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The Legend of the Extraordinary ‘Vacuum Vagina’

On Reddit, reports of mystical vaginas that can suck up air like sexual Bissells are making the rounds. But, what are they, and why is suction only a feature of some?

When I was in college, a friend of a friend made a name for herself as the Campus Queefer. This wasn’t a derogatory classification; rather, it was the culmination of many nights spent squatting around someone’s coffee table bare-assed and queefing on command. It left us wondering: Were those glorious symphonics the result of intensive study, or did this chick just naturally hoover air up her vagina like an Oreck canister vacuum, constituting the leading edge of the vacuum vagina phenomenon?

More recently, last month, redditor HuhWhatRightUhh spread the good word about a sexual partner’s vagina that “began pulling in air at an incredible rate” during foreplay. According to the post, HuhWhatRightUhh spread his partner’s labia and was stunned when her vagina emitted a sound that was “similar to opening some sort of freeze-dried package,” followed by an extensive series of queefs. 

With more than 400 comments on their post, the vacuum vagina discourse is far more robust than I, the owner of a minimally pressurized vagina, could ever have predicted. But outside of that post, the vacuum vagina doesn’t occupy a lot of space in the cultural zeitgeist. The closest cultural mention I could find involved the medieval belief that sinister women could suck penises deep into their depths, a theory that cast the vagina as some kind of very cool, very judicious underwater cave. Then there’s the inspiring saga of 19th century flatulist (!) Joseph Pujol, who rose to fame as a professional farter, a parlor trick he discovered at the beach when he unintentionally sucked sea water into his butthole and shot it back out. Pujol went from super-soaking passersby to intaking large quantities of air, eventually churning out such extraordinary fart sounds that he scored a spot headlining the Moulin Rouge.

Undeterred, however, I turned to Twitter. Alarmingly, if you search the app for “vacuum vagina,” you’ll find a lot of cautionary tales advising against using canister vacuums to “clean out” one’s vagina like a desperate 1840s gold prospector. The research process also involved wading through DMs from smart-assed mutuals asking things like, “Does it count if I slurp up coins every time I pass a tip jar?” 

My Twitter search did reveal some conflation with the very zeitgeist-y gorilla grip, a term describing an unusually tight vagina that allegedly “grips” the penis during penetration. But while the gorilla grip is a matter of tightness, the vacuum vagina appears to be a matter of physics — and, it turns out, light weekend entertainment. 

Sarah, 31, refers to her vagina as a “built-in bath toy.” She explains to me over Twitter DM that she’s able to suck water into her vagina in the bath, shooting it out at will. She’s not aware of any audible suction during penetrative sex, although she classifies herself as an occasional queefer. (A quick note that queefing isn’t necessarily symptomatic of a vacuum vagina; the vagina is, after all, a cavity, and sometimes air just gets stuck in there.) Sarah does tend to experience more suction when she’s using tampons, though. “One time I was tamped up and in a hot tub with friends,” she tells me. “I sat down weird and realized I [had] sucked a bunch of water in. Horrified, I removed myself from the hot tub without using too many muscles and waddled to the ladies room where I could squeeze it back out responsibly.”

So, are vacuum vaginas a rare celestial blessing bestowed at random — or are they built? 

Redditor MellowYellow212 speculated that the suction could be the result of an unusually tight pelvic floor from intense athletic activity, an idea that Sarah has also entertained. “I’m a lazy fake fitness person,” she says. “I may or may not have a strong pelvic floor?????” Another redditor, Ummizazzi, who practices pompoir (extensive training and control of the PC muscles), confirms that a strong pelvic floor — usually achieved through a strict kegel regimen — can contribute to suction during sex. “At my peak, I could pull a condom off if I clenched,” they write.

As a distance runner, the discourse intrigued me, which is why I plunked myself into the bathtub and visualized switching my vagina to Dyson mode. After a few tries, I was able to suck a little bit of water in and release it. But I’m a minimal queefer at best, and I’ve certainly never mimicked a Bissell during sex — so can I lay claim to the vacuum vagina label? Is there some kind of a rubric? Most importantly, is vaginal suction measured in watts or feet per minute?

Michael Ingber, a urogynecologist at The Center for Specialized Women’s Health in New Jersey, confirms the link between unusually tight, or hypertonic, pelvic floors and the vacuum effect.We see people with hypertonic pelvic floor all the time,” Ingber writes via email. But the vacuum effect has less to do with athletic prowess and more to do with anatomy. “We typically see it when the introital muscles like the transverse perinei or puborectalis are especially tense. This, combined with labial anatomy, can cause that vacuum effect.” 

He adds that patients can develop hypertonic pelvic floor muscles after injuries, childbirth and pelvic surgeries, and even as a result of high levels of stress causing the pelvic floor muscles to contract. Finally, he cautions against the overuse of kegels, explaining that overworking the pelvis can lead to an overly tight pelvic floor — which is why he recommends reverse kegels, or “bearing down,” for patients experiencing uncomfortable amounts of negative pressure, or suction.

Aside from the occasional case of suction-related discomfort in Ingber’s patients, the vacuum vagina effect doesn’t seem to be dramatically impacting people’s sex lives. For Sarah, it’s a point of pride. “I just thought I could queef on command,” she writes over Twitter DM. “But thinking about it as a vacuum vagina has more pizazz.” 

HuhWhatRightUhh also confirms over Reddit DM that he’s still casually seeing the owner of the vacuum vagina, but the suction isn’t necessarily a plus — it’s just different. “I’m not sure that the — for lack of a better word — pressurized nature of her vagina itself creates a better experience,” he writes, noting that it does get a little distracting. “The ‘suction’ makes a lot of noises, and that really throws my head out of what we’re doing sometimes, even though it doesn’t seem to bother her.” 

He also explains that he found his way around the distracting suction sounds by avoiding positions like doggy, which make the sounds more pronounced. “I’ve also taken to playing music whenever we have sex and even made a playlist just for when we’re together — that coincidentally has a lot of songs by the band Air,” he continues.

While I’ll likely never develop the kind of pelvic acuity that would allow me to suck stray bits of dog kibble off of the rug and shoot it at my loud neighbors, I’m far from devastated about it. At this point, the pursuit of vaginal suction seems like a recipe for an uncomfortably tight pelvic floor. Plus, if you ask me, it’s just another way to skirt the fact that all vaginas feel pretty much the same on the inside, despite our cultural obsession with virginal (and largely mythical) uber-tightness. That’s not to say I’m not still intrigued by the idea of a pubic mound that doubles as a high-powered cleaning appliance. It’s just that, for now, I’m content with my feather duster.

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