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The Rare Truth About "Tight" and "Loose" Women

Notions of women's tightness and looseness are fraught with mythology.

Many women complain that their vaginas are "too tight" or "too loose," and many men raise the issue about lovers. Notions of vaginal tightness and looseness are fraught with mythology. 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 further (so don't be promiscuous, girls!), and (4) that childbirth loosens the vagina even more and possibly forever after. The truth is considerably different.

Vaginal Tightness

Imagine a hand towel stuffed inside a thick sock squeezed by two hands. The sock is the vagina. The towel is the folded muscle tissue of the vaginal wall. And the hands are the pelvic floor muscles that surround the vagina.

The vagina's tightly folded muscle tissue is very elastic, like an accordion or the mouth. Try this: Pull the corners of your mouth out toward your ears then let go. What happens? The mouth immediately snaps back to its pre-stretched state because the tissue is elastic. Do it 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.

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The same goes for the vagina, with two exceptions I'll discuss shortly. When it's at rest–all the time except sexual arousal and childbirth–the vagina's muscle tissue remains tightly folded like a closed accordion. Anxiety makes the vaginal musculature clench even tighter. That's why young girls sometimes have problems inserting tampons. Their vaginal muscle tissue is tight and contracted to begin with, and many girls feel anxious about touching themselves and inserting anything, so the muscles contract even tighter.

As women become sexually aroused, vaginal muscle tissue relaxes somewhat. Biologically, this makes perfect sense. Evolution is all about facilitating reproduction. A tight vagina would impede intercourse and reproduction, so women evolved to have sexual arousal relax the vaginal muscles, allowing easier insertion of erections–and greater chance of pregnancy.

However, arousal-related vaginal loosening does NOT produce a big open cavity like the inside of a sock. Rather, the vaginal interior changes from resembling a tight fist to a fist loose enough to insert a finger or two.

If the vagina feels "too tight" during lovemaking, the woman is either (1) not interested in sex, or (2) she has not had enough warm-up time to allow her vaginal musculature to relax enough for comfortable insertion.

A man who attempts intercourse before the woman is fully aroused–before her vagina has relaxed and become well lubricated–is either sexually unsophisticated or a boor. Most women require at least 30 minutes of sensuality—kissing, hugging, and mutual massage for their vaginas to relax enough to allow the penis to slide in comfortably. That's why leisurely, playful, whole-body lovemaking is so important. It gives women (and men) the warm-up time they need. In addition, it also allows the vagina to relax, and, in most women, produce enough natural lubrication for comfortable intercourse. In other words, the solution to vaginal tightness is extended foreplay. It you need more lubrication, try a commercial lubricant.

One final note: If a woman experiences pain and/or great difficulty inserting a tampon or accepting an erection, the cause may be vaginismus, unusual clenching of the vaginal muscles. For suspected vaginismus, consult a physician.

Vaginal Looseness

After relaxing during sex, vaginal muscle tissue naturally contracts—tightens—again. Intercourse does NOT permanently stretch the vagina. This process, loosening during arousal and tightening afterward, happens no matter how often the woman has sex.

The vagina stretches a great deal during childbirth, like an accordion opened all the way. Post-partum does it re-tighten completely? Yes, usually, at least in young women, that is, women in their late teens and early twenties. Within six months after delivery, the typical young woman's vagina feels pretty much how it was before she gave birth.

Now for the two exceptions. If you stretch elastic a great deal, over time, it fatigues and no longer snaps back entirely. That can happen to the vaginas of young women after multiple births. Their vaginal muscles fatigue and no longer fully contract. In addition, aging fatigues vaginal muscle. 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 some have children after 40. Combine the rigors of older childbearing with the effects of aging on the vaginal muscles, and many women complain of looseness. 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 he inserts, he lifts himself up and the woman closes her legs. Her thighs squeeze his penis and make her feel tighter.

The tightening approach most often recommended by sex therapists is Kegel exercises. Kegels, named for the doctor who popularized them, involve contracting the muscles used to interrupt urine flow or squeeze out the last few drops.

Kegels do, indeed, tighten the vagina, but they have nothing to do with the vaginal muscles. They strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that surround the vagina, the hands that hold the stuffed sock. Age and childbearing fatigue these muscles. The hands don't grip the sock as tightly and the towel feels loose. Kegels tighten the pelvic floor muscles. The hands squeeze the sock, which clamps down on the towel, and the vagina feels tighter.

Kegels are totally private. They 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. You should also enjoy more intense orgasms. 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 you want, try ben-wa balls or vaginal cones. Ben-wa balls are sold as sex toys. Insert them, then walk around the house trying to keep them from falling out. When the pelvic floor muscles are weak, the balls drop out quickly, but as the muscles grow stronger, women can hold the balls inside longer. Vaginal cones are similar, except they're prescribed by physicians. (To obtain ben-wa balls, visit MyPleasure.com.

If vaginal cones don't work, electrical stimulation of the vaginal muscles is your last resort. A nurse inserts a probe similar to a tampon and a mild electrical current causes muscle contractions that make the vagina feel tighter. Treatments happen in a urologist's office during 20- to 30-minute sessions usually twice a week for about eight weeks.

Unfortunately, the mythology of vaginal tightness and looseness is deeply ingrained. I'll probably get nay-saying comments from people who swear that deflowering caused permanent loosening. I'm not about to argue with anyone's experience. I'm just describing the physiology. What do you think?

 

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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