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What is the vulva?

The term vulva refers to the external female genitalia. 

This includes the following parts from the top down: the clitoris, the urinary opening, the vaginal opening, and the labia minora and labia majora (two layers of skin that enclose all three of the previous parts).

What does a normal vulva look like?

Before going into detail, it is important to understand a basic concept about normality. 

A normal vulva doesn’t have to look like your friends’ vulvas which you might have seen in the locker room or the vulvas you might have seen in an adult movie or magazine.

A normal vulva is one with normally shaped and properly functioning parts like the clitoris, urinary opening, vaginal opening, and two sets of labia. 

As far as external appearance, no two vulvas look alike. 

First, the color of the vulva, especially the parts inside the labia, varies from pink to brown. 

The clitoris varies both in size and in the degree to which it is covered by its hood.

Labia majora and labia minora (bigger lips and smaller lips)

The labia majora also know as “bigger lips and labia minora also known as “smaller lips” are two folds of skin that run along both sides of the vaginal opening. 

The labia majora are more external and generally larger than the labia minora, and they extend from the end of the mons pubis to the perineum.

The appearance of the labia majora varies from woman to woman. 

They can be almost unnoticeable or quite prominent. They can be the same color as the surrounding skin, or they can be darker. 

They can be bald or covered with hair. Finally, they can be spaced close to each other, or they can be so far apart that the rest of the vulva is exposed.


The clitoris is the most sensitive area of the female genitals. 

It looks like a small, rounded bud located at the upper conjunction of the labia minora (smaller lips). 

The clitoris’s size and shape both when relaxed or during arousal can vary substantially from woman to woman. 

To locate your clitoris, use two fingers to pull apart the labia minora just a bit. 

With a mirror, you should be able to see not only the clitoris but also the clitoral hood or the small layer of skin that partially covers the clitoris from above.

During sexual arousal, the clitoris like the penis fills with blood and increases in size. 

The visible part of the clitoris, called the head, is just a small part of the organ; the shaft of the clitoris extends inside the body and then divides, forming a network of nerves throughout the genital area. 

The only known function of the clitoris is to respond to sexual stimulation. It is often called the key to female sexual pleasure.


In both men and women, the urethra is a narrow tube that connects the bladder and the genitals. In men the urethra is approximately eight inches long and runs through the penis to its tip. 

It serves as a canal for urine, semen, and pre-seminal fluid.

In women, the urethra is much shorter approximately 1.5 to 2 inches, and its opening is located inside the labia minora, between the clitoris and the vaginal opening. 

A female urethra’s only task is to expel urine.

The vagina

The vagina is a canal that extends from its opening between the labia minora to the uterus. 

The easiest way to locate the vagina is to examine the vulva from the top down, starting from the bottom of the mons pubis. 

The first body part you encounter is the clitoris, at the upper conjunction of the labia minora. 

Just below the clitoris is a tiny opening called the urinary opening. Below the urinary opening is a larger opening: the vagina.

The main role of the vagina is to accommodate the penis during sexual intercourse (penetration) and to provide an exit for a baby at birth. 

The vagina also enables the discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus during menstruation.

The vagina is very elastic. It is generally about two to four inches long. However, it grows in both length and diameter in order to accommodate an erect penis during sex.

The hymen

The hymen is a thin layer of tissue that surrounds and partially covers the vaginal opening. 

The hymen’s size and shape vary from woman to woman. 

In some girls, the hymen is not present at all. 

In others (the majority), it closes off part of the vaginal opening without interfering with the menstrual flow; and in yet others (a small minority), it blocks the entire vaginal opening. 

When the vagina is blocked completely, a doctor must perform minor surgery to allow the menstrual flow to exit freely.

In the past, an intact hymen was seen as an indication of virginity, while a torn hymen was viewed as a sign that the woman had already had sexual intercourse. 

Today we know that a hymen can be torn in many ways other than sex—for example, through athletic activity or the insertion of a tampon.

The mons pubis

The mons pubis is the fatty tissue covering the pubic bone, the bone located in the lower abdomen just above the sexual organs. 

Due to increased hormone levels during puberty, the amount of fat increases, making the mons pubis more prominent, and hairs start covering the area. 

The mons pubis acts as a shock absorber between the man and woman’s pubic bones during sexual intercourse.


The uterus is a muscular, pear-shaped organ that’s found in the pelvis. 

The uterus is the female reproductive organ that receives the fertilized egg and supports its development during pregnancy.

Fallopian tubes

The fallopian tubes connect the uterus to the ovaries. One fallopian tube is associated with each ovary. 

The fallopian tubes work to transport an egg from the ovaries to the uterus. Fertilization often occurs in the fallopian tube.


These are two oval-shaped organs that are located in your pelvis, on either side of your uterus. The ovaries are connected to the fallopian tubes, which in turn connect them to the uterus.

The main function of the ovaries is to release eggs.


The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus sometimes called the uterus’s neck and is located at the internal end of the vaginal canal. 

It looks like a small donut with a little opening in the middle. The opening in the cervix is a two-inch-long tube that connects the uterus with the vagina.

Did you learn something?

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