The Vulva and Internal Genitalia
A woman’s vulva is actually a grouping of most of the external sexual organs of the crotch. The vulva includes the vagina opening, the clitoris, the labia (majora and minora), the urinary opening (urethra), and the area over the pelvic bone that gets covered with pubic hair at puberty (called the mons veneris).
|The most obvious feature on an adult woman is the pubic hair. It grows from the soft tissue above the pubic bone and is called the mons veneris (1) (Latin for “mountain of venus”). In mature unshaven women, the pubic hair continues down and around the vulva to the anus (6). The anus is the opening of the rectum and colon. Click here for a detailed drawing of the external genitals. The hair covered area between the mons and the anus is also made of soft fatty tissue (like the mons). This is the outer lips of the vagina, or labia majora (5) (Latin for major lips). The labia majora are prominent in some women and minimal in others. For some, the skin of these outer lips is darker.
The outer lips (labia majora) surround some soft flaps of skin which are hairless. These inner lips are called the labia minora (4) (Latin for minor lips). With sexual stimulation, they swell and turn darker as they get filled with blood. The space between the inner lips and the anus is called the perineum (8).
If the inner lips are spread apart (as seen in the picture), one can see that they protect a delicate area between them. This area is called the vestibule. At the top of the vestibule, right below the mons area, the inner lips are joined to form a soft fold of skin, or hood (2), that covers the clitoris (3).
The clitoris (pronounced KLIT-or-iss [no, it doesn't rhyme with Dolores]) is the most sensitive spot in the entire genital area. It is made up of erectile tissue that swells during sexual arousal.
Below the clitoris is a small slit called the urethra (11) opening. The urethra is a thin tube about an inch and a half long that connects to the bladder. This is where urine comes out.
Below the urethra opening is the larger opening of the vagina (10) (also called the introitus). The vagina is the birth canal, and connects the outside world of the vulva to the womb (or uterus).
The vagina is a muscular tube-like structure that connects the external world of the vulva to the internal organs of reproduction (i.e., the cervix and uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries). The Vagina is tucked between the urinary bladder in the front, and the rectum in the back. If nothing is inside, the vaginal walls touch each other. When something is inside the vagina, (e.g., tampon, finger, penis, baby), the walls spread and “hug” the object .
The walls of the vagina are actually made up of 3 types of tissue. The inside wall is called mucosa, and is similar to the inside of your mouth. Just below the mucosa is a layer of tissue that can fill with blood. This is the erectile tissue, and swells when a woman is sexually aroused. The deepest layer is a coat of muscle. This muscular coat is a wrap of tissue that can relax or constrict.
The vagina varies in length from woman to woman, but is generally 2 1/2 to 4 inches long (from vulva to cervix). In addition, the vagina has the ability to stretch quite a bit, thus allowing an erect penis in, and a baby out (see our Male Genitalia Kit for details on average erection size and shape).