Given the generally abysmal state of sex ed across the globe, and how female genitalia can be mysterious (read: confusing) pleasure caves, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on anatomy.
A word to the wise before we begin the tour
Not everyone with a vulva has the “corresponding” internal organs, and vice versa. And while dubbed female, these structures can belong to people of all sexes and genders. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Both functional and sensual, the vulva’s purpose is to protect the internal reproductive organs, vagina, and the urinary opening. As an added bonus (except for in cases of vulvar pain), the vulva is one of the most sensitive parts of the body.
The vulva is located between the mons pubis (the fleshy mound below the belly) and the perineum, also fondly known as the taint. The perineum is the region between and the vaginal opening and the anus. The outer and inner “lips” of the vulva are called the labia majora and labia minora, respectively, and are found in all sizes, shapes, and colors.
While these lips are equally as kissable as the ones on your face, they’re much less likely to make an appearance in a Maybelline ad.
The labia majora, as well as the mons pubis, may or may not have hair. Much like houses, everyone landscapes differently. Some are into xeriscaping, while others may prefer a carefully trimmed lawn or a lush patch of gardenias. Throw in a handful of glands responsible for lubrication, and that’s the vulva.
Inside the lips, there can be found the clitoris, sitting cozy underneath the clitoral hood. It’s basically the Shangri-La, the El Dorado of pleasure, but a lot easier to find. Like the labia, clitorises vary in size. From “embedded” clits to clitoromegaly to clitoris-turned-penis in the case of trans men taking T therapy, there’s a wide range.
The clitoris is heralded as a magic little bean, and while this is true, there’s more than meets the eye. Like a National Geographic picture of a Great White Shark fin, there’s a whole lot more beneath the surface. What people mean when they say “clitoris,” is more accurately called the glans clitoris or the sensitive nub that caps off the clitoral shaft. The clitoral shaft is internal and about 2-4 cm long. It contains erectile tissue, meaning it fills up with blood during arousal. The shaft then splits off into two crura, which are about 5-9 cm long, and have two vestibular bulbs between them. Picture a flying penguin. When engorged, these bulbs are also responsible for the vulva’s outward expansion during arousal.
Below the clitoris is a small hole known as the urethral opening. As the name suggests, that’s urine’s exit point after passing through the urethra, or internal pee shute. And lastly, the vaginal opening is situated just below the urethral opening.
This is much the same for trans women who have had gender affirmation surgery, or “bottom” surgery.
Measuring anywhere from 3-7 inches deep from opening to cervix, vaginas are also pretty variable. This moist and stretchy muscular tube is not as nerve-dense as the vulva. A confusing, but infamous vaginal landmark is the G-spot. The G-spot’s existence is still highly contested, but there is evidence that the front wall of the vagina near the vaginal opening (where the G-spot is said to be) is the most sensitive region of the vagina. The urethral sponge, or the erectile tissue around the urethra is in this area as well. The Skene’s glands, the glands that are thought to be responsible for female ejaculation or “squirting”, are also housed in the urethral sponge. This may be why some people squirt when their G-spot is stimulated. For the most part, however, no one has been able to conclusively say that the G-spot exists as an anatomical structure.
How many scientists does it take to confirm the existence of the G-spot? The world may never know.
The end of the vagina is typically marked by the cervix, the passageway to the uterus. It’s a spongy mound that looks like a little pudgy, pink donut. The cervix goes through many changes during the menstrual cycle, changes you might be able to feel. Depending on the time of the month, the cervix may feel firm (like the tip of your nose) or may feel a little softer (like pursed lips). The cervix may also move as the uterus is pulled up, further into the body, or let down depending on estrogen levels.
Internal Reproductive Organs
Beyond the cervix is the uterus. This muscular pouch is sandwiched between the bladder and the tail end of the digestive system. The site of fertilization (in most cases), the uterus is baby’s first bedroom (if you’re into that kind of thing).
Jutting out on either side of the uterus like the arms of someone who just got drenched in very cold water are the fallopian tubes. These exist as little highways for eggs that are released monthly from the ovaries. Contrary to what most diagrams would have you believe, the ovaries don’t just float in space connected only to the fallopian tubes. The ovaries are also connected to the uterus, and additional structures help to keep them in place as well.
But not everyone with a vagina or a vulva will have these organs. Some people are born without (or with different or extra reproductive organs), and sometimes these organs are surgically removed. During a hysterectomy, the uterus (and sometimes the tubes and ovaries too) is removed abdominally, vaginally, or laparoscopically, and then sewed up. Depending on the surgery, the cervix may or may not be removed as well.
There is much to learn about female sexual anatomy. For one, scientists don’t even have it all figured out yet, and this is in part because these structures can be as diverse as the people they belong to. Like the cervix, sexual anatomy goes through changes within a month, and throughout a lifetime. Or like the G-spot, people can’t agree whether some anatomy is real or not, and what its function is. What can be agreed on, however, is that genitals have an immense capacity for pleasure, it just takes some time to figure it out.
If you want to continue your sexual anatomy journey, here are some of our favorite resources:
If you have questions or ideas about something you’d like to hear more about, or even a story you’d like to share — let us know.