Vaginas. About half the world has one. Many of us come into the world through one. Yet there is so much misinformation around them, that many people don’t even know exactly what a vagina is. When it comes to the female reproductive system, we’re often kept in the dark. This lack of understanding of our basic anatomy, keeps people from being able to truly connect with their bodies. The more we understand just how magical these bodies are, the more we respect and cherish them.
There are many variations, and things that make different vaginas unique and beautiful in their own way. But before we celebrate the incredible differences that make us who we are, we need to first understand the basic anatomy of female bodied people.
First things first. The whole area that people often refer to as a vagina, is not necessarily the vagina. There are many parts we must encounter and see first, before we even get to the actual vagina.
If you are comfortable doing so, an amazing activity for getting to know your body, is the mirror exercise. As you are reading this, try laying in front of a mirror, or using a handheld one, to examine your own anatomy (or your partner’s)- to get a front row seat on this Tour de Vagina.
The first thing you see when examining your genitals (besides maybe pubic hair), is the vulva. This is the outside area of the genitals, that includes the mons pubis (latin for pubic mound), labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), the clitoral head, and the external openings of the urethra and vagina (introitus).
Underneath the mons pubis, lies the joints of the pubic bone, making up part of the pelvis.
Take a turn south, directly in between your legs, and you will begin to see the labia majora. Unless you choose to remove it, these are often covered in pubic hair. They serve to protect the more sensitive areas just beneath them.
Behind the gates of the labia majora, lies the labia minora. They are hairless, and made of more sensitive tissue than the labia majora. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They also can change throughout someone’s lifetime, from pregnancy and hormones, and swell when you are turned on.
At the top of the labia minora, and just below the mons, lies the clitorial hood- a fold of skin protecting the head of the clitoris, or glans. Like labia, the glans comes in all different sizes. This magic button is a powerful tool for arousal and orgasm. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the whole clitoris, in fact, it’s just the beginning of it.
If you are on the glans, and move up, you begin to feel the clitoral shaft. It is a hard, rod like structure. The clitoris then makes a wishbone shape, dividing into two parts. The shaft and crura (roots and legs) of the clitoris, are about 5 inches long. On either side of the vaginal opening, under the labia majora, are the clitoral vestibules. When aroused, these engorge, giving a bear hug to the vaginal opening, and tightening it.
Below the glans, is the urethra. This is the end of the urinary tract, and it’s the tiny hole that you pee out of.
Just below the urethra, is the vaginal opening. This is the opening to the vagina, or vaginal canal, which goes into the internal parts of the female anatomy. While babies and menstrual blood can come out of the vaginal opening, other things such as menstrual cups, fingers, penises, and dildos can go in.
With clean, possibly lubricated fingers, you can begin to explore the vaginal canal. The soft folds of the mucous membrane, stretch and mold to accommodate things like those listed above, to come in and out. The natural lubrication of the vagina, varies depending on arousal level, age, and where you are in your cycle.
A few inches inside your vagina, is the legendary G-Spot, or Gräfenberg Spot. It’s located on the belly side of your internal structure, and can be incredibly sensitive when aroused.
If you keep moving upwards, you will reach the cervix. This is the opening from the uterus to the vagina. When you touch it, it feels bulbous, almost like a nose. This incredible piece of our anatomy, thins and dilates during childbirth. It also descends during ovulation, and can be a powerful tool in tracking your cycle.
The uterus is a muscular, pear shaped organ. Normally, it is about the size of your fist. This area, often called the womb, is where the fetus (or fetuses) grow during pregnancy.
Extending from the uterus on each side, are the fallopian tubes. They are the pathway that eggs travel from your ovaries, to the uterus. During conception, sperm travels through the fallopian tubes to the ovaries, in an effort to fertilize the eggs.
These ovaries, are the storage house for the eggs. They also produce powerful hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. These help regulate puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy.
There are so many more layers and details in understanding female body’s anatomy, and as a society, we are just starting to scratch the surface (The first published information on the clitoris didn’t come out until 2011)!
So I invite you, to do your own hands on research. Get to know your unique anatomy, and understand that it is going to change throughout your lifetime. With that, I leave you with some fun facts about the female reproductive structure:
- Female bodied people have the same amount of erectile tissue as male bodied people do (1).
- The area of the clitoris that is visible, contains 8,000 nerve endings.
- Female bodied people reach orgasms in all different ways. From clitoral, to vaginal, to everything in between. For some people, breast stimulation does the trick, others can think themselves to orgasm.
- When turned on, the lower part of the uterus, moves towards the belly button. This is called “tenting”, and makes the vagina longer.
- Female bodied people, are born with all the eggs they will ever produce.
- Women’s Anatomy of Arousal. Sheri Winston. 2010.