Pictures of female sex organs are common and easy to find these days. You would think this would have led to better understanding and less confusion, but sadly this is not the case. Pornography has created a single version of what a woman’s genitals “should” look like and this version is nothing like the way most women look without surgery.
God created female sex organs to have great variety, with differences in shape, size, coloration, and more. They are beautiful in form and amazing in function (yay, creator God!).
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. The result of this swelling is much like a waterbed: touching any one place causes ripples of sensation throughout the vulva.
The mons veneris is a pad of fat that sits over the pubic bone. In its natural state, it is covered with pubic hair, although some women remove all or part of the hair. During intercourse, the mons serves as a shock absorber between the pubic bones of the man and the woman.
The labia majora are also called the large or outer lips. They surround the rest of the vulva. The outer edges are hair covered: the inner edges are smooth and hairless. The skin of the outer lips is rich in blood vessels and is darker than the skin beyond the vulva. During arousal, they swell and become even darker. Before puberty, the outer lips come together, covering the rest of the vulva. After puberty, the lips are slightly parted, showing some of the inner lips.
The labia minora are also called the small or inner lips. They are located between the outer lips, meeting at the bottom below the entrance to the vagina and joining at the top with the clitoral hood. The inner lips are hairless, smooth, and irregular. In most adult women they protrude beyond the outer lips and one is larger than the other. The inner lips contain extensive blood vessels and nerve endings, along with sweat and oil glands. Any movement of these lips pulls on the clitoral hood, which can cause stimulation. The labia minora darken during arousal, becoming darkest just before orgasm. Women who have been pregnant have darker inner lips than those who have not.
The clitoral hood is a protective covering for the clit (clitoris). Men sometimes think they need to pull back the hood to touch the clit directly in sex play. This is unnecessary at best and may be uncomfortable and overstimulating. Dried secretions known as smegma can collect under the hood and cause 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 clit is often described as a small penis. While there is some truth to this, there are some significant differences. The glans or head of the clitoris has as many nerve endings as the glans of the penis, but they are packed into a much smaller area making it very sensitive. It swells slightly during arousal, then pulls back under the clitoral hood as arousal continues and sensitivity rises. (Husbands sometimes misinterpret the “disappearing clitoris” as a sign of dropping arousal. In fact, it is the exact opposite.)
The glans is just the tip of the clitoral iceberg. It is the small external bit you can see. The rest of the clitoris is internal and quite extensive. (See clitoris, internal below.)
Urine leaves the bladder through a tube called the urethra. The external opening is located above the vagina where the inner lips 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 a urinary tract infection. Urinating after intercourse and gradually working up to greater levels of activity can prevent these problems.
The opening to the vagina is between the inner lips below the urethral opening.
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 inches 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 stimulation for the man 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 is usually incapable of discerning touch. The walls of the vagina continually produce secretions that moisten and clean the vagina.
During sexual arousal, 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. When arousal occurs, two things happen to lengthen the vagina; first, the swelling of the inner lips moves the entrance outward, and secondly, the back of the vagina extends past the cervix into the body. The outer third of the vagina pulls tighter, while the upper two-thirds opens up.
The clitoris is much more than that little nub you see under the clitoral hood. The clitoris has a shaft that extends into the body and then splits into two parts, called the crura. These extend down under the outer lips and attach to the lower portion of the pubic bone. The vestibular bulbs are on either side of the vaginal opening. (This image is horizontal, tilted up so you can see how it fits around the vagina.)
Here’s another angle to help understand the internal placement.
Just inside the opening of the vagina is the hymen, a fold of tissue that usually covers part of the vagina. In extreme and very rare cases, the hymen covers the entire vagina and must be opened by a doctor to allow menstruation.
Once thought to be rather delicate, the hymen is actually very elastic, and capable of healing. 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.
In the past, many have thought that an intact hymen indicates virginity. We understand now this is not necessarily the case. 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 women 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-exploration can avoid wedding night problems.
Once wrongly thought to be the source of vaginal lubrication, the Bartholin’s glands actually secrete only 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 therefore more receptive to sperm.
Also called the PCs, these muscles surround the vagina, the urethra, and the anus. The PC muscle experiences involuntary rhythmic contractions during orgasm, but it can also be squeezed voluntarily. The stronger these muscles are, the more easily and strongly women can orgasm. PC muscle strength is particularly necessary for coital orgasm, with women who have weak PC muscles being incapable of orgasm during intercourse. See Kegels for Women for exercises to strengthen these muscles.
Located 2 to 3 inches inside the vagina on the side toward the front of a woman’s body, this area produces distinct sensations and often swells when stimulated.
The G-spot is named after Ernst Gräfenberg, who first noted the erotic sensitivity of this location in the 1950s. However, the existence of glandular structures in this area was 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 does, but it’s fairly clear the G-spot does exist.
A husband can locate the G-spot by inserting one or two fingers into the aroused vagina. Doing this with the woman lying 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 feeling of the need to urinate, but this passes and the sensation becomes arousing for most women. Continued stimulation usually causes the area to swell, making it easier to locate. Some women are able to orgasm from G-spot stimulation alone, while others greatly enjoy an orgasm that results from a combination of clitoral and G-spot stimulation. The G-spot can also be stimulated by the penis 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 maybe the cause of the so-called female ejaculation. Also, see the articles on The G-Spot and Female Ejaculation.
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 the cervix. The cervical 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 why some women enjoy stimulation of the cervix.
Also called the womb, this pear-shaped organ is about three inches long and two inches wide in a woman who has never had a child and slightly larger after 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.
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 of the egg normally occurs in the fallopian tubes as the egg moves toward the uterus. If the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tubes instead, a life-threatening tubal pregnancy occurs.
The ovaries, which are slightly smaller than a man’s testicles, are located at the ends of the fallopian tubes. The ovaries contain the woman’s lifetime supply of eggs at birth. During the childbearing years, one ovary (or occasionally both ovaries) will ripen and release an egg each month; this is 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 monthly cycle.
The Clitoris and the Body – Animated image showing how the clitoris fits into the female genitals (at bottom of article).
Great Wall Of Vagina: Panel 1 – Castings of female genitals as art showing the variety of appearances.
For more information on the physical changes that occur during sex, see The Anatomy of Female Arousal.
pink orchid © Nickolay Khoroshkov / Adobe Stock
external female genital and clitoris drawings © Lori Byerly / The Marriage Bed, Inc. All Rights Reserved
female internal genitals diagram © Lavreteva / Adobe Stock