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Michael Abrahams | In praise of the vagina

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The vagina, the muscular tube extending from the female external genitalia to the cervix, is an absolutely amazing organ. The name ‘vagina’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘sheath’ or ‘scabbard’ for a sword.  For those who are interested, the plural of the word is ‘vaginas’ or ‘vaginae’.

Many persons mistakenly refer to the external genitalia as the vagina as well, but this is really the vulva, which includes the labia (lips) and the awesome clitoris. The vagina has been revered, reviled and even feared. Men have killed for it, died for it and died in it.

For many, this tunnel is mysterious, and its workings unfortunately misunderstood. Because of the way in which many of us are socialised, the mention of topics and objects connected with sex makes some uncomfortable, and the word ‘vagina’ is no exception.

But it ought not to be taboo.  Indeed, with the exception of assisted reproductive techniques, all of our fathers ventured into our mothers’ vaginas, and most of us entered the world through these remarkable conduits. But some of us are terrified of referring to the passage by its rightful name, instead substituting words such as “punny”, “tunny”, “tun tun”, “hoo ha” and others which I will refrain from listing here as I have been informed that children read this column.

Unfortunately, slang names for the vagina are often used as derogatory terms to insult. One, which is an alternative name for a cat, is commonly used to curse people deemed to be unworthy, a phenomenon that I find to be rather strange, as a vagina is a wonderful thing. 

Recently, someone ascribed the feline moniker to me. I graciously accepted the title, thanking the person for the compliment, as it means that I am incredibly strong and capable of providing immense pleasure.  

The resilience and versatility of the vagina is fascinating. Its walls possess ridges known as rugae, which allow the organ to function like an elastic pleated skirt, permitting expansion to several times its original size, not just to accommodate the penis during sexual intercourse, but also to facilitate the delivery of babies. After almost two decades in private practice, I am still in awe when I deliver newborns, marvelling at the sheer awesomeness of the process, while simultaneously giving thanks that I am not the one going through it. 

Once while playfully teasing a patient of mine who was requesting an epidural (a procedure used to eliminate labour pain), she looked me in the eyes and said, “The day you push a watermelon out of your ass, you can get back to me.”

In 1879, a woman actually gave birth vaginally to a boy weighing 22 pounds, at home, and lived to tell about it. The ability of the vagina to expand also makes it an excellent place to hide stuff. The only place I have ever seen cocaine was in the vagina of a woman who was brought to a public hospital by police to have the substance removed. (No, I did not snort it.)

Remarkably, a loaded .22-calibre handgun containing three rounds of live ammunition and one spent shell was found in the vagina of a woman in Oklahoma, USA.

The story sounds bizarre, but when one considers the bags of meth found between her butt cheeks, it all makes perfect sense.

Conversely, the muscular sheath can be trained not just to grip a man and reduce him to tears of ecstasy while speaking gibberish as his face contorts, but to even smoke cigarettes, a feat that I have personally witnessed (please don’t ask me where). Its muscles, like voluntary muscles elsewhere in the body, can be exercised to the point of becoming incredibly strong. I recall a patient who once freaked the hell out of me.

While performing a Pap smear, I inserted a stainless steel instrument known as a speculum, in order to visualise the cervix, and opened it. But before I could fix it properly in place, the woman shut the device suddenly, with a bang, while giving out a devilish laugh. Not surprisingly, when she left her boyfriend, he cried.  In a related story, in 2009, a Russian woman named Tatyana Kozhevnikova placed a wooden egg in her vagina, attached a 31-pound weight to it, and lifted the darn thing, in the process setting the vagina weightlifting record. I would love to interview her man (if he is still alive). At least these feats are voluntary. Penis captivus, on the other hand, is a rare occurrence that arises during coitus when the muscles in the vagina clamp down excessively on the penis, making withdrawal impossible.

There is a report of such a case in China, where a man died during intercourse with a prostitute, and the couple had to be taken to a hospital to be separated, before the man’s body was taken to the morgue. It is not known if a crowbar was used, or if the woman was ever paid for the service. It would be remiss of me to not address the unwarranted scorning of vaginas in certain quarters.

The vagina does indeed contain bacteria, but the microorganisms present in a healthy vagina are less harmful than those found in the average mouth. Also, the organ cleanses itself, so douching is unnecessary and may actually be harmful.

When one considers that during natural childbirth, a naked baby with an immature immune system makes intimate contact with the vaginal walls, with its eyes, nose and mouth rubbing against the canal, and comes out healthy, it stands to reason that the vagina is not something nasty or unclean at all. Instead it is to be appreciated and respected.