One of the main reasons why we decided to start Kohe Lele, is the presence of misconceptions about the female body. The lack of sexual education and the stigma around it in many countries and cultures, further contributes to this image. As the lack of this kind of knowledge affects both women and men of all ages, the need to spread awareness about such topics keeps our fire burning.
Therefore, this week’s mission is to bust some myths. We gathered misconceptions from our own experience or from our female and male friends, and we are debunking them in order to shed light on the mysterious female body.
1. The female genitalia is called “vagina”. FALSE
I am sure most of you know the famous phrase of “Sex education” TV show “It’s my vagina!” As empowering and courageous as it is (We LOVE “Sex education”!), technically it is incorrect.
The female external genitalia (so the part that is visible) is called VULVA. The vulva comprises the following genital parts: mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, the vaginal opening, the clitoris, the urethra opening and the hymen.
The vagina is a muscular tube where sexual penetration happens. It is connected to the uterus through the cervix. Therefore, it is an internal organ and only the entrance to it is external.
2. Women urinate out of their vagina. FALSE
As explained before, the vulva comprises an orifice called urethra. The urethra is a small tube that is connected to the urinary bladder. Through the urethra the urine comes out. Because of its position above the vaginal opening, the misconception of urinating through the vagina exists.
Male anatomy is different. The urethra passes through the center of the penis and it is used for both urinating and ejaculating.
3. The hymen is a sign of virginity. FALSE
The hymen is an elastic membranous tissue that is developed around the opening of the vagina. This membrane doesn’t have a standard size or appearance for young girls, adolescents or adult women. The hymen can be ruptured in various contexts, such as: sports, insertion of menstrual products or fingers, or surgical procedures. Therefore, there can never be medical evidence to prove if someone is still a virgin or not based on the aspect of the hymen.
4. The clitoris is the size of a pea. FALSE
The clitoris is the only organ that has the only function of sexual pleasure. Up until recently, the anatomy of the clitoris was assumed incorrectly as the size of the pea. But there is more than it meets the eye. The clitoris is a three-dimensional organ with the shape of a wishbone. It extends beside the labia, the urethra and the vaginal canal.
5. Vaginal discharge means you have a disease. FALSE
Vaginal discharge is a common phenomenon that occurs. It can be physiological or pathological. The physiological discharge happens due to the vaginal flora (lactobacilli) as a defence against infections. This flora is in charge of keeping the vaginal pH in normal limits (3.8-4.4) and normal modifications (in structure or amount) can happen over time due to factors as age (prepubertal, reproductive or post-menopausal), hormones (hormonal contraceptives, menstruation, pregnancy) or local factors (menstruation, hygiene, after giving birth).
The pathological discharge is represented by symptoms such as bad odour, different colour and higher amount than usual, vulva itchiness, vulva soreness. This type of discharge can have many causes: infections with viruses or bacteria, chemical irritation from skincare products, allergic responses, retained condom or tampon, contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD). The infections with viruses or bacteria can happen due to sexual intercourse or due to a lower immune system. The infection with candida is the most common infection in women (affect 75% of women), producing pathological discharge.
6. An itchy vulva means a yeast (fungus) infection. FALSE
Vulvar pruritus (itchiness) is the most common symptom of vulvar disorders and it can have various causes:
Body fluids: retained perspiration, urine, semen, saliva, feces
Local products: soaps, detergents, perfumed products, lubricants, tampons, tight underwear
Excessive behavior: douches (vaginal shower), wiping, shaving, waxing
Medicine applied on the vulvar area as a treatment for other diseases: antibiotics, hormones, anesthetics
Infections with viruses, bacteria or fungi (sexually/not sexually transmitted)
Other diseases: diabetes, cancer, iron deficiency anemia
7. A positive HPV test means you will develop cervical cancer. FALSE
The Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus amongst women and men. It has over 150 different types and they are classified in low-risk, potentially high risk and high risk. Most of them do not show symptoms and can even disappear after some years. The most invasive ones are types 6 and 11 (cause genital warts) and 16 and 18 (are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers; they give other types of cancer as well: vulvar, vaginal, anal, throat). This is why it is very important to have an annual Papanicolaou (pap smear) test that detects cervical abnormalities and to vaccinate against HPV. These recommendations are for everyone that has started his/hers sexual activity. Therefore, a regular screening keeps track of your existing or absent infection with HPV and can prevent the development of cancer if it is detected early.
We hope that we debunked some common myths and our mission to spread awareness about these topics has reached you!
Be smart. Be (c)LIT. Fly with us!🌺🐝