All about the vulva: What is it, where is it, and why it’s not the same as the vagina.

BY

The Emjoy Team

·
5
MIN READ
All about the vulva: What is it, where is it, and why it’s not the same as the vagina.
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We all remember that infamous “Friends” scene when Ross, in an attempt to talk dirty to his date, could only muster one word: “vulva”. 

While not exactly dirty talk material on its own, the vulva is the source of a lot of pleasure and has many parts to it,  which is why learning about it –and getting to know yours– is key to both your pleasure and your health. 

Vulva vs. vagina

First things first: what is the vulva? And how is it different from the vagina?

The term “vulva” refers to the external female genitalia, meaning the part of your genitals on the outside of your body, that can be seen fairly easily if you take a mirror and look, and it includes the clitoris, the labia, the urethral opening, the vaginal opening, and the lesser and greater vestibular glands. 

Yes, you read that right: the vaginal opening is a part of the vulva, which means the vulva and the vagina are different things. What you can see from the outside is only the entrance to the vagina, because the vagina is an internal part of the female body. 

The word “vagina” has been used for decades to refer to what we now know is actually the vulva, and the proper word has only been a part of the mainstream conversation on female anatomy for just a couple of years. 

This misconception comes from –surprise, surprise– our cultural obsession with thinking that penetration is the only kind of sex you can have, which we now realize is not true.

The vagina is actually a tunnel that leads to the uterus and the place where a penis would go in this traditional (and narrow) idea of sex. Because the vagina is the only hole used for procreation, it's stolen the spotlight from all the other juicy spots (ahem, clitoris!)

You may also recognize it as the place where tampons or menstrual cups go since it leads to the uterus, it’s also the place where menstrual blood and babies come out of.

Long story short: the vulva has many parts that serve a variety of functions, including giving women a lot of pleasure.  While the vagina is an internal part of the female body that serves an important purpose, but it's not the entire show. Got it? 

If you’re curious about the other parts of the vulva, there’s detailed information in our Definitive Guide to the Female Anatomy but let’s go through the basics now, shall we?

Parts of the vulva

Let’s start from the top: the clitoris. The visible parts of the clitoris are the clitoral head and the clitoral hood –the shaft lives inside the body, so while it is a part of the clitoris, it is not a part of the vulva. The head, on the other hand, sits at the top of the vulva, above the urethral opening, and it’s covered and protected by the hood. 

When it comes to the labia, there are two layers: the outer labia and the inner labia. The outer labia protects the more delicate parts of our genitals, and the inner labia –which are much more sensitive than their outer sisters– are just one step inside, providing another layer of protection and the potential for a lot of pleasure.

You may remember them being called labia majora and minora in the past, but as we’ll be able to read below, they can have different sizes and even colors, so “outer” and “inner” are much more precise terms.

parts of the vulva
Watch video Female Anatomy: The Truth about Vulvas and Vaginas

The urethral opening is a small hole located below the clit and just above the vaginal opening, it’s often covered by small folds of skin, and it’s where urine exits.

And then there’s the vaginal opening, which is at the bottom of the vulva and, as we mentioned before, leads to the vagina. 

The lesser and greater vestibular glands are probably the least popular parts of the vulva, but they both serve important functions. The lesser vestibular glands, also known as Skene’s glands, lie on either side of the urethra and are responsible for squirting; while the greater vestibular glands, sometimes called Bartholin’s glands, lie on either side of the vaginal opening and produce some lubrication during sex.  

Would you be able to locate all of these parts on your own vulva? If not, don’t worry, we have a solution for you! The “3 Days to love your vulva” collection on the Emjoy app includes sessions to learn how to explore, love, and even draw your vulva! 

All vulvas are pretty. We promise.

Vulvas are rarely represented in media and even in educational books (remember your text books in sex ed class?!), and when they are there’s usually just one model of them: a vulva that’s pink all over, with larger outer labia and smaller inner labia, a visible but modest clit and no hair whatsoever.

In short: a vulva that can exist, but is definitely not the norm.

And only being exposed to the vulvar equivalent of a supermodel sets an unattainable aesthetic standard that isn’t even related to how sexy or attractive a vulva can be. 

all vulvas are pretty

Vulvas have different shapes and colors, and their parts can have different sizes and proportions. Some clits are more prominent and some seem to want to hide away, there are lighter and darker labias, as well as people who have some bits in a darker tone and some others in a pinker one! The vulva can actually change colors with hormonal shifts and, you guessed it: every version is unique and just as sexy as the one we’ve been conditioned to think of as the “perfect” dainty, pink and, of course, hairless vulva. 

And while we’re on the subject of hair: the hair on your vulva is NOT dirty. It’s actually there to help control the moisture in your skin and provide better ventilation, which in turn leads to a healthier vulva.

Want to get rid of it? That’s ok, too! Just make sure to take extra precautions to make up for the protection and airiness that the hair would usually provide. 

However your vulva looks and no matter how you like to groom it, recognizing its beauty and learning to love it is an important part of self-love and of having a healthy, pleasurable sex life.

Want to get to know your body better? Download the Emjoy app for guided sessions to explore it and discover what you like, as well as some sexy stories to get you in the mood! 

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