Female Reproductive System & Genital Anatomy

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There are many features – pleasurable and functional – to female genital anatomy. Let’s start with the reproductive system, which has 3 main components: the vagina, which leads from the the vaginal opening to the uterus; the uterus (womb), which holds the developing fetus (baby); and the ovaries, which produce the female’s ova (eggs). Though part of the parenting stage of reproduction, breasts are usually not considered to be part of the female reproductive system.

During sexual intercourse, the vagina is lubricated by mucus secreted by the Bartholin’s glands. The vagina is attached to the uterus through the cervix, and the uterus is attached to the ovaries via the fallopian tubes. Each ovary contains hundreds of eggs that a woman is born with and will be dispensed during her lifetime. Here is an illustration of many of these features:

female_reproductive_system-en.svg

Approximately every 28 days (the average length of a woman’s menstrual cycle) the pituitary gland releases hormones that stimulate some of the eggs to develop and grow. One egg is released during ovulation (the fertile part of a woman’s menstrual cycle, usually day 14, or halfway through her cycle) and passes through the fallopian tube into the uterus. Hormones produced by the ovaries prepare the uterus to receive the egg. The lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, and unfertilized eggs are shed each cycle through the process of menstruation. If an egg is fertilized by sperm, it attaches to the endometrium and the fetus develops.

Below is a list of the external features of female genital anatomy:

Vulva: refers to the whole outside area of a female’s genitals. Also called: the pussy, vajayjay, snatch, twat, cooch, poon, hot box… here is a more complete list of slang.

Vagina:  simply put: the muscular tube that the penis goes into (if you’re heterosexual) and babies come out of. There are many folds of skin and different textures inside the vagina. In the image below, “Vaginal Orifice” refers to the place where the vagina opens and goes into the body.

If a woman squeezes her vaginal walls, say to stop the flow of urine (pee), hold a tampon, penis, toy, or child during labor, she is engaging her PC – pubococcygeus or Kegel muscles. Just inside the vaginal opening is the vaginal corona, or hymen. The hymen may or may not be easily distinguishable from the rest of the vaginal opening. People used to think thought the hymen was proof of a woman’s virginity, but that is not necessarily the case. Not all women are born with intact or easily identifiable vaginal hymens, and others may break their hymens from intense physical activity like horseback riding. When someone is talking about “popping a cherry,” they are referring to breaking the hymen upon the first sexual penetration.

Down at the end of the vagina is the cervix, which feels like hard flesh. The cervix the base of the uterus, where, if you were pregnant, a baby would grow. The cervix is the passage through which sperm travel to meet an egg in the fallopian tubes. Tampons and sex toys cannot get into or lost in the cervix, nothing but sperm or an IUD birth control device implanted by a doctor can usually fit in there.

If you were ever curious about what the inside of a vagina is doing during a woman’s every month, from menstruation though ovulation to her next menstruation, the site Beautiful Cervix features photos taken internally of a woman’s vagina every day for an entire cycle.

Mons pubis: aka Mound of Venus, is a fatty area of skin where the pubic hair is below the belly button. The pubic hair and the fatty tissue continue downward to the labia majora.

Labia majora: the outer lips, which are flat or puffy-ish in appearance.

Labia minora: the inner lips, which are two soft folds of skin inside the labia majora. The inner labia can be two different sizes or shapes, long and thick, small and thin, or barely visible, and may look purple, red, pink, black, or brown, depending on your coloring. These variations are absolutely normal. The inner labia have sensory nerve endings which provide sexual pleasure and also keep bad bacteria away from the vulval vestibule, where the vaginal and urethral openings are. Modern slang refers to labia minora that are visible outside the labia majora as “outies” and labia minora that are hidden by the labia majora “innies.” Both the labia majora and labia minora swell when a woman is in a state of arousal.

Skene’s glands: there are 2 Skene’s glands are located near the entrance of the vagina, one located on each side of the urethral opening. While some controversy surrounds these glands, many researchers believe they are related to the G-spot, G-spot orgasms, and female ejaculation. They are named for Alexander Skene, the physician who first described them in the 19th century. Learn more here on Wikipedia.

– Clitoral hood: located at the top of the inner labia, the clitoral hood covers the clitoris (clitoral glans).

– Clitoral glans: aka the Clit, a small bump or ball-shaped glans inside the clitoral hood, is the female’s most sensitive erogenous zone and has no other function than pleasure. Sexual stimulation of the clitoris can produce female sexual arousal and orgasm. The word clitoris actually comes from the Greek word “key,” as it was thought by ancient anatomists to be the key to female sexuality. When you look at a clitoris, you are only seeing the very tip of it. There is a lot more to the clitoris that we don’t see, as Scarleteen points out: “the clitoris — which in full, internal and external, is nearly of the same size as the penis — is usually the most sensitive spot on, and involved in the most sensitive areas of, the vulva. It’s got twice the number of sensory nerve endings the penis does, and it also interacts with over 15,000 nerve endings throughout the whole pelvic area. It is created of the same sort of erectile tissue that the head of a penis has. Before we all were born, until about the sixth week of our lives as an embryo, our sexual organs were slightly developed, but completely the same no matter our sex or gender.”

Unfortunately some cultures find the clitoris’ existence to be unacceptable, and employ the brutal practice of female genital mutilation; organizations like Clitoraid seek to educate people and eliminate this practice.

Urinary meatus: is the meatus (orifice, or opening) of the urethra. It is the point at which urine (pee) exits the urethra.

Urethra: is a tube that connects the bladder to the genitals for the removal of urine.

Perineum: the area of skin between the vagina and the anus.

Anus: is the opening to the rectum where feces exits the body, and connects internally to the large intestine. The anus is also the opening where anal sex takes place.

Here is a basic image of female genitals with many of those parts labeled:

Labeled vulva

Vulvas come in many shapes, sizes, and colors – with various styles of pubic hair – below are several examples:

Vulva diversity

To see more diversity in vulva appearance, look at the photo galleries in the Labia Library1001Vaginas101 Vulvas, and check out Betty Dodson’s classic illustrations.