You may not have heard of Dr Jen Gunter but you’ll certainly have heard of her nemesis: Gwyneth Paltrow.
Dr Gunter is a respected US gynaecologist who’s become a Twitter star after turning her guns on celebrity wellness ‘gurus’, particularly Gwyneth and her Goop website.
In 2017 she wrote an open letter to the actress, blasting Goop’s endorsement of jade eggs and vaginal steaming, branding it ‘garbage’.
It’s all part of the ‘misinformation and disinformation’ that’s been served up to women for years about their vaginas, she says.
As part of her ‘vagenda’ to set the record straight, she’s written The Vagina Bible, a frank, fascinating and very funny guide into our nether regions.
Here are just a few of the truths she wants you to know about your body.
There’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ vagina shape
The labia majora (outer lips) are generally 7–12cm in length, ‘but if yours are larger or smaller, that is just fine,’ says Dr Gunter.
Half of women have inner lips (labia minora) that protrude beyond the outer lips, and Dr Gunter wants women to stop stressing about their shape and size.
‘The labia minora can range from less than 1cm in width to 5cm, but wider would not be medically abnormal,’ she says.
‘They may be asymmetric – think of them as sisters, not twins.’
Reshaping your labia is a big deal
A growing number of women are interested in this type of surgery, but Dr Gunter says there is often no medical need for it.
‘Most women seeking it have labia well within the typical range,’ she says.
‘It’s also important to remember the labia minora are s3xually responsive structures with erectile tissue,’ she adds.
The labial lips have a role to play in s3xual pleasure, and they also help protect the vaginal opening.
In short, think very carefully before you meddle with them.
‘Surgically reducing the labia should be considered the same thing as surgically reducing the penis,’ Dr Gunter says.
There’s more than one way to please a clitoris
There’s so much to the clitoris than you might realise – the visible bit is just the tip of a very s3xy iceberg.
‘Below the surface, it branches around the urethra, vagina and labia, and every part is capable of s3xual sensation,’ says Dr Gunter.
‘It can be accessed in many ways that don’t involve direct contact with the glans, which for some women is too sensitive to touch directly.’
‘Moving stimulation to other areas may actually be a better pathway to orgasm.’
The G-spot doesn’t exist
Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but only a third of women can orgasm from penetration alone.
Maybe that’s because the magical G-spot inside the vagina doesn’t actually exist.
‘The G spot was supposedly identified by Dr. Ernst Gräfenberg in 1950, but his paper did not describe a special spot but an “erotic zone” in the front of the vagina,’ explains Dr Gunter.
‘It was probably describing the body, root and bulbs of the clitoris as they envelop the urethra.’
‘The lower part of the vagina feels great for some women because it’s accessing the clitoris.’
‘Basically, all pleasure roads lead to the clitoris.’
Food can’t change the smell of your vagina
First of all, Dr Gunter wants you to know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the scent of a healthy vagina – so please stop trying to change it.
Besides, your diet doesn’t make the slightest difference to your smell.
‘The biggest contributors to vaginal scent are substances produced by healthy vaginal bacteria, lactobacilli,’ Dr Gunter explains.
‘Food will not affect your vagina’s lactobacilli.’
‘If you have a concerning vaginal odour, see a doctor.
‘The remedy is definitely not at the supermarket.’
Sugar can’t give you a yeast infection
OK, your vaginal fluid does contain sugar (in the form of glycogen and glucose) but it comes from your body’s cells, not your food.
‘It’s not possible to change the sugar level in your vagina through diet,’ Dr Gunter says.
You can also stop worrying that beer, bread or wine could give you a yeast infection (they don’t even contain the type of yeast involved in thrush).
‘The idea of an anti-candida diet is simply not supported by basic biology or research,’ says Dr Gunter.
There’s nothing wrong with using lube
There are lots of reasons why we use lube – fun, comfort, reducing condom breakage – and we shouldn’t feel bad about any of them.
‘Vaginal lubrication is part of the s3xual response cycle but it can vary from day to day,’ says Dr Gunter.
‘Sometimes your mind is raring to go and your body hasn’t caught up yet, so a boost from a bottle can get you there faster.’
‘I think of lubricant in the way I think of glasses – some people have always needed them, some of us need glasses as we age, and some just need glasses for reading.’
‘No one is judgy about glasses.’
But don’t be afraid to ask about dryness
If you’re suddenly experiencing vaginal dryness, Dr Gunter says it’s a good idea to get it checked out.
‘The most common cause is menopause, but other causes of vaginal dryness include a yeast infection, breastfeeding and oestrogen-free contraception.’
You should never wash inside your vagina
The vaginal opening is the same tissue as the inside of the vagina so it simply doesn’t need to be washed.
‘The labia minora do not have odour-producing sweat glands,’ says Dr Gunter.
So don’t douche – it puts you at risk of bacterial vaginosis (an overgrowth of bad bacteria) by killing good bacteria, and can irritate the sensitive skin of the labia.
You don’t need a special “feminine” wash either
Been using the same product to wash down below for years and never had a problem?
‘What you are doing is probably fine as long as you are not cleaning inside your vagina,’ says Dr Gunter.
Skin loses moisture as you get older, so if you’re using soap now, Dr Gunter says you might want to switch to cleanser, which is less drying, ‘as a preventative measure’.
Keep your vagina away from….
Dr Jen Gunter reveals the things you shouldn’t be putting inside you
Eggs for your ‘yoni’, popularised by my pal Gwyneth Paltrow, are promoted as an ancient secret of Chinese concubines and queens.
It is not – the only thing ancient about it is the absence of science.
Lasers and injections
Under no circumstances can I recommend the G-shot (fillers injected into the vaginal wall), the O-shot (clitoral injections), or stem-cell injections.
Laser to treat menopausal symptoms and incontinence is understudied, and there is no data about using these devices to “tighten” the vagina.
Vaginal steaming is promoted to “cleanse” the uterus’.
This ties into a destructive myth that the uterus is unclean.
Live yogurt for yeast infections
Yogurt doesn’t contain the strains of lactobacilli that are important for vaginal health.
When a woman puts yogurt in her vagina, she is putting other bacteria there, as yogurt has live cultures, and the consequences are unknown.
It may feel soothing because it is cream-like, but it will be ineffective.
Tea tree oil for yeast infections
Tea tree oil is an endocrine disruptor and a common cause of irritation.
There are no published studies showing that it is effective, and the impact on the health of vaginal bacteria is unknown.
Because that is what you want for your vagina, right?
An endocrine disruptor with an unknown effect!
– Adapted from The Vagina Bible by Dr Jen Gunter, £14.99, Little Brown