No myth is more harmful than the expectation of having a tight vagina.
From perennially perky breasts to smooth, hairless legs, womanhood has been constantly sexualized and subjected to unrealistic standards.
Science has shown that these impractical ideals have damaging effects on womenâ€™s sense of self-worth. However, none have been as harmful, or as unexplored, as the expectation of having a tight vagina.
Tight vaginas are prized in almost every society and culture that has roots in patriarchy. Theyâ€™re considered indications of virginity and chastity, stemmed from the belief that women are property, to remain untouched unless by their husbands.
But on a baser level, a tight vagina is also seen as a highly appealing characteristic for cis women to possess simply because itâ€™s more pleasurable for cis men to penetrate. Vaginal rejuvenation surgery, getting the â€œhusband stitch,â€ even seemingly benign Kegel exercises: All of these practices stem from the belief that tighter vaginas are better vaginas.
And this stereotype appears to heavily affect Asian women in particular.
Comedian Amy Schumer once tried to joke: â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter what you do, ladies, every guy is going to leave you for an Asian womanâ€¦ And how do they bring it on home for the win? Oh, the smallest vaginas in the game.â€
Dr. Valinda Nwadike, MD and obstetrics and gynecology specialist in California, Maryland, can see how this stereotype exists, and whole heartedly disagrees with the premise. â€œHonestly donâ€™t think [Asian women having small vaginas] is true. I would definitely disagree with this stereotype. We donâ€™t make decisions about size â€” we donâ€™t have Asian speculums. That in itself would negate the myth. It should be put to bed absolutely.â€
So letâ€™s put the myth to bed
Itâ€™s unclear how this myth originated, but many suspect itâ€™s rooted in colonialism. Patricia Park, for Bitch Media, traces this sexualization back to the Korean and Vietnam War, when the United States established a military presence.
Thousands of Asian women, including Thai and Filipina women, were trafficked and coerced into prostitution with white American soldiers. (The rippling effects are especially evident in Thailand, where mass sex tourism was developed to pay off debts.)
As a result, many white menâ€™s first encounter with Asian women was in the context of military conquest and sexual domination.
But another newer avenue where most of these stereotypes continue to explicitly persist? Porn, a ground thatâ€™s rapidly becoming the primary source of sex education for teenagers.
One 27-year-old white man, who asked to remain anonymous, shares how this avenue was where he learned the idea that Asian women have tighter vaginas.
â€œPornography contributes a lot to this idea,â€ he says. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of pornography, for example, thatâ€™ll pair together Asian women and Black men, playing off those sexual stereotypes. So, I think that itâ€™s inherently something that men have ingrained in their psyches.â€
However, this myth isnâ€™t just circulated within male circles. Even women perpetuate this stereotype.
Jenny Snyder, a 27-year-old half-Asian woman also from Louisville, says that her white female friend asked her in high school if her vagina was sideways. â€œShe literally asked me if my vagina was horizontal,â€ Snyder recalls. â€œShe also thought that my butt crack was horizontal â€” like one butt cheek on top of another.â€
Michelle Eigenheer, a half-Korean woman from Louisville, Kentucky, recalls an experience where her gynecologist â€” a white woman â€” switched to a speculum usually reserved for teenagers in the middle of the examination.
â€œIt probably had more to do with the fact that I was tense rather than an actual biological difference,â€ Eigenheer says. â€œBut it did make me wonder â€” is this a real thing?â€
As a gynecologist expert, Dr. Nwadike has never encountered the need to switch speculums. â€œItâ€™s possible they donâ€™t interact with a lot of Asian people. It depends on who their population base it, maybe they donâ€™t have the opportunity to see that dispelled,â€ she says, after asked why she thought this stereotype continued to persist, even in the medical field. â€œA lot of people think that Black men have certain features, and thatâ€™s not a fact, but the stereotype persists.â€
Most Asian women first encounter this stereotype when they start having sex with men
Grace Que, a 19-year-old Chinese American woman from Chicago, says she had heard the idea â€œtossed around by quite a few people and in pop culture.â€
But she didnâ€™t experience it herself until she started having sex. Her male partners would comment on her tightness by saying phrases along the lines of, â€œOh my god, youâ€™re so tight.â€
Jennifer Osaki, a 23-year-old Japanese American woman raised in Los Angeles, California, had a similar experience. She heard about the stereotype from male classmates in college, but didnâ€™t experience it herself until she dated a white man sophomore year.
He told her that he thought Asian girls were the best because their vaginas were tighter.
â€œI laughed it off awkwardly because in the moment, I figured it was a good thing,â€ Osaki says.
And indeed, the label of having a tighter vagina is widely embraced and seen as a â€œgood thingâ€ by many Asian women as well.
â€œIf a tight vagina is actually a thing, I seriously hope I have one,â€ Que says. â€œObviously sex would be even more appreciated by the other person than it already is. A lot of my good guy friends always say tight is very, very, very good.â€
Zoe Peyronnin, a 21-year-old Asian American woman raised in New York, echoes this sentiment. While she raises concerns this stereotype might have the potential to further sexualize Asian women, she ultimately concludes, â€œPersonally, the idea of having a tight vagina is favorable, at least sexually.â€
Other Asian women, however, find the stereotype more problematic and unsettling.
â€œIf you have tight muscles down there, thatâ€™s awesome,â€ says Phi Anh Nguyen, an Asian American woman from San Francisco, California. â€œI guess thatâ€™s something to be proud of. However, tying this trait to Asian women to make them more sexually desirable isnâ€™t a healthy thing. It objectifies us.â€
Eigenheer says she feels deeply uncomfortable when men on Tinder use it as their opening line, or otherwise treat her differently based on a preconceived notion about her vaginal tightness.
â€œThey just want some novelty hookup,â€ she says. â€œBut actually, theyâ€™re feeding into a system thatâ€™s really cruel to women. This stereotype is rooted in so many racist stereotypes that women suffer from.â€
The desire to have a tight vagina is still exceedingly prevalent across the country â€” and arguably, the world â€” affecting women everywhere.
â€œThere is this perspective of wanting a tight vagina,â€ says Dr. Nwadike. Although she hasnâ€™t had Asian patients making health decisions based on this stereotype, she has encountered other races make a request based on the myth of a tight vagina. â€œIâ€™ve had Middle Eastern women come in wanting to make their vaginas tighter, wanting cosmetic surgery because their husband requested it.â€
Compare the stereotype of the tight Asian vagina to the stereotype of the loose vagina. As the antithesis of the prized tight vagina, the â€œlooseâ€ vagina is associated with â€œbadâ€ women â€” women who have too many sexual partners.
This notion is often used to slut-shame, such as when a Christian woman compared Taylor Swiftâ€™s vagina to a ham sandwich to imply she was promiscuous. And the derogatory expression â€œthrowing a hot dog down a hallwayâ€ also suggests that womenâ€™s vaginas get stretched out after excessive sexual intercourse.
The problem, however, is that this vaginal myth, along with most other vaginal myths, is simply not grounded in science.
Science shows time and time again that vaginal looseness has no correlation whatsoever with promiscuity. There also hasnâ€™t been any study comparing vaginas of Asian people to other ethnicities.
Many people I spoke to also say there doesnâ€™t seem to be any scientific basis for this stereotype. â€œWomen come in all shapes and sizes,â€ Nguyen points out.
However, since this myth is largely based on personal experience, which is highly subjective, thereâ€™ll be some, like the anonymous 27-year-old white man, who insist that the stereotype is â€œdefinitely a fact.â€
â€œIn my experience, Iâ€™ve found it proven true time and time again that Asian women have snug vaginas,â€ he says. â€œI would say they are tighter than women of other races.â€
On the other hand, Eigenheer has personal experiences that suggest the opposite.
â€œIn my experience, this is not true,â€ she says. â€œNo man has ever told me that my vagina was different from any other personâ€™s. And talking to other Asian women, I think theyâ€™d say the same thing.â€
Irene Kim, a 23-year-old Korean American woman from New Jersey, agrees, rejecting the stereotype. She says itâ€™s impossible to be true across the board for all Asian women.
â€œYou canâ€™t brand an entire demographic with a defining trait like that,â€ Kim says. â€œIf itâ€™s not true for every single Asian woman, then it shouldnâ€™t be talked about as if it were.â€
Aside from not being based in scientific fact, this sexual stereotype is also harmful because it emphasizes the importance of male pleasure at the expense of female pain.
â€œNo woman wants to be too tight,â€ Eigenheer says. â€œItâ€™s painful! The whole novelty of the â€˜tight vaginaâ€™ is in a womanâ€™s pain â€” a manâ€™s pleasure at the expense of a womanâ€™s discomfort.â€
Thus, itâ€™s no surprise the myth that Asian women have tighter vaginas has troubling implications for women outside the Asian community as well. Studies are increasingly showing that cis women experience pain (about 30 percent in the United States) when they have penetrative sex.
Interestingly, there are some Asian American women â€” particularly those around 18 to 21 years old living in large coastal cities â€” who have never even heard about this myth.
â€œIs this a thing?â€ asks Ashlyn Drake, a 21-year-old half-Chinese woman from New York. â€œIâ€™ve never heard of this before.â€
But a dying myth doesnâ€™t mean the effects disappear along with it
A quick google search of â€œtight vagina raceâ€ also brings up several threads debunking this myth. Unfortunately, rather than throwing out the idea entirely, these threads â€” from 2016 â€” use small and incomplete studies (ones that focus on only three races and urinary incontinence) to refocus the lens on black women instead.
There is no reason for a large study about ethnicities and vaginas to ever be done. â€œWhy would anybody study that and what purpose would it serve anyway?â€ says Dr. Nwadike. She mentions how there are many other indicators of pelvic size beyond race, such as body type, age, and childbirth. â€œThereâ€™s too many variables to make a statement that broad. If you look at size, thatâ€™s only one metric. I evaluate the person not the stereotype.â€
The question, therefore, isnâ€™t whether itâ€™s true Asian women actually have tighter vaginas than women of other races.
Having a â€œwhich raceâ€ conversation is fundamentally disturbing and further reduces womenâ€™s worth as human beings to the sexual satisfaction they can provide to men (often at the expense of their own comfort and enjoyment).
Especially when there are still studies and reports of women who are purposely having dry sex to please men.
Instead â€” when the myth currently has more power to hurt than help â€” the question we should be asking is, why does vaginal â€œtightnessâ€ even matter?
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