The idea that you can develop a “loose” vagina from too much sex is a myth created by capitalism and the patriarchy to feed vagina insecurity and sell you dumb products. Or at least, that’s the theory I subscribe to after learning about “vagina tightening” pills and the tragically titled “18 Again” cream. I can confirm that you can have rigorous penetrative sex with penises, dildos, and even fists and your vagina won’t “stretch out.” (It might, however, feel nice and well-cared for due to all the good sex it’s having.) “Having sex and using toys is not going to cause dramatic changes in your vagina, the size, or shape, or functioning,” says Hilda Hutcherson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center.
Exercises such as Kegels, meanwhile, can improve the strength of your pelvic floor muscles, which support your pelvic organs (including your uterus, bladder, rectum, and small intestine). A strong pelvic floor can reduce incontinence issues, help you have stronger orgasms, and make for easier vaginal delivery if you plan on having kids — but it is not about having a narrow vagina.
Childbirth — especially multiple births — and regular old aging can fatigue vaginal muscles, but still, “The vagina is a miraculous organ that can stretch way out and deliver a ten-pound baby and then snap back into shape,” Hutcherson says. In fact, especially for those for whom penetration was previously painful, Hutcherson says giving birth can actually make sex feel better. Still, the toxic idea that your vaginal canal has to be narrow continues to persist — and manifests in the form of “tightening” products and techniques that just don’t work. Read on for ways people have attempted to tighten their vaginas.
1. “Vaginal tightening” pills
“There is nothing you can take orally for your vagina that’s going to affect the ‘tightness,’ and I always put that in quotations. That’s ludicrous,” Hutcherson says. These so-called vaginal tightening pills contain ingredients like Manjakani extract, or oak gall, which is a tumor-like bulb that grows on oak trees. Spoiler alert: Hutcherson says there’s no way in hell it works. Inexplicably, these pills have a nearly five-star rating. “The placebo effect is absolutely possible,” says certified sex therapist Holly Richmond. “However, it’s more troublesome that women would even be in a position to think that their vagina isn’t fabulous in all of the ways.” Don’t spend your money on these pills. Use the $50 on a vibrator or martinis with friends to toast to the death of the patriarchy and the fabulous vagina you already have.
“Don’t get me wrong: Squats are terrific if you want to strengthen your butt and quads, but they won’t do, well, squat for your vagina. Yet they still pop up as a supposed way to tighten your vag. “Unless you’re doing Kegels at the same time as you’re doing your squats, that’s not helpful at all,” Hutcherson says. (And again, for the cheap seats in the back: Kegels don’t make your vagina tighter, they make your pelvic floor stronger.)
3. “Vaginal tightening” cream.
The names of some so-called vaginal tightening creams, such as ” 18 Again” and “Like a Virgin,” are sexist and creepy as hell. And the bad marketing doesn’t stop there. “Sex with that random guy from the party who might have been cute lasted 30 seconds if you were lucky. But, hey, you had a tight whoesy whatsy!” 18 Again’s product description says of what life was supposedly like when you were 18.
As a general rule of thumb, never trust anyone who calls a vagina a “whoesy whatsy” with your gynecological care. What’s more, the main ingredient in this scam of a product is glycerin, a compound often found in lube. Lube is awesome, but experts caution against using lube made with glycerin as there’s evidence it can lead to yeast or bacterial infection. Bottom line: Neither 18 Again and other “tightening” creams are a waste of money — “and why would you want to be 18 for the rest of your life? You don’t want that. You want a mature, experienced vagina,” Hutcherson says, one that provides you pleasure. Amen.
4. Vaginal Weights
Unlike “tightening” creams and pills, vaginal weights can definitely have benefits: When used correctly, they can make your Kegel practice easier and more fun. “Doing Kegels and pelvic floor exercises with weights are good for women because they can make you have stronger, more predictable and dependable orgasms,” Hutcherson says. (You’ll want to make sure that the weights you use aren’t too heavy, and that you’re using so that you don’t injure yourself.) Hutcherson’s emphasis on the pleasure you get on the other side of Kegels is important: Products like “18 Again” are so obviously marketed to capitalize on sexual insecurity and center cishet men’s pleasure. If you do invest in a vaginal weight such as a yoni egg or Ben Wa Balls, do it for you.
Recent years have seen the rise of vaginal plastic surgery such as labiaplasty, which changes the size or shape of the lips around the vulva, and vaginoplasty, which is designed to “tighten” the vagina. A vaginoplasty is done by removing skin from inside the vagina and then suturing together the vaginal tissue. Labiaplasty can easily cost upwards of $4,000, while vaginoplasty can cost $5,000 and more.
While some people opt for vaginoplasties post-childbirth, Hutcherson says that surgery is really only needed after delivering if there a tear that goes through the muscles that support the vagina. “Childbirth is a natural process that’s been going on from the beginning of time,” she points out. “It’s only recently that the surgical procedures have come up.”
In the case of labiaplasty, which people usually have to reduce the size of their labia, some choose the surgery because the length or size of their labia is causing them serious discomfort. Often, though, people have the surgery because they’ve been made to feel self-conscious about their perfectly healthy genitals. When it comes to cosmetic procedures, whether it’s Botox or a labiaplasty, do what makes you happy — but the choice to alter your body shouldn’t be to please anyone else. Richmond says when a client expresses interest in an elective genital surgery, she shows them the diversity and beauty of labia and makes sure they aren’t comparing themselves to porn stars. “It’s not a realistic representation of vaginas,” she says, adding that emulating the genitals shown in porn is like attempting to look exactly like a movie star (which, after all, is not only unnecessary but totally anxiety-provoking). So go forth and do your Kegels, but do them for you. And, if I may say so, I feel confident your vagina is beautiful the way it is.