. “It’s important to clear up misperceptions about orgasms and the role they play not just in experiencing sexual pleasure, but how they contribute to overall health and wellness,” Hope said.

According to the resident sexpert, the confusion likely stems from society’s failure to speak openly about sex. Based on the survey results, Hope says it’s “critical that we teach women, especially young women, to learn more about their lady parts and not be afraid to ask their doctors questions relating to arousal.” Eighty-eight percent of women surveyed believed they should reserve sex-related questions for their gynecologist or specialist when in reality they are encouraged to talk to their general practitioner.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Seventy-eight percent of ladies knew that douching a few times a month is not an effective way to maintain vaginal health. Ninety-one percent understand that porn is not the best visual representation of female pleasure.

Of course, there’s a lot more material out there to demonstrate how little we generally know about ourselves. There are still hordes of women out there who believe we pee out of our vagina (we don’t, we pee out of the urethra, a tiny hole located between the clitoris and the vagina). Other women believe the tiny nub we’ve identified as the clitoris is all there is. It isn’t. According to Irwin Goldstein, director of Sexual Medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, “The clitoris is actually in the range of 6 or 7 inches,” and has two “legs” running along the inside of the vagina. There’s also discharge, prolapse ejaculation and other exciting abilities we never knew we possessed. The best way to identify them all is to poke around, ask and enjoy.

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture.