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The Anatomy of the Vulva

The Anatomy of the Vulva

Vulva Anatomy

Vulva-havers or non-havers, how well do you know this part of the body? We understand that there’s been a lack of education around anatomy. Most people still don't know the difference between the vulva and the vagina. We want to change that.

Most people refer to their whole genital area as the vagina but the name used to describe all the external parts of the genitals is actually called the vulva. If you’ve been referring to it incorrectly all your life, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Dr Jen Gunter (OB/GYN) explains in her book, ‘The Vagina Bible’, the most important basic anatomic point of the lower genital tract: the vulva is the outside (where your clothes touch your skin) and the vagina is the inside. The transition zone between the vulva and vagina is called the vestibule.

We’re going to take a deep dive into each of the parts that make up your vulva (aka, the external parts) and during this practice, you’re invited to take the time to explore each of these anatomical parts on your own body, or you can refer to them on the diagram above.

The main structures of the vulva are:

The Mons Pubis

  • This is a pad of fatty tissue that covers the pubic bone down to the clitoral hood. It may or may not be covered in pubic hair, depending on your preference. Both preferences are beautiful.

The Labia Majora (outer lips)

  • Two hair-bearing external skin folds that extend from the mons pubis to just below the vestibule. They are filled with different kinds of glands.

  • Everyone’s outer and inner labias are unique and there is no “normal”. They can be short or long, wrinkled or smooth. Usually, one lip will be longer than the other and they can vary in their colour.

The Labia minora (inner lips)

  • Two hairless folds of skin, which lie within the outer lips. They have erectile tissue so they engorge or swell with sexual stimulation.

  • They begin at the clitoris and end under the opening to the vagina.

  • They are capable of distinguishing touch on a very fine scale.

The Glans Clitoris

  • The glans clitoris is the name of the external part of the clitoris—the part that most people call the “clitoris”. The glans clitoris is the only visible part of the clitoris which is located at the top of your vulva, where the inner lips meet.

  • Everybody has a different size clitoris but the glans can be as small as a pea or as big as a thumb.

  • The glans also have the highest concentration of nerve endings therefore providing the most pleasurable sensations.

  • Fun fact: the sole purpose of the clitoris is sexual pleasure. It’s the only part in the human body solely designed for pleasure.

  • The majority of the clitoris is internal so you can’t actually see it. It looks like an inverted Y, with each side having two sets of arms and the glans at the very tip of the Y. The entirety of the clitoris may expand as large as 7cm in length or more, with the glans making up about 4-7mm of the whole structure.

  • Dr Jen Gunter explains that all parts of the clitoris are involved in sexual sensation and all parts are erectile, meaning they can engorge with blood, becoming firmer similar to a penis.

The Clitoral Hood

  • A membrane of skin that protects and partially covers the clitoris.

The Vestibule

  • A diamond-shaped part of the vulva located between the labia minora (inner lips) into which the urethral opening and the vaginal opening open.It includes everything from the bottom of the clitoral hood to the vaginal opening.

The Urethral Opening

  • This is the tiny opening where you pee from and it’s located just below the clitoris and within the vestibule.

Vaginal opening

  • The opening to your vagina is located right under the urethral opening and above the anus. The opening is where menstrual blood leaves the body. It's also used to birth a baby and for sexual intercourse.

The Perineum

  • A strip of soft and sensitive skin between the anus and the vaginal opening.

  • It can vary in lengths and is very commonly torn during childbirth to help make room for the baby’s delivery.

The Anus

  • Whilst the anus is actually part of the gastrointestinal tract and not the reproductive tract, we have decided to include it here for learning purposes.

  • The opening to your rectum, aka your butthole, and where we poo from.

  • It's made of the muscles that line your pelvis (pelvic floor muscles) and two other muscles called anal sphincters (internal and external). The pelvic floor muscle stops stool from coming out when it's not supposed to. The anal sphincters give you control over stool.

We believe it's really important to know the correct terms of these body parts as calling them by their right names, empowers us to take full ownership of them and to understand them.

It's important to help spread the information with the people around you so that we can all continue to better understand the inner workings of our body.


Image diagram source:

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