The vagina is an important organ of the female reproductive system that has been largely understudied in the field of biomechanics. In recent years, some research has been conducted to evaluate the mechanical properties of the vagina, but much has focused on characterizing the passive mechanical properties. Because vaginal contractions play a central role in sexual function, childbirth, and development and treatment of pelvic floor disorders, the active mechanical properties of the vagina must be also quantified. This review surveys and summarizes published experimental studies on the active properties of the vagina including the differences in such properties determined by anatomic regions and orientations, neural pathways, life events such as pregnancy and menopause, pelvic floor disorders such as prolapse, and surgical mesh treatment. Conflicting experimental findings are presented, illustrating the need for further research on the active properties of the vagina. However, consensus currently exists regarding the negative impact of surgical mesh on vaginal contractility. This review also identifies knowledge gaps and future research opportunities, thus proving a firm foundation for novice and experienced researchers in this emerging area of biomechanics and encouraging more activity on women's sexual and reproductive health research.