“Women have three holes.”
After some brief introductions and an overview, this is how I start the first class in the childbirth education series I teach.
When I say “three holes,” I know I may be stating the obvious to many. But I have a hunch there’s at least one person in the room wondering, “Wait, three?”
I mentioned the “three holes” concept to some male friends once, and got some insights. “Yeah but the pee still goes through the vagina,” said one guy. “The vagina is everything that’s not the [butthole],” said another, really trying to convey the male point of view as best he could. A big part of the confusion may be that “vulva” is actually the word that describes the outer genitalia of a women, not vagina. The vagina is just one part.
So, dear readers, just so we’re all on the same page, today’s lesson is about the three holes:
This is the one babies come out of, the one penises go into and tampons and various other fun things if a woman is so inclined. Rest assured, however, there is no urine coming through this hole. In the land of childbirth class, it’s often referred to as “the birth canal,” but sometimes that’s a little confusing — is the canal different from the vagina? Also “canal”? Anyway. Oprah calls it the “vajajay,” but I prefer good old-fashioned “vagina.” Once you say it enough times, it’s a fine word. Deep inside the vagina — all the way up — is the closed opening of the uterus, or the cervix. In a woman who’s not in labor, it feels round and smooth, like the tip of a nose. In labor it dilates or opens, but we’ll save that lesson for another day. The point is, not attached to the bladder.
This is a very tiny hole that does lead to the bladder. It’s above the vagina (and below the clitoris) so, yeah, when women pee the pee does trickle around the area within the labia including the opening to the vagina. The pee doesn’t go “into” the vagina or come out of it, but it can pass over and around the opening, hence wiping the whole area with toilet paper.
The anus is the opening to your rectum through which your bowel movements pass through from your intestines. The anus is not included with the other stuff beneath the folds of the labia; it’s on its own. But the space between the anus and the vagina is known as the perineum — it’s a flat stretch of skin and muscle that is stretched during childbirth.
The labia surrounds the urethra and vagina (with the clitoris is right at the very top of this little leaf-shaped area), not connected directly with the vagina and the furthest from the anus. Here’s an awesome picture of it all.
Now, I really don’t want to sound snarky about anyone — man, woman, or child — who does not understand that women have three holes. Everyone calls girls’ parts (parts!) as a whole “the vagina” so it’s no wonder we’re all a little confused. As I said, it might just be a semantic issue. Maybe we’d benefit from substituting the world vulva for vagina when describing girls’ parts, especially when we talk to our kids about this stuff. Though, a friend pointed out to me recently, “I don’t think anyone’s going to want to say vulva.” Sigh. I guess I don’t actually care what you call a woman’s genitals, as long as it’s spoken with love and respect (“gash” will not fly, for example.) Though I’ve taught her the real vocab, my 3-year-old daughter calls her vulva her “coco,” which is cute as hell. As long we we’re all down with what’s actually down there, we’re good.