Last week, Reddit users revealed some NSFW facts they learned at an embarrassingly late age. In general, the thread is lighthearted and amusing, but if some of the comments are anything to go by, it is quite clear that many people lack a basic understanding of a woman's anatomy – particularly when it comes to how the female half of the human race pee.
One user, a nurse, recalls how a 25-year-old patient (25!) thought she couldn't pee while wearing a tampon because women urinate from the vagina. She was wrong but, alas, she is not alone. Apparently, a lot of users were surprised to find out that women had not two but three holes down there. Men in particular seem very shocked to learn this information.
So let's get things cleared up – women do not pee from their vaginas. Women have three holes down there and they serve very different purposes.
The first is the urethra and it can be found part way between the clitoris and the vagina, as you can see in the diagram below. The urethra is, essentially, a urinary dispensary system – it is the tube or duct that connects the bladder to the outside world and it is where the pee comes out. Below this, there is the vagina, which is where the penis goes in during vaginal intercourse and where blood comes out during menstruation. Then, third and finally, there is the anus, which is the opening to the rectum and the passage bowel movements pass through.
Beyond sub-par sex ed classes, the confusion may stem from the fact that the outer genitalia (the vulva) is frequently mistaken for the vagina, whereas the vaginal opening (aka the vestibule) is, in fact, just one element of the vulva. (It also includes the labia majora, labia minora, the clitoris, and the Bartholin's glands, the two small glands on either side of the vagina.) The vulva protects (and covers) both the female sexual organs and the urinary opening. So yes, it may look like urine is coming from the vaginal opening but we promise you, it is most definitely coming from the urinary opening.
While we’re here, let’s settle a few other questions people have about the female body.
Having lots of sex (or lots of sexual partners) does not "loosen" the vagina. Remember that scene in Mean Girls – the "looseness" of a woman's vagina has nothing to do with her virginal status or promiscuity because having sex does not permanently stretch the vagina. Instead, the muscles in the vagina expand and relax when aroused and tighten again post-intercourse. Conversely, if it's "too tight", it's probably because she is not properly aroused and is either uninterested in having sex at that moment or has not had enough time to warm up. There are just two things that can affect the vagina's elasticity and those are childbirth and aging.
Or, in Bethany Byrd's words: "I can't help it if I've got a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina."
Women cannot hold their period like you can hold your pee. Sorry, it just doesn't work like that. (Although it would be very convenient if it did.)
You cannot lose a tampon. The cervix – aka the tissue that connects the vagina to the uterus and where you put the tampon – is only a few inches long and it is a dead end. That means if you insert a tampon, there is nowhere else for it to go. Yes, you might put one in, "lose" the string, and forget it's there – something we don't advise you try. You might even have trouble removing it if it gets stuck. (In which case, please see a medical professional.) But you won't have lost it.
Vulvas shouldn't look a certain way. Requests for labiaplasty (that is, plastic surgery to change the appearance of the labia) have been growing year-on-year, with a 45 percent rise in the number of procedures between 2015 and 2016 and girls as young as nine seeking surgery. But despite all this anxiety around the "perfect" genitals and representation in pornography (and, even textbook drawings), there really is no such thing as a typical vulva. In fact, according to a study published in the obstetrics and gynecology journal BJOG, it is pretty much pointless even attempting to provide an average size or shape because the range is so wide. To check out just how diverse and varied female genitalia can be, take a look at the Labial Library.