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Q&A: Inside Your Vagina

February 19, 2013
The CSPH

vagina

Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted anonymously through Formspring and other channels. This week, we address two questions:

I’ve got a structure related question about the vagina: what is it supposed to feel like inside the actual hole? Not sensation wise, but structurally. I always thought it’d just be kind of smooth and empty, but in mine, I feel a sort of lump. Is that normal? The further I go, the more I feel it.

I guess I can say I’m sort of new with sexual experiences, but I just want to know how does it feel when a man ejaculates inside a woman? And if a condom breaks, would it be possible to feel it? How can one tell?

The vagina, also known as the “love tunnel,” a “furry taco,” your “coochie,” or a “panty hamster,” is a wonderful place for all sorts of sensational sexual actions. It is an elastic, muscular canal that extends from the opening of the vulva—the external genital area—to the cervix. While the average vagina is three to four inches in length, when aroused it can nearly double in size. Although there is always some degree of anatomical variation, certain features common to most vaginas include the corrugated, lumpy texture that you encountered. These lumps and folds are known as the vaginal rugae, and they exist so the “happy hole” can expand and stretch to accommodate a penis, a tampon, a kiddo, or fun sex toys. Generally, the only time the vaginal canal is relatively smooth in texture is before puberty and after menopause.

Especially in the frontmost third, the vaginal walls have very few sensory nerve endings in order to make childbirth less painful. Internal sensations you may feel are usually related to the erectile tissue of the clitoris, which engorges and surrounds the vagina during arousal, or the G-spot, spongy tissue near the front of your vaginal wall. To locate the G-spot, insert your index finger and angle it towards your belly; you will likely find an area that is rougher in texture, slightly bumpy and ridged, two to three inches from the vaginal opening. Applying pressure to this spot—using a “come hither” motion with a finger—may feel pleasurable to some people; however, it’s important to remember that our reproductive organs can be as diverse and distinguished as the people who own them. There are certain generalized features common to many vaginas, but they can vary in size, odor, lubrication, sensitivity, etc. Normal left town a long time ago!

Regarding your specific inquiry about whether it is possible to feel an ejaculation, I prefer to answer this question from the perspective of a vagina owner. My internet research yielded some colorful responses, though my favorite ones were posted on Answerbag:

  • “When I was in my early 20’s… I could shoot it over our heads if I withdrew so I assume she would have felt it inside her.”
  • “I can feel my boyfriend’s orgasm (i.e. the muscle contractions), but not the ejaculation.”
  • “Yes, I can definitely feel it. I feel his penis become very hard and then comes the throbbing, pumping feeling, and the head gets very rigid, and then I feel the warm ejaculate inside of me.”
  • “Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Depends on how strong the ejaculation is.”
  • “I can feel his cock throbbing and pulsing and even feel his cum spurting into me. It’s awesome.”
  • “Not always. I don’t mean to be crude, but size has a lot to do with things.”
  • “Yes, it’s called the throbbing of the organ and the coming of the bride.”

Confused yet? Me, too! From my informal research primarily via Answerbag, there appears to be a general consensus that it is possible to feel the penis become harder and some pulsing or throbbing as climax approaches, but not all vagina owners can detect the release of semen through physical sensation alone. A more obvious indicator of ejaculation is usually leakage from the vagina following intercourse.

I am guessing, however, that your concern about being able to feel an ejaculation, or specifically, a condom breaking, might stem from some anxiety about contraception failure. The failure rate of condoms, with perfect use, is two percent; however, when we consider typical use, the failure rate jumps to 15%. Much of the disparity regarding condom failure rates can be attributed to common user errors, including: not using them throughout the entire sex act, not leaving space at the tip, not squeezing air from the tip, “double bagging” (two condoms at once), using the condom past it’s expiration date, improper storage, wearing the condom inside out, or using a petroleum- or oil-based lubricant (e.g. body lotion, Vaseline) that can break down the external membrane. If you forgot to take notes during health class, no worries; watch this fun condom demonstration to refresh your memory.

Although using condoms might sound complicated, like a bad Avril Lavigne song, even if you screw up you can still reap some benefits. Research conducted by the California Family Health Council found that semen exposure from a broken condom was about half that of unprotected intercourse, whereas semen exposure from a condom that slipped off was about one-fifth that of unprotected intercourse. A penis owner can usually detect a broken condom through a sudden change in sensation, but, to be on the safe side, conduct a visual inspection upon withdrawal. Or, better yet, take the condom to the bathroom and fill it with water; if there are any holes or tears—even small ones—it will be apparent.

If you suspect that his “baby gravy” may have bubbled over, you might want to look into Emergency Contraception. When taken within five days after having unprotected sex, it can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 89%, especially within the first 72 hours. It’s advisable to use this measure sparingly though, since most of us can’t keep up with the Kardashians. Average cost is $30 to $40, and, unlike condoms, the “morning after” pill offers no protection from sexually transmitted infections.

Given that you’re “sort of new to sexual experiences,” a final consideration should be whether you’re ready to assume the risks and responsibilities that come with intercourse. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of safer sex practices and the ability to communicate openly and assertively about limits, boundaries, and personal preferences. Alternatively, there are various forms of “outercourse,” sexual activities without the exchange of body fluids, that one can engage in with an intimate partner, such as fingering, mutual masturbation, intercrural sex, vibrator play, and sensual massage.

My advice for virgins and sexperts alike is, “when in doubt, leave it out.” If you are uncomfortable with the chance, however small, of pregnancy or infection from particular sex acts, do not feel obligated to engage in those actions; there are multiple pathways to pleasure and intimacy. Furthermore, I would encourage you to share your feelings and anxieties with your partner, so that, together, you can decide what is comfortable and acceptable. Whether you choose to rock your “hot box” solo, or explore your wonderful “wizard sleeve” with company, strive to have a safe and satisfying experience.