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Female Genitalia

A Basic Tour of Female Sexual Anatomy

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Updated August 30, 2013

Before We Begin

Talking about anatomy can be tricky. For example, it’s true that most of us have two eyes, two ears, a nose, etc... But some of us don’t. And some of us have two eyes, but can only see out of one of them. Some of us have big noses, and some have little noses. Some of us have taken the body we were born with and changed it, either intentionally or unintentionally. We talk about bodies as if there is an ideal norm, when in fact we're all a bit different and those differences matter.

When a trusted source (which is what I hope About.com is for you) starts describing the way your genitals look or feel, and they don’t look or feel that way to you, it’s easy to think there is something wrong with you. Most of the time this isn’t so. If the descriptions and information below don’t match what you feel and see in your own body, you may want to talk with your doctor about it. But it may be that your body looks and works a little bit different, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There's also a problem with the idea that all women have what medicine labels "female genitalia". They don't. Some women are born with bodies that look like men's bodies, and that have what doctors would call "male genitalia". This doesn't make them any less women, it just means their bodies look different. Below is a description of the body parts that most people who are born as women have. It's worth also checking out the article about male genitalia, since you never know what's going to fit or be of interest to you here or there.

Take a Tour
There are many ways to tour and understand your sexual anatomy. The best way is the one that works best for you. If you're not sure where to start, you may want to check out these tips on a self-guided tour of your own sexual anatomy. But below is a breakdown of some of the parts of female genitalia that are most often talked about when we're talking about enjoying sex.

Vulva
When people talk about their vagina, usually they are really talking about their vulva. The vulva is the collective term for the most easily visible parts of external female genitals. It includes the mons pubis, both the outer and inner labia, the clitoral hood, the urethral opening and the vagina opening. There is a great variation in the overall appearance (including size, shape, and color) of women’s vulvas. If you'd like to see a range of both illustrations and photographs of vulvas that are not presented to be pornography, check out Betty Dodson's vulva gallery.

Mons Pubis
This area is also called the mons veneris (or mountain of venus) or sometimes just the pubic mound. It is the area of skin that lies above the pubic bone. It’s often rounded and there is a fatty pad of tissue under the skin. The mons is where most of your pubic hair grows (some hair will also grown on the outer labia). The mons is may be the least sensitive part of the vulva but many women will still enjoy the feeling of touching and massage or even vibration, as the stimulation can be felt throughout the area.

Labia
Coming down on either side from the mons are the labia. Labia is latin for "lips" and women have two sets of labia. The outer thicker labia, called labia majora, are what you see without spreading your legs wide open. They will likely have hair on them and can be smooth or a bit ridged. In between the labia majora are another set of skin folds called the labia minora. These are much thinner and more flexible than the labia majora. The inner labia are often longer or seem to stick out more than the outer labia. Some women develop worries about the size of their labia. There is huge variation in shape and size of labia. Both sets of labia have nerve endings (more are in the inner labia though), making them a potential site of sexual arousal and pleasure. This is important information to have for anyone considering cosmetic genital plastic surgery.

Clitoris
The labia come together at the top into a little hood that covers the clitoris. The part of the clitoris which can be seen and felt (and until recently was thought to be the whole thing) sits under the top of the labia minora. In fact this is just the tip of the clitoris. It is often less than an inch long, but can be longer. It is made mainly of erectile tissue, which are spongy bodies that can fill up with blood, making it firmer and larger. What you won't be able to directly feel or see is that the clitoris extends into the body and down in two roots to either side of the vagina. This is referred to as the internal clitoral body and all of this can swell when sexually stimulated. Read more about the clitoris.

Urethral Opening
The urethral opening, which is where urine or pee comes out, can be seen if you pull back the folds of the labia. Some women find stimulation of this area to be very pleasurable, some don’t notice, and others find stimulation irritating. Erectile tissue also surrounds the urethral opening.

Urethral Sponge or G-Spot
A number of glands surround the urethra between the bladder and the urethral opening. Fluid is produced in these glands and may be released into the urethra during orgasm. Some women make enough fluid that they notice it, even to the extent that it is similar to ejaculation. Many find that they have a sensitive spot on the vaginal wall (at the top if you are on your back) inside the vaginal opening that can be felt and stimulated and which then swells and gives a different sensation during orgasm. This area is often called the g-spot after Ernst Graffenberg who described it in 1950. Finding your g-spot isn't always easy. Like any other part of your body the g-spot may or may not feel good when stimulated. Read more about the g-spot.

The Vagina
The vagina has both reproductive and sexual pleasure functions and capacities. It's a tube-shaped organ that's often described as "potential space" or like a balloon that is uninflated. Contrary to what marketers would have you believe there's no ideal size or shape to a vagina and in fact the size of the vagina changes dramatically as a woman becomes aroused. Read more about the vagina.

PC Muscle
The PC muscle, which stands for pubococcygeus muscle, is actually a sling of muscles that support the pelvic floor and surround the internal genitalia. These muscles are involved in urination (when you stop yourself from peeing in mid-stream, you’re using your PC muscle). The PC muscle is also involved in orgasm, and many women find that doing regular exercises to strengthen the muscles changes the way their sexual response feels. These exercises are called Exercises kegels . Read more about the PC muscle.

Perineum
This is the area between the vaginal opening and the anus. During sexual arousal and excitement, the area may become more sensitive, and some women may find massaging the area to be pleasurable. Read more about the perineum.

Hymen
The hymen is a thin membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening inside. Contrary to much mythology, the hymen is not a solid structure that is broken (or "popped") during a first vaginal intercourse. The hymen usually has several openings and may change and stretch as a woman’s body changes through puberty. When a woman first engages in vaginal intercourse(which of course doesn’t have to be with a guy or a penis), the hymen can stretch and tear and this may cause some bleeding and some pain. But this isn’t the case for all women. If you're like to learn more about the myths and realities of the hymen, check out this Swedish article that proposes to rename the hymen as the vaginal corona and also listen to this Pleasure Report podcast offering an in-depth consideration of the hymen.

Anus
The anus may not, strictly speaking, be a sexual organ, but it’s a potential site for immense sexual pleasure, and so might be rightly thought of as part of sexual anatomy. The anal opening or anus leads to the rectum. The very strong muscle of the anal sphincter surrounds the rectum. The anus has many nerve endings and external stimulation, even very light stimulation, can be immensely pleasurable. Unlike the vagina, which is essentially closed on one end, the anus and rectum are open ended. You must be careful never to insert anything in the anus that doesn’t have a flared base to prevent it from slipping up into the rectum and beyond. Bacteria that live quite happily in the anus can cause problems if transferred the vagina, the mouth, or the eyes, so touching the anus (inside or out) has to be done with attention to safety. Read more about the anus.

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