Description and function of the female sex organs:
The Vulva: Vulva is the name applied to the female external genitals as a whole. As a woman becomes aroused the entire vulva becomes engorged with blood, resulting in swelling and darkening of the external genitals. The result of this swelling is much like a water bed, touching any place causes ripples of sensation throughout the whole area. For this reason it is possible for a woman to have an orgasm without the clitoris being directly stimulated.
The Mons Veneris: A pad of fat that covers the pubic bone. Pressure on the mons can be pleasurable due to the presence of nerve endings. The mons is covered with pubic hair. During intercourse, the mons serves as a shock absorber between the pubic bones of the man and the woman.
The labia majora:Also called the large or outer lips. The labia majora start at the thigh and extend inward, surrounding the rest of the vulva. The outer edges are hair covered, the inner edges are smooth. The skin of the outer lips is rich in blood vessels, and darker than the skin of the thighs. During arousal the labia majora swell and become even darker. Prior to adolescence the outer lips come together, covering the rest of the vulva; after puberty the lips are slightly parted, showing some of the labia minora.
The labia minora: Also called the smaller or inner lips. The labia minora are located between the labia majora, meeting at the bottom below the entrance to the vagina, and joining at the top with the clitoral hood. The smaller lips are hairless, smooth, and irregular. They usually protrude beyond the labia majora, and one is larger than the other. The small lips contain extensive blood vessels and nerve endings, along with sweat and oil glands. Any movement of these lips pulls on the clitoral hood, causing stimulation. The labia minora darken progressively during arousal, becoming darkest just before climax. Women who have been pregnant have darker inner lips than those who have not.
The urethral opening: The opening of the urethra is located above the vagina, where the labia minora come together. Very active sex, especially after a time of abstinence, can bruise the urethra. Intercourse can also force bacteria up into the urethra, leading to an infection. Urinating after intercourse and gradually working up to greater levels of activity can prevent these problems.
The clitoris: Often described as a small penis, the analogy leads to some misconceptions. The glans or head of the clitoris has more nerve endings than the glans of the penis, packed into a much smaller area; in fact, the clitoris is so sensitive that some woman dislike direct contact. The clitoris swells slightly during arousal, then retracts under the clitoral hood as arousal continues and the clitoris becomes hypersensitive. Husbands sometimes misinterpret the “disappearing clitoris” as a sign of diminishing arousal; in fact it is the exact opposite. The shaft of the clitoris runs up under the hood, then split into two parts known as the crura of the clitoris, which run back down under the labia majora, and attach to the lower pubic bone.
The clitoral hood: The hood covers the clitoris, protecting it from excessive stimulation, and stimulating the clitoris as it slides over it in response movement. Men sometimes think they need to retract the hood to get to the clitoris when manually or orally stimulating their wife, but this is unnecessary at best and can result in over stimulation that borders on pain. Dried secretions known as smegma can collect under the hood, causing pain during sex. Retracting the hood when washing can prevent this problem. (A note, most medical professionals recommend using water only to wash the vulva.)
The vagina: The vagina has been described as a potential space, since it is a collapsed tube most of the time. In the unaroused state, the vagina is 3 to 4½ long. The walls of the vagina are composed of three layers, the mucous membrane outer layer, the muscle middle layer and a fibrous tissue inner layer. The mucous layer is full of folds much like, but softer than, the folds in the roof of the mouth. This texturing provides the man with the friction he needs to climax during intercourse. The muscle layer, which is mostly in the outer third of the vagina, contracts during arousal, firmly gripping the penis during intercourse. The fibrous layer provides structural support. All three layers of the vagina have an abundance of blood vessels, but very few nerve endings. In fact, the inner two thirds of the vagina are usually incapable of discerning touch. The walls of the vagina continually produce secretions which moisten and clean the vagina. During sexual arousal (within 10 to 30 seconds of the start of stimulation) the walls of the vagina sweat a slippery fluid that serves as a lubricant. Because the lubricant is subject to gravity, it may not readily reach the entrance of the vagina if the woman is lying down. The quantity and thickness of the lubricating fluid varies from woman to woman, and changes considerably during a woman’s cycle. As arousal continues two things happen to lengthen the vagina; first the swelling of the labia majora moves the entrance outward, and secondly, the back of the vagina extends past the cervix into the body. The lower third of the vagina closes down, while the upper two thirds opens up.
The hymen: Just inside the opening of the vagina is the hymen, a fold of tissue which usually covers part of the vagina. In extreme cases the hymen covers the entire vagina, and must be broken to allow menstruation. Once thought to be rather delicate, it has recently been learned that the hymen is actually very elastic, and capable of healing quickly. A woman who had intercourse only a few times in the past may have a normal looking hymen. Because the hymen normally covers only part of the vagina, it is very possible for a woman to use tampons for years and still have an intact hymen. The hymen is a poor indicator of virginity, since a non virgin can have a hymen, and a virgin can have no trace of a hymen either because she never had much of one or because some activity has destroyed it. Despite horror stories about the pain and bleeding that accompany first intercourse, most woman experience only minor discomfort and minimal bleeding. In very rare cases the hymen is so tough that intercourse can’t occur until a gynecologist aids in breaking it. A premarital exam, or a bit of self exploring, can avoid wedding night problems.
The Bartholin’s glands: Once wrongly thought to be the source of vaginal lubrication, the Bartholin’s actually only secrete a few drops of fluid, and only when the woman is about to orgasm. It is believed these glands are designed to make the normally acidic vagina more alkaline, and thus more receptive to sperm.
The pubococcygeus muscle: Also called the P.C., these muscles surround the vagina, the urethra, and the anus. The P.C muscle experiences involuntary rhythmic contractions during orgasm, but is can also be squeezed voluntarily. It has been found that the stronger these muscles are, the more easily and strongly women can orgasm. P.C. muscle strength is particularly necessary for coital orgasm, with women who have weak P.C.’s being incapable or orgasm during intercourse. See Kegel for exercises to strengthen these muscles.
The G-spot: Located 2 to 3 inches inside the vagina on the top or roof, this area produces distinct feelings, and often swells, when stimulated. The G-
spot is named after Earnest Grafenberg, who first noted the erotic sensitivity of this location in the 50’s; however the existence of glandular structures in this area was first noted by Dr. Skene in 1880, and medical mention of the area goes back to ancient Rome. A great deal of debate has occurred about just what it is, and what it does, but it’s fairly clear the G-spot does exist. A husband can locate the G-spot by inserting one or two fingers nearly as far as possible into the aroused vagina. Doing this with the woman laying on her front and the hand palm down seems to be the easiest way to find the correct spot. Gently wiggling the fingers in a “come here” motion will stimulate the spot. The first reaction of most women to this stimulation is a strong feeling of needing to urinate, but this passes, and the sensation become arousing. Continued stimulation usually causes the area to swell, making it easier to locate. Some women are able to orgasm from G-spo stimulation alone, while others greatly enjoy the so called blended orgasm resulting from a combination of clitoral and G-spot stimulation. The G-spot can also be stimulated during intercourse, particularly in rear entry positions; this may explain why some women experience powerful orgasm in these positions. Some scientists believe the G-spot is composed of the same tissue that becomes the prostate in men, and may be the cause of the so called female ejaculation. Also see the articles on the G-spot and Female Ejaculation.
The cervix: Often thought of as being at the end of the vagina, the cervix is actually on the top or roof of the vagina, and not all the way at the end. During intercourse, the penis slides under and past the cervix. The os is the opening in the center of the cervix through which sperm and menstrual fluid pass. Recent research has determined that the cervix has a good number of nerve cells, which are much more sensitive when the woman’s blood estrogen level is high (near ovulation). This explains why a pap smear sometimes hurts, and sometimes doesn’t. It may also be part of the reason that some women find coital orgasm easier at certain times of the month.
The uterus: Also called the womb, this pear shaped organ is about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide in a woman who has never had a child, and slightly larger after a pregnancy. The uterus is very muscular, and contracts rhythmically during orgasm. The endometrium, or uterine lining, thickens each month in preparation for pregnancy, then sloughs off creating the menstrual flow if no pregnancy occurs.
The fallopian tubes: These 4 inch tubes run from the ovaries to the uterus, moving the egg to the uterus by the waving motion of tiny hair like cilia. Fertilization normally occurs in the fallopian tubes, if the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tubes, a life threatening tubal pregnancy occurs.
The ovaries: The ovaries, which are about the same size and shape as almonds, are located at the ends of the fallopian tubes. The ovaries contain the woman’s life time supply of eggs at birth. During the child bearing years one (or occasionally both) ovary ripens and releases an egg each month; an event called ovulation. The egg is viable, or able to be fertilized, for about 24 hours after it is released. The ovaries also produce a variety of hormones, the quantity of each varying throughout the cycle.
Orgasm: The pleasurable physical feeling that results from continued sexual stimulation. During orgasm, which can last 20 or more second for a woman, the pubococcygeus muscles and the uterus both contract rhythmically. Years ago it was thought there were two types of orgasm, those resulting from stimulation of the clitoris, and those resulting from stimulation of the vagina during intercourse. This idea was replaced by the thought that all orgasms result from clitoral stimulation. Recent studies, however, shows that there are two potential orgasm triggers for women: the clitoris and the G-spot. Work done by Beverly Whipple seems to prove that these two areas are connected to the brain by different nerves, and that the nerves take very different pathways to the brain. In addition to woman having orgasms from G-spot stimulation, some woman are able to climax from just breast stimulation, while others can climax by doing nothing more than squeezing their pubococcygeus muscles. The cervix has also been found to be sexually responsive. Female orgasm seems to be much more varied than male orgasm, both in how it’s caused and how it’s felt. See also how frequency effects a woman’s body.
Female ejaculation: A very few women report a release of a small amount of fluid during orgasm. Studies have found that this fluid, which comes from the urinary opening, is not urine, but is chemically similar to the fluid produced by a man’s prostate. Because the fluid is most often released when the G-spot is stimulated, researchers suspect the G-spot is the source of the fluid. Examination of the varying amount of glandular tissue in women’s G-spots leads researchers to believe that not all woman can produce this fluid, while others might produce such a small amount that it is not noticeable. A couple who becomes aware of this extra fluid should simply consider it a sign of how much the woman is enjoying their love making. Also see the articles on the G-spot and female ejaculation.
Resolution: Women don’t experience the same rapid post orgasmic loss of physical arousal that men do. A woman’s body returns to its unaroused state slowly. If stimulation continues, or resumes before resolution is complete, the woman quickly regains a high level of arousal and may have another orgasm.