Female Anatomy6 Min Read
Editor’s note: The conversation around gender is rapidly evolving, in an effort to be more affirming to all gender identities. The below post discusses anatomy such as vaginas and vulvas, both of which have historically been referred to as “female” anatomy, but anatomy does not define a person’s gender.
Vulva vs Vagina: What’s The Difference?
Pop quiz: What do you call the area of female anatomy between a person’s legs? If you said vagina, you’re wrong.
Your confusion may be warranted, as traditional sexual education often teaches peoplet that a penis and a vagina are equivalent appendages. However, this is incorrect.
“Vagina” refers to the vaginal canal, which is inside a person’s body. If you want to describe all parts of what is typically thought of as female genitalia, you would use the term “vulva.” This includes the urethra, labias, and most importantly, the clitoris, which is central to pleasure.
Many people argue that a failure to teach proper anatomy and terminology fosters indifference towards sexual pleasure. Therefore, on this blog, you will see the word “vulva” used more frequently than you will see “vagina.”
Bonus round: When comparing anatomy, the equivalent of a penis is actually the clitoris.
The Appearance Complex
Plenty of people ask their doctors and sex therapists “Do I look normal?”
Women in particular can be so concerned with the appearance of their vulvas that the topic can be a constant source of insecurity and stress. And while it’s possible to elect into labia reconstruction surgery, these procedures are both unnecessary, and could cause complications with sensitivity in the long haul.
Furthermore, the answer to the fearful question, “Do I look normal?” is always, yes, you do. There are all different shapes and sizes of vulvas, and each one is unique to each person. If you experience constant pain or discomfort, you should consult with a doctor — but otherwise, there is nothing wrong with your anatomy, I promise.
Being insecure about your vulva can directly affect your ability to be in the moment sexually, and can easily take away from an experience. It’s normal to feel some nerves when having sex with a new partner, and you don’t have to be hard on yourself for that. But it’s worth trying to push past the anxiety so you can enjoy yourself and own the differences that make you, you.
The clitoris is one of the most vital sexual organs for female pleasure, and simultaneously one of the most ignored topics in sex education. As a result, up to 40 percent of people don’t even know where the clitoris is (8). It’s no secret that this is a problem.
In “Becoming Cliterate,” Lauri Mintz compares this region to Harry Potter’s villain, Voldemort, coining it, “The one who shall not be named” (5). It’s a tough and all-too-accurate comparison. Take a moment and think about the sexual conversations you’ve had with peers. Plenty of people can say a multitude of words like “penis” or “vagina” without people cringing too hard. But the second the word clitoris is brought up, people start feeling much more awkward.
Why Is the Clitoris So Important?
The clitoris is crucial because it is the most sensitive spot on many people’s bodies, and contains up to 8,000 nerve endings. In a sexual experience, 80% of people with vulvas reach orgasm specifically through clitoral stimulation rather than vaginal stimulation.
Direct stimulation externally is the most common way to stimulate a person’s vulva — but too much stimulation at once can overwhelm the senses. Therefore, it’s often important to start slowly and increase in intensity. That’s also why some vibrators, such as the infamous magic wand, can be too much too soon for some people.
Ultimately, there are many different ways to stimulate the clitoris from toys to manual techniques or specific sex positions. One way is not better than the other, so explore for yourself and find out what you enjoy. If you need more guidance, OMGyes shows different techniques through video content with the help of researched-based insight.
And while it’s important to focus on external stimulation, it’s also worth targeting internal parts of the vulva in addition to the clit. Internal stimulation will come from focusing on what is known as the so-called G- and A-spots… but it’s worth knowing exactly what you’re aiming for.
People once believed that the G-spot was an interior spot of the clitoris typically two inches into the vaginal canal against the anterior wall. To target the G spot manually, experts recommended using a “come hither” motion (7) with medium pressure.
But more recent research has totally debunked the G-spot. While some people are indeed more sensitive on this area of their vaginal canal, there isn’t enough substantial research to actually say the G-spot is a real thing. The bottom line here is to explore what feels good to you and your body, and you might just strike gold.
There is a lot of back and forth between experts on whether the A-spot is real or not. Some claim it’s not a specific spot and others believe that if you find the area, it can be game-changing in your sex life. It’s said to be even further up the vaginal wall than the G-spot was believed to be, closer to a person’s cervix. Stimulating it can increase a person’s natural lubrication, and create a pleasant, intimate sensation.
Recent research has pointed to the likelihood that people with vaginas do have this spot. If you are going to go looking for it, try to apply pressure to the area.
The Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is a section of muscles located at the base of a person’s pelvis. For the yogis or spiritually-inclined, you may know this region as the root chakra. The pelvis is the muscle behind the pubic bone, and it provides lower back support and an increase in control over bowel and bladder movements. It can also add sexual benefits when strengthened (1), such as an increase in natural lubrication, blood circulation, and orgasms (3).
Glamour refers to a strengthened pelvis as the equivalent of “vagina anti-aging creams” (4). Therefore, focusing on tightening the region is particularly important after big changes such as pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause (1).
Here are some ways you can work to strengthen this region:
Kegels: Try to focus and tighten and release the pelvic-floor muscle. You can do this alone or tune into the area during sex. For more information on exactly how to do a Kegel, check out this Cosmopolitan article.
Exercise: Try Pilates, rebounding on a trampoline, deep squatting, or exercises that target your lower core.
New technological developments now provide a way to gain insight on the current state of your pelvis. For example, Perifit has developed a toy that connects to an app on your phone and helps monitor your body as you perform exercises. The app will give you feedback such as your baseline strength rate. It will then give you recommendations on how to improve this region in a way that is specific to your needs.
1. “Helping Pregnant Women Have Wonderful Pregnancies and Recover Faster.” Physio Laura, physiolaura.com/do-men-have-a-pelvic-floor/.
2. Nagoski, Emily. Come as You Are: the Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2015.
3. The Sex Issue: Everything You've Always Wanted to Know about Sexuality, Seduction, and Desire. Grand Central Life & Style, 2018.
4. Zoldan, Rachel. “20 Amazing Vagina Facts All Women Should Know.” Glamour, Glamour, 17 Oct. 2017, www.glamour.com/story/amazing-facts-about-the-vagina-every-woman-should-know.
5. Sloan, K. (2017). The Orgasm Gap. Herizons, 31(2), 24-3.
6. Mendez, Bianca. “You Know About the G-Spot, But What About the A-Spot?” Men's Health, Men's Health, 25 Feb. 2019, www.menshealth.com/sex-women/a19518153/a-spot-orgasm/.
7. Sutton, Jandra. “G Spot in Women: What It Is, How to Find It, and Sex Positions.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 21 June 2018, www.healthline.com/health/g-spot-in-women#3.
8. Mintz, L. (2017). Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--and how to Get it. HarperCollins.
Images 1. “Female-Genitalia.” Foundational Concepts, www.foundationalconcepts.com/the-pelvic-chronicles-blog/know-everything-need-know-birth-control-pill/female-genitalia/.