Each one of us is beautiful and unique. But, for those of us with a vulva and a vagina, physically we all have the same anatomical parts and functions. And yet, there’s so much we don’t know, or weren’t taught in Sex Ed.
Have you ever truly studied your own anatomy? Do you know where your inner labia begin? Could you draw your vulva from memory? The more we know about our anatomy, the more access we have to our pleasure.
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, this is the blog article for you! Or, if you’d prefer to learn about the vulva with audio sessions, check out the 3 Days to Love Your Vulva collection on the Emjoy app.
The mons pubis
A.K.A. the pubic mound, or mound of Venus. This is the fatty pad right above your vulva where pubic hair usually grows.
Outer and inner labia
The outer and inner lips that wrap around your vaginal entrance. The space between the inner labia is called the vulva vestibule.
When we’re turned on, the labia majora spreads apart and flattens to expose the clit. The inner labia increase considerably in thickness (2-3 times) and they spread apart further, opening the entrance to the vagina. They also deepen in colour due to increased blood flow.
Being more visible parts of the vulva, our labia can be the source of a lot of comparison-based insecurities. Maybe you’re worried yours are bigger, longer, thicker, or wonkier than others’. Guess what! Having large, sticky-out or irregular shaped labia is totally normal and not a cause for concern. There are, however, some contributing factors to the size and shape of your labia, mainly genetics and the usual suspects: hormones and aging.
The clitoris is located where the inner labia meet at the top. Often, you can’t see it without pushing back the overlying skin called the clitoral hood. The clitoris is an erectile structure, much like the penis, so it’ll swell as is its way of making itself seen when it’s time to play. Its sole function is to give us pleasure!
However, what you can see of the clitoris is just the tip of the iceberg, the glans, if you will.
The vestibular bulbs are structures of erectile tissue that run beneath the skin from the top of your vulva and around the vaginal opening that, like the glans, swell when you’re turned on!
So, as you can see, most of the clitoris is not visible to the eye, meaning the clit can be stimulated without directly touching the glans. This is why some women can orgasm through penetration alone, but for the majority of us (around 80%) clitoral stimulation is our ticket to board the pleasure train.
Fun fact! Did you know your clitoris, like your ears and nose, continues to grow your whole life?
The urethral orifice
Located 2-3 centimetres below the clit, this is the hole you pee out of. Given that your urethra is super close to your anus (bacteria from your rectum is the most common cause of UTIs - yep, read that again), make sure you pee after sex to flush out any unwelcome bacteria.
The Skene's glands
Found on either side of the urethral orifice, these glands are believed to secrete a substance to lubricate the urethral opening. If, or when, you squirt, this is where the ejaculate comes from.
The vaginal opening
Where the magic happens, so to say. This is where menstrual blood and babies (sometimes, around 1 in 3 births are by C-section) come out of, and where penises, fingers, and toys go in! Commonly confused with the vulva (the outside parts), is the vagina. The vagina is actually the tube that connects your vulva to your cervix and your internal, reproductive organs: the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries!
The Bartholin's glands
A pair of pea-sized glands found just behind and either side of the lips that surround the entrance to the vagina. These glands secret the fluid that lubricates us during arousal, so they’re pretty important.
Contrary to popular belief, the hymen is not a membrane-like film to be popped like a pot of instant ramen. Well, it is a membrane, but it’s a one that shrinks as the body develops. Interestingly, it doesn’t have a function, and it’s certainly NOT for telling whether or not someone is a virgin.
Like every other part of our anatomy, no two hymens are the same. When you get a chance, grab a mirror and some lube or oil and see if you can spot yours. Separate your inner labia and you’ll find at the bottom of the vaginal opening. You’ll notice the skin is a little different to the ring around the vaginal entrance. It might be more or less thick, or more or less large, or have more or less folds. All are normal and correct. And, don’t worry if you can’t see yours, remember every body is different.
Taking care of her
We’ve already spoken about the insecurities we can have surrounding how our vulva looks, but many women also have concerns about how she smells.
Embrace your scent. Your vulva and your vagina are extremely sensitive areas of your body. While yes, your vagina is “self-cleaning”, your vulva isn’t. So make sure to keep her clean with a gentle intimate wash. But don’t overdo it! Your flower shouldn’t compete with an actual flower garden. Using harsh soaps, creams or even sprays to cover her natural odor will only mess with your pH balance.
That said, always listen to your body. The vulva comes with its own array of skin conditions or even infections. Keep an eye (and a nose) on what’s normal for your body.