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Are a Tighter Vagina and Pelvic Floor the Secret to Better Sex?

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I've always felt pretty much fine about my vagina. I've been on the Pill since college, so my periods are super light and cramps are usually non-existent. I've never had a problem with painful sex (but if you do, check out these eight possibly culprits and this cream that may help); in fact, it usually feels pretty good. And I'm good at it! At least, my boyfriend, who I've been with for the better part of a decade, hasn't ever had any complaints.

Still, I'm a woman, and I'm not totally immune to the sexist messages we're often bombarded with—namely, that my vagina should smell like roses and that it should be tight enough to open a beer bottle with, if I should so choose. There's nothing worse than a big ol' floppy vagina, especially one that actually smells like (gasp) a vagina, amiright?

I know enough about sexual health to know that douching is never, ever safe, so I'm pretty much over the whole "your vagina smells weird" thing. And while I'm not totally on board with the idea that I should worry as much about the tightness of my vag as I do about the tightness of my abs, I've heard that toning up your pelvic floor muscles can make sex feel better, for me and for my partner. That sounds enticing!

The Devices

I decided to road-test two sexual health devices that promise, in part, a sexier, tighter vagina. First up was Elvie ($200; elvie.com), which is being marketed as "your most personal trainer." Unless you're living under a rock, you've probably heard of Kegels, the squeeze-release exercise that targets your pelvic floor. These are the OG of vaginal-tightening exercises (they're also clutch at treating incontinence and helping women rebound from childbirth). The problem is, they're notoriously boring and surprisingly hard to do correctly—and if you do them wrong, they're basically a huge waste of time. (Gwyneth Paltrow, on the other hand, swears that peeing in the shower can help you tone your vagina.)

Enter Elvie. It's a pastel, mint-colored device that looks kind of like a huge sperm with a curved tail. You pop it in "down there," then cue up the Bluetooth-connected app on your phone, which guides you through a series of Kegels. What makes Elvie different from plain ol' Kegels is that it has pressure sensors built into the sperm—er, device—that tell you if you're clenching the wrong muscles.

The second one was the VSculpt ($345; vsculpt.com). This was the weirder of the two. Being marketed as a vaginal rejuvenation therapy device, the vSculpt is shaped like a vibrator. It also vibrates like one—but the end that goes inside you is equipped with infrared lights. You choose from beginner, intermediate, and advanced treatment modes, then ease it inside your vagina and wait. It vibrates and shines light inside you, and also heats up slightly. According to the website, the red light therapy "energizes cells," which encourages them to produce collagen and elastin. The heat boosts blood flow, and the vibration also helps increase pelvic floor muscle tone.

The Results

I tried Elvie for a couple of weeks, and by the end of the second session I felt reasonably comfortable it. What I liked: The app provided different types of exercises, both the traditional squeeze and holds, but also moves like pulses, which kept things interesting. Plus, the app added an element of fun. Onscreen, a gem moves up and down as you squeeze and relax; when you're contracting, you try to keep the gem above a line or hit certain dots. Maybe I'm easily entertained, but it kept me engaged. And it was quick—just a few minutes a session.

I was also surprised by the fact that my pelvic floor muscles really did get tired. Before each session, the app asks you to squeeze and hold your muscles to gauge your strength target for the day. After a few straight days of using the app, my muscle strength (which had been steadily improving) took a serious dip. That's when I realized that, just like with my in-the-gym workouts, I'd need to take some recovery days when using Elvie.

That said, I still didn't totally trust Elvie to tell me if I was using the right muscles. The gem onscreen responded when I tensed up different areas—my vaginal muscles, but also my lower abs. That's all part of the pelvic floor, but did it really know? "The problem with these types of devices is that they haven't really be tested, so no one knows for sure if it really helps you do Kegels correctly," confirms Lauren Streicher, M.D., an ob-gyn and the author of Sex Rx. The product was developed with a top-notch scientific advisory group, and studies have shown that biodfeedback is key is getting women to perform the exercises effectively—but whether Elvie provides accurate biofeedback is another story.

Still, using Elvie definitely did something. And while things did feel a little bit firmer down there (and yes, my boyfriend did say I felt tighter—but everyone knows you can't really trust what guys say during sex; he was just glad to be part of the experiment), what it really did was make me more aware of how I can manipulate my pelvic floor muscles. This sounds weird, but I felt more in control of and in tune with my vagina during sex. I tried using some of what I learned using Elvie during sex, and I can honestly say that a well-timed clench or pulse can really take things to the next level.

Now that I'd learned how to using my vagina like a weapon, I was ready to move on to phase two, the VSculpt. I'll be honest, with a device beaming red light stuck in my vagina, vibrating and heating up, I felt like I was on the wrong end of some sort of rogue science fair experiment. I was worried it would heat up too much and burn me. I was worried about the infrared rays giving me a sunburn or something. (I didn't have to worry. The vSculpt isn't FDA approved, which means it hasn't been scientifically proven to work, but it is FDA listed, which means it's been proven to be safe.) The vibration felt nice, but my low-key anxiety over the rest of the experience drowned it out a bit.

I pounced on my boyfriend directly after using it, and again he enthusiastically confirmed that I felt tighter than usual. (Check out 8 Things Men With Women Knew About Sex.) I felt it too. To be totally honest, we actually had a little more trouble than usual getting him inside, even though I was aroused and ready to go.

But part of me wondered if pre-gaming with any vibrator would have the same effect—I was turned on, and therefore a bit tighter. Did the heat and red light have anything to do with it? "The vSCulpt hasn't been proven to be beneficial," Streicher asserted when I asked for her opinion. "There's some evidence that heat and light can help minimally with wound healing and collagen production, but that's never been proven in the vagina. All they have backing them up is anecdotal information."

Could using a regular vibrator before sex have a similar effect? "Any sexual tissue stimulation on a regular basis will increase lubrication and elasticity," Streicher said.

The Final Verdict

I had one more question for her, something I'd been mulling over myself during the entire experience. What's the deal with vaginal tightening? Is the tightness of our vagina really something women have to worry about?

"There are two things you want, when you're talking about sexual health and satisfaction," she answered. "No pain during sex, and a pleasurable orgasm. (See: Your Brain On An Orgasm.) Those things don't come from 'tightness.' In fact, inappropriately high tone can cause pain." Pain-free, pleasurable sex instead comes from pelvic floor muscle integrity, which includes muscle strength and coordination (two things you can get from Kegels), but not tightness per se.

"The whole concept of tightening is off in and of itself," she went on. "It's mostly cosmetic. Other than self-esteem and feeling confident, there's no indication that vaginal tightening procedures increase sexual pleasure at all."

In my experience, that's true. Just feeling tighter, like I did after the vSculpt, was a little exciting and novel. But the sex I had after using Elvie was more fun, probably because I felt more in control of what was going on below the belt, and confident to try some new-to-me moves.

What I can say with certainty: My boyfriend could have cared less. In fact, he thought the whole thing was pretty weird. If you want to feel tighter, do it for you, not because you think your guy will love it. Because in my experience, he was just happy to be getting laid.

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