Yes, it is time for us to have an intimate talk about your female anatomy and also why it matters to be able to name it.
Despite the many strides women have made in health awareness, there are still too many of us who do not know the difference between our vulva (say it out loud) and our vagina (say it out loud). In fact Bodyform, the feminine hygiene brand did a research study and 73% of women did not know what a vulva was and The Eve Appeal charity revealed that 65% of young women have a problem saying the words vulva or vagina. This shocked the pants off us in the #BMarvellous office and is a challenge we have accepted to change.
So my gorgeous girlfriend, it is time to buckle up and learn this stuff really does matter. No matter what your age, knowing about your body lets you understand how it works, lets you confidently name your body parts, you will find it easier to communicate with both medical professionals and sexual partners but most importantly it gives you confidence about your wonderful body.
Let us begin….you may think that as your vulva leads to your vagina these two body parts are actually one, but no they are two distinct parts of your body. The vulva is the external organ, the parts you can see and the vagina is the internal organ, the parts you can’t see.
Marvellous Tip: If you have never really looked at your external organs, your vulva, then find a quiet time where you will not be disturbed, lock the door and using a small hand mirror or cosmetic mirror, pull off your underwear and have a good look.
The Basics Of Your Vulva And Your Vagina
You own a one in several million vulva. Over half the world population has a vulva and every single one is different. That is right, nobody else will have one that looks like yours – unless of course you have an identical twin! Your vulva is completely unique to you so introduce yourself and get to know her as she is fabulous!
We ladies don’t tend to go around taking photos of our vulva’s to share with our girlfriends and if you have ever seen any porn you may have been lead to believe that all vulva’s are white, clean shaven and small. This my darling is not reality. Vulva’s for film work are as real as the boobs and story lines in porn, all very fake! So to get the image of a perfect vulva into your head I have given you 36 vulvas to look at down below, sorry I could not resist, these wonderful ladies were happy to share their beautiful vulva’s with you to demonstrate how different every woman’s vulva is. You can thank me later.
When you look at your vulva, what you firstly see are the lips of your labia, correctly named as your labia majora which are the (sometimes) larger outer lips of the vulva, then on close inspection you will see there are (sometimes) smaller inner lips called the labia minora.
These lips have several important purposes. The labia majora provide protection to the delicate structures within. A bit like a ‘bouncer at a club’ protecting the occupants inside from unruly clients. These lips also contain sweat glands and oil-secreting glands that help maintain moisture and lubrication.
The labia minora are the inner lips and play a role in sexual arousal and pleasure as they contain numerous nerve endings. So remember your inner lips are full of nerve endings and are highly sensitive. They also act as a second ‘bouncer’ to protect the vaginal opening and clitoris.
Once you have made your way past both the labia majora and the labia minora you will be able to see your clitoris at the top, your urethra which is where you urinate (wee) from and your vaginal opening.
The clitoris is a small, sensitive bundle of nerves that lies at the top of the vulva, this can be stimulated during sexual activity. The urethra is located between the clitoris and the vaginal opening, it carries urine from the bladder to the outside of your body. Then vaginal opening which is located between the labia majora and labia minora.
Not linked to either your vulva or your vagina but as we are down here having a good look around, you might see another hole underneath your whole vulva which is your anus. This has nothing to do with your reproductive system but as we are correctly naming our body parts, this is the opening at the end of the digestive tract where solid waste products, correctly known as feces or stool, or as we call it poo!
The vagina on the other hand is actually much more simple although does have certain body parts which you probably have never heard of, no matter what your age.
The vagina is a fibromuscular (both fibrous and muscular) inner canal between the hymen and the cervix that allows the connection between the inside of the body and the outside. It is made up of different layers of tissue, including the mucous membrane, which is a thin layer of tissue that helps keep the vagina clean and lubricated.
The vagina also contains a number of glands, including the Bartholin’s glands, which produce lubrication during sexual activity. The cervix is located at the lower end of the vagina and is a small opening that allows for the passage of sperm during sexual intercourse.
Marvellous Tip: This very small opening is far too small for even the smallest tampon to get through, so you can never lose a tampon inside you. It might be hiding and it might be a bit too dry inside there to get it easily out, but it will never actually disappear inside you.
One other aspect of your vagina to mention. The hymen is a thin membrane that surrounds the opening to the vagina. Though hymens can range in shape and size, most are shaped like a half-moon. This shape allows menstrual blood to leave the vagina.
Examining the Major Differences
The other main difference is that the vulva is much more sensitive than the vagina, and therefore much more delicate. It houses the clitoris, the most sensitive part of the female anatomy. This means that the vulva should be treated with extra care during sexual activity, and should always be lubricated prior to intercourse. It is also important to remember that the clitoris should never be directly touched or penetrated during intercourse, as this can be very uncomfortable for the woman.
The vulva also has several glands that secrete lubrication during sexual activity, while the vagina does not. In addition, the vagina is the route through which menstrual fluid leaves the body, while the vulva does not produce any fluid.
Why Does Any Of This Matter?
Whatever your age, go out tomorrow and ask three friends what they call their vulva. Go on I dare you. I can guarantee that after the giggles and blushes you will be given everything except vulva. This highly non scientific poll will make you realise that we are living in a society that not only makes women ashamed to name their body parts but expressly stops you from seeing the words in the news, social media and general vocabulary.
Firstly, knowing the correct terms for our anatomy will help to reduce stigma that we may feel about our bodies. We all know the names for our ear and our elbow, these are just another body parts.
Thirdly, when you start your sexual journey you want to be able to describe to your partner what felt good and what does not. You have to be able to communicate for a great sexual experience. Yes, we do talk about sexual experiences as being positive and pleasurable and not just for reproduction.
Lastly, it is important to know the correct terms for our anatomy as it will help us communicate our needs to medical professionals, and ensure that we get the best possible care and advice.
Being comfortable and knowledgeable about your anatomy will make you feel more confident in your body but also gives you ownership. Don’t get drawn into describing your beautiful body parts with derogatory references. Practise using the words out loud until they are comfortable, by using your knowledge you can be more vocal in your pleasure and health care.
Implications for Healthcare
Having a better understanding of our anatomy can also have positive implications for our health care. Knowing the correct terms for our anatomy will help us to communicate more effectively with our healthcare providers, and ensure that we get the best and most accurate advice and treatment.
It can also help us to identify any changes or abnormalities that may arise in our anatomy, so that we can seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Promoting Education and Awareness
It is important for us at #BMarvellous to promote education and awareness about female anatomy, so that more people can be informed and empowered about their own health. That is why we always use the correct words to describe body parts, we want you to be educated and empowered and to help dispel stigma or shame that you might feel about your body.
Marvellous Tip: We are busy creating online courses which will give you a safe place to learn about your menstrual cycle, your anatomy and the things to look out for!
It is clear that understanding our female anatomy is key to having a healthy and empowered relationship with our bodies. Female anatomy matters and it is important to be aware of how it works and why it matters.