What We Learned From ‘The Goop Lab’ Vagina Episode






Source: Netflix

I just learned a lot about vaginas from a streaming service, and (thankfully) it’s not porn. Say what you will about Gwyneth Paltrow, her $250 million brand, or the sometimes ridiculous claims (a $3,000 dildo? I don’t even have $5 for daily Starbucks!), but one of the episodes on the Netflix series The Goop Lab shook my world. Episode three, titled “The Pleasure Is Ours,” features Betty Dodson, a PhD sexologist who has been one of the principle leaders in female sexual health and pleasure for decades. Just for reference, her first book, Liberating Masturbation: A Meditation on Self Love, came out in 1974. It turns out the viewer (and Gwyneth Paltrow) has a lot to learn from this 91-year-old (yeah, you read that right).

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Regardless of what you think of Goop or GP’s acting skills, this episode was profound, and, dare I say, life-changing. Watching the episode and writing this article felt like one big therapy session for me. I would go so far as to say that watching it should be required for everyone, because very few of us (sadly) got this kind of education in school. Read on for key takeaways from the episode and the six life-changing things I learned about vaginas. 

 

1. Paltrow doesn’t know what a vagina is—and neither do most people

First of all, let’s start with the word “vagina:” it’s not what you think it is. Even though she recently launched a candle that smells like it, GP got it wrong when talking about “the vagina” in the episode. Many people, Paltrow and myself included, use the word “vagina” to describe the entire system going on “down there,” especially when referring to what we can see on the outside and the parts that relate to pleasure. Like the badass she is, Dodson gracefully schooled Paltrow with a subtle FYI. “The vagina is the birth canal only,” she said. “You’re talking about the vulva: that’s the clitoris, the inner lips and all that good sh*t around it.” Note to self: We know the difference between the penis and testicles, so it’s about freaking time we all know the correct names of female anatomy as well. 

 





 

2. Genital shame hinders our sexuality

While this one isn’t necessarily surprising, it is surprising how many people with vaginas feel shame about them. Dodson talks about a disassociation with female genitals; most women think theirs is gross, abnormal (more on that below), or don’t even want to look at them (also more on that below). A lot of this comes from a lack of education (did you learn about the “clitoris” in school? I sure didn’t) and also just from cultural norms. Think about it: Even the nicknames and language commonly used to describe vulvas sound gross at worst and risqué at best. Plus, as Dodson points out, a lot of us grew up thinking that sexuality was something we needed to hide or keep to ourselves (can we all just agree that the rules some parents place on teens around dating and sex is a little outdated and effed up?). Shame around our vulvas directly translates to shame around our sexuality, and shame around sexuality hinders our pleasure (and you wonder why you can’t orgasm?). 

 

3. Yes, your vulva is “normal”

Now for what I think is the saddest part of the episode (but also the most empowering): The show cited a study done by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, which found that purely aesthetic labiaplasty surgeries (or surgeries to alter the folds of the skin around the vulva) increased by 45 percent worldwide just between 2015 and 2016. Females as young as 9 years old were asking for the procedure. While we support every woman in making her own decisions about plastic surgery and what’s right for her, the point is that there are many people with vaginas who believe they need to change theirs. A big reason is that our culture teaches us that they’re “gross,” so our default is insecurity, but it’s also because of lack of example.

Dodson and the president of the Betty Dodson Foundation, Carlin Ross, explained that almost all female genitalia shown in pornography have received surgical altercation. For many people, the only vulvas they see besides their own come from pornography, since there are no other examples in mainstream culture. So The Goop Lab did something revolutionary and showed real vulvas. Yes, up close and personal. They didn’t just show one (because then that one might become the “norm”); they showed multiple in an effort to prove to people with vaginas that theirs is normal, no matter what it looks like. The verdict: Every one is vastly different, and they should be, because we all have different bodies and a different makeup for pleasure. You can stop wondering and worrying—yes, your “down there” is totally normal. 

 





 

4. …And you should know what it looks like

I’d like to change the saying “know it like the back of my hand” to “know it like every inch of my vulva” after watching this episode. After all, what does the back of the hand do? If it’s worth knowing so well that it becomes a well-known cliché, shouldn’t we also know the most powerful, pleasurable part of ourselves? As Dodson says, “The genitals are your power spot.” Beyond just the pleasure, they are also where the next generation comes from. Regardless of whether birthing children is part of your plan, there’s no denying that the female genitals innately hold so much power and strength (and more capacity for pleasure than a penis, thank you very much).

But many people don’t even know what theirs (or any—see point #3) look like. In 2016, The Eve Appeal, a Gynecological Cancer Research center in the U.K., asked 1,000 women to identify their own anatomy from medical illustrations (another study cited in the episode. Yes, I took rigorous notes). Only 44 percent were able to identify. A quick PSA on behalf of Betty Dodson: If you are not well aware of what your vulva both looks and feels like, stop what you’re doing, grab a mirror, and get to exploring. 

 

5. There are many important systems within the “genitals”

Dodson and Ross explain how the clitoris is not just one single “spot” as the nickname “the G-spot” makes it sound like. It’s actually a complex system on its own, with multiple parts and more than 8,000 nerve endings in the tip alone. FYI, that’s double the entirety of the penis. Also, the clitoris and vagina (or what we mean as vulva) get all the buzz, but your pelvic floor muscles are crucial for pleasure as well.

For one reason, tight pelvic muscles and tension are common causes for pain, which obviously hinders pleasure. But also, when you work the pelvic muscles, you bring more blood to the area, which means more orgasms. In other words, your genitals deserve a workout routine too. The most talked about way to engage the pelvic floor is kegels, but Dodson has her own fascinating (and successful!) technique if you want to watch the episode or check out her website. 

 





 

6. Knowing your vulva is important for you, not just for your partner

I think we can all agree that partnered sex is more pleasurable and fulfilling when everyone involved is, you know, pleasured and fulfilled. But the point of knowing your vulva is not just so you can have a fire sex life in your relationship. Yes, feeling just as entitled to pleasure and just as knowledgeable about your own biology as your partner is crucial for many reasons, but this information is also important for you.

As Dodson said when Paltrow asked why women being in touch with their sexuality has been seen as dangerous (read: thousands of years of slut-shaming), “When we’re in touch with our sexualities, love our bodies, and know how to orgasm on our own, we are independent. We’re dangerous when we’re knowledgeable.” In essence, your own association with your genitals is not about anyone else around you; it’s about your own pleasure, and the knowledge of how to fully access it is one of your greatest powers.  

 

 

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The Best Hangover Recovery Tips We Rely On

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There was a time in my life when I used to put on full glam on a Tuesday at 9 p.m., hit a pre-party get-together at 10:30 p.m., and make it to the bar at the ungodly hour of midnight. After three hours of dancing the night away, replacing my sweat losses with vodka sodas, and ending the night at Taco Bell, I’d get a mere four hours of sleep and spring up for my 9 a.m. class chipper, bright-eyed, and ready to ace my Biochem exam—no hangover recovery plan (or even need for one) in sight. Now (six years post-grad), I’ll have two and a half glasses of wine while watching Love Island (U.K.) and be down for the count for at least three whole business days.

While I’m still down to celebrate a job promotion with a friend, pour a pitcher of spicy margaritas to kick off a G.N.O., or stay up past my bedtime to catch a live concert, my prep and recovery for a late night out is a lot more curated than it used to be. Bouncing back from dehydration, lack of sleep, and high-sodium food (Crunchwrap Supremes will be the death of me) is no easy feat, but fear not! If you can’t keep up quite like you used to, these recovery hacks have your back:

 





Source: GoHydrate

 

1. Pre-hydrate

Before a night out, get ahead of the game and make hydrating a priority. Sure, water is a good start, but if we’re not in the mood to be laying in bed all day tomorrow, we need all of the help we can get. When we know we’ll be dancing the night away, walking in heels across town to get to the next rooftop bar, or basking in the sunset while enjoying a margarita on a downtown patio, we reach for GoHydrate, an all-natural hydration drink that tastes incredible (if you haven’t tried their cherry limeade packet yet, you are missing out) and delivers five electrolytes immediately to the body. Unlike other hydration packets, these have zero sugar, the added benefit of vitamin D, and only 80 mg of sodium per packet, which is a win in our book. 





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Even when you’re not drinking alcohol, staying hydrated is crucial for feeling your best and keeping your body healthy. Staying hydrated can help with everything from skin glow, to feeling more toned to helping the body detox properly, and, you know, just helping every organ in the body run properly. GoHydrate contains super ingredients like electrolytes (such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium) to immediately hydrate on a deeper level than water alone. Trust me: your body feels the difference when you’re properly hydrated.

 





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2. Assemble a bedside recovery kit

The last thing that you’ll want to be doing when waking up exhausted after a night out is to go on a treasure hunt around your house to find items to bring you back to life. Before you go out for an evening, assemble a bedside recovery kit so that you can start nursing yourself back to reality from the comfort of your own bed. Here are our go-to items to have in our arsenal:

  • GoHydrate packet + bottle of water to start rehydrating
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) for pain relief 
  • Ginger chews for nausea
  • Alka-Seltzer to neutralize stomach acid
  • Saltine crackers for an easily digestible source of energy
  • Makeup wipes if you were too lazy to remove last night’s glam

 





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3. Practice a 1:1 water to drink ratio

Being a hydrated baddie is always on our to-do list, and it’s even more important when we’re drinking sugary drinks and drinks that contain alcohol. Getting in the habit of alternating glasses of water with your non-water drink of choice, ordering drinks that are blended with ice, opting for light over dark liquors, and diluting liquor with water are great ways to keep up with water loss while tackling an evening of activities. 

 

4. Take ibuprofen before bed and again in the morning

If you can remember to take ibuprofen before bed in an effort to stay ahead of the aches and pains that come from drinking, dancing into the late hours of the night, running across town to hit up your favorite pizza joint before it closes, and/or consuming mass amounts of sugar and dairy, you will thank yourself later. Ibuprofen (AKA Advil or Motrin) is an over-the-counter, nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drug that can help tackle the aches and pains that come with a night out. On the other hand, acetaminophen (Tylenol) should be avoided, as it’s metabolized in the liver, which already may be working overtime if you indulged in a few alcoholic beverages. Before taking any type of supplement or medication, consult with your doctor about which over-the-counter options are right for you.

 





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5. Catch up on hydration in the morning

No matter how much you may have hydrated before, during, or after a night out, there’s still plenty of opportunity to rehydrate when you wake up. When you open your eyes to a dry mouth, a bit of a headache, and missed calls from your DoorDash delivery driver, reach for a bottle of water mixed with your favorite GoHydrate flavor. With all-natural ingredients, Instant Hydration Technology that delivers electrolytes immediately to the body, and only 80mg of sodium, GoHydrate is an obvious choice for a morning where your tank is on E.

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6. Take ginger for nausea and eat easily digestible foods

If you’re someone who gets wildly nauseated after a late night out, you’re not alone. Being nauseated can be a huge barrier to rehydrating and keeping up with your nutrition, which can be detrimental to getting through a massive recovery day. Ginger is a safe and effective way to treat nausea and is such a game-changer to have on hand if you’re looking to settle your stomach after a few alcoholic beverages, a lot of sugar, or too much dairy. We love reaching for ginger chews, ginger gum, ginger tea, or grating fresh ginger to add to a smoothie or hot water. If you’re not feeling up to eating a big meal, opt for simple, easily digestible carbs like toast, bagels, crackers, soup, scrambled eggs, or potatoes that will help raise blood sugar while being gentle on the stomach.

 

7. Take a nap

It’s no secret that a night out and sleep don’t mix well. In addition to being out and about and abandoning your normal bedtime, the not-so-healthy choices that come with it (drinking alcohol and eating a lot of sugar) delay sleep onset, cause sleep disturbances, and decrease sleep quality. So, in addition to being dehydrated and possibly hypoglycemic, day-after-drinking symptoms are further exacerbated by lack of sleep. If you can find time in your day after you hydrate and eat a bit, take a nap to give your body the gift of some much-needed rest.

 





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8. Gua sha or ice roll for puffiness

After a night of succumbing to sodium in the form of eating some of our favorite foods (pizza, tacos, or ramen, just to name a few), our faces are always at peak puffiness the morning after a night out. We love reaching for our favorite gua sha stones, jade rollers, and ice rollers to help us de-puff when our faces are holding on to water after a night of fun-filled activities.

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Remember: Drinking can be fun, but it can also be incredibly dangerous and addicting. If you or a loved one is experiencing alcoholism or alcohol abuse, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for treatment options and resources.

 

 





This post contains a sponsored inclusion of GoHydrate, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.