Many women complain that their vaginas are “too tight” or “too loose,” and many men raise the issue about lovers. Notions of a tight or loose vagina are fraught with mythology. Here’s the plain truth.
First, let’s review the myths. Many people believe that (1) the virgin vagina is extremely tight, (2) that loss of virginity permanently loosens it, (3) that frequent sex loosens it more (so don’t be promiscuous, girls!), and (4) that childbirth loosens the vagina even more and for a long time after, possibly forever. All wrong.
The vagina is filled with folded, tightly packed, very elastic muscle tissue, rather like an accordion … or like the mouth. Try this: Open your mouth and using a finger of each hand, pull the corners of your mouth toward your ears. Hold for a while then let go. What happens? The mouth immediately returns to its pre-stretched state because the tissue is elastic. Do this 100 times. There’s no permanent stretching. The mouth quickly returns to its pre-stretched state and no one would ever know you’d stretched it.
The same goes for the vagina, with two exceptions I’ll discuss shortly. When the vagina is at rest, that is, at all times except during sexual arousal and childbirth, its muscle tissue remains tightly folded like a closed accordion. Anxiety makes the muscles clench even tighter. That’s why girls sometimes have problems when first trying to insert tampons. Their vaginal muscle tissue is naturally tight to begin with, and many girls feel anxious about touching themselves and inserting anything, so their vaginal muscles constrict even tighter.
As women become sexually aroused, their vaginal muscle tissue relaxes. Biologically, this makes perfect sense. Evolution is all about facilitating reproduction. A tight vagina would impede intercourse and reproduction, so the female body evolved to have sexual arousal signal the vaginal muscles to relax to allow easy insertion of erections, which means greater chance of reproductive success.
Arousal-related vaginal loosening does NOT produce a big open space like the inside of an empty vase. Rather, that vagina goes from being like a tight fist to a fist loose enough to insert a finger or two. If the vagina feels “too tight” during sex, the woman is either (1) not interested in sex, or (2) she has not had enough warm-up time to allow her vaginal muscles to relax so she feels comfortable having anything inserted (finger, penis, toy).
A man who attempts intercourse before the woman feels fully aroused—before her vagina has relaxed and become well lubricated—is either sexually unsophisticated, or a boor. It takes most women at least 30 minutes to become sufficiently aroused to enjoy intercourse, that is, for their vaginas to relax enough to allow the penis to slide in comfortably. That’s why kissing, hugging, fondling, massage, and oral sex are so important. They allow both lovers to become fully aroused, and they allow vaginas to relax and (in most women) produce enough natural lubrication to enjoy intercourse comfortably. In other words, the solution to vaginal tightness is extended foreplay and more lubrication, i.e., a commercial lubricant.
One final note about vaginal tightness: If it’s accompanied by pain and/or an inability or great difficulty inserting a tampon, the cause may be vaginismus, unusual clenching of the vaginal muscles that requires medical treatment.
About Vaginal Looseness
After sex, vaginal muscle tissue naturally constricts—tightens—again. Sex does NOT permanently stretch the vagina. This process—loosening during arousal and tightening afterward—happens no matter how many times the woman has sex. She could have sex daily for years and afterward her vagina would return to its tight, resting state.
The vagina stretches a great deal during childbirth, like an accordion opened all the way. Post-partum does it re-tighten completely? Yes, at least in young women, that is, women under around 30. Within three to six months after delivery, the typical young woman’s vagina feels indistinguishable from how it was before she gave birth.
Now the two exceptions I mentioned earlier. If you stretch elastic a great deal over a long period, it fatigues and no longer snaps back entirely. That can happen to the vaginas of young women after multiple births. Their vaginal muscles can fatigue and not fully contract.
In addition, age fatigues the vaginal muscles. Whether or not women have given birth, as they grow older, they may complain of looseness. Today, many woman delay childbearing until after 30, and a growing number of women now have children after 40. Combine childbirth with the effects of aging, and risk of vaginal looseness increases. Women who give birth after around 30 may notice persistent looseness after delivering only one child. (Individual differences account for the fact that birth- and age-related looseness happens to some women and not others.)
Here’s a quick fix for vaginal looseness: Have intercourse in the man-on-top position. Once the man inserts, he lifts himself up and the woman closes her legs. Her thighs squeeze the penis and make her feel tighter.
The approach most often recommended by sex therapists is Kegel exercises. Kegels (named for the doctor who popularized them) involves contracting the muscles used to interrupt urine flow or squeeze out the last few drops. Kegels are totally private and can be practiced anytime anywhere. Start slowly and over several weeks, work up to a half-dozen sets of 10 contractions several times a day. In a few months, you should feel tighter.
Ironically, Kegels have no effect on the vaginal muscles. They strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that surround the vagina. Age and childbirth fatigue these muscles. Kegels tighten them. Kegels also indirectly tighten the vagina. Why? Imagine filling a sock with a small towel and holding it in your hands. When you squeeze the sock, the towel compresses. Your hands are the pelvic floor muscles, the sock is the vagina, and the towel is vaginal muscle tissue. As the pelvic floor muscles become stronger and hold the vagina more tightly, the tissue inside the vagina feels tighter.
(Kegels also intensify orgasms for both women and men since the pelvic floor muscles contract during orgasm. As they become stronger, so do orgasms.)
If several months of daily Kegels don’t produce the tight feeling women or their lovers want, women can try ben-wa balls or vaginal cones. Ben-wa balls are sold as sex toys. Woman insert them then walk around the house while trying to keep them from falling out. When the pelvic floor muscles are weak, the balls drop out quickly, but as these muscles grow stronger, women can hold the balls inside for longer periods. Vaginal cones are similar, except that they’re prescribed by physicians. (To obtain ben-wa balls, visit Adam & Eve.)
If vaginal cones don’t work, electrical stimulation of the vaginal muscles is your last resort. A probe similar to a tampon is inserted and a mild electrical current causes muscle contraction, passive exercise that can make the vagina feel tighter. Treatments are typically administered by a technician or nurse in a urologist’s office in 20 to 30 minute sessions, twice a week, for about eight weeks.