About 30% of my female clients have never taken a good look at what they have got going on between their legs. About 75% have some sort of misinformation or inaccurate belief about their genitals. And virtually all of my clients feel insecure or ashamed about some aspect of the most intimate areas of their bodies. Here's your guide to breaking out of those statistics and becoming friends with your crotch.
If you have a vagina, you've been socialised to believe that that it looks weird, smells weird, tastes weird, and is just generally weird. At times, you may have even been a bit befuddled by it. But you probably also want your genitals to feel good, right? It's hard for both of those dynamics to exist at once. If you want to experience pleasure and have orgasms -- not to mention be proud of the body you have -- you need to have a certain level of comfort with it.
Make A Date With Yourself
To start, let's take a tour of your lady bits. It doesn't matter if you've done it before; unless you can draw an exact replica of your genitals from memory, you can benefit from taking another peek. If you feel anxious about it, try to relax yourself by taking some deep breaths, having a glass of wine, or scheduling it for a time when you know you'll have uninterrupted privacy. Try to find the most comfortable position your body can get into that will allow you to take a peep. Depending on your physical ability, you may need to use a hand mirror, some props, or creative positioning.
What To Look For
Now we're going to go on a treasure hunt for some of the basic parts of your anatomy. After reading the description, try to find that part on your own body. First one to find 'em all gets a prize!
- The Mons Pubis: Let's start at the top, The mons pubis is the area that rests on top of your pubic bone. It's covered in pubic hair. You're probably most familiar with this part since it's the part you can see when you look down.
- The Outer and Inner Labia: Your mons pubis splits off into your two outer labia, which are also covered in pubic hair. You also have an inner pair of labia, which have no hair, and are made of more delicate tissues. There's an incredible amount of variety when it comes to labia. Labia can be brown, tan, pink, black, red, purple or cream. Some women have larger outer labia, while others have larger inner labia. There is no "normal", so don't worry what yours looks like!
- The Clitoris: If you follow the line of your inner labia upwards, you'll find a little spot where the tissues converge. This area is the home of the clitoris, a small nub of skin that houses virtually all of the nerve endings in your genitals. Some women will be able to spot the clitoris right away, while others will need to do a bit of searching. The clitoris is typically hidden under a clitoral hood, which is a thin membrane of skin. You may need to pull the hood back in order to see your clitoris.
- The Urethral Opening: Right below your clitoris is your urethral opening, which is the hole you pee out of. It's a very small opening, so you may not be able to see it with your eye.
- The Vagina: Further back is the vaginal opening, which leads into the magical place known as the vagina. The vaginal canal is where any sort of penetration occurs, and also where menstrual fluid flows out of, and babies get delivered out of. Your vagina is capped off by your cervix, which then opens up into your uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries.
The G-Spot: Oh, the G-spot. Is there any structure in the female anatomy that's more hotly debated? Many doctors and researchers insist that the G-spot does exist, while others fervently swear that the "g-spot sensation" that some women feel is just the internal fibres of the clitoris getting stimulated. Some say that every woman has a G-spot, while others believe that only some women have them. It seems ridiculous that there's not a straightforward answer to this question yet, but this debate won't be settled here.
What I can tell you is that the G-spot is named after the doctor who originally found it: Grafenberg. If you want to find your (maybe possibly existent) G-spot, insert a finger into your vaginal canal with your palm facing up. Your G-spot is on the anterior wall of your vagina, meaning the side closest to your stomach, not the side that's closest to your back. It is about the size of a ten-cent piece, and is dense and spongy. It protrudes from the vaginal wall, so that's usually how you can tell that you've found it.
- The Perineum: This area is the smooth strip of skin between your vaginal opening and the anus.
- The Anus: You might need to manoeuvre around a little bit to take a look at your anus. Your best bet is probably going to be bending over at the waist in front of a mirror, and using your hands to spread your cheeks apart. The nickname "balloon knot" is surprisingly apt. The anus is surrounded by nerve endings, and can be a lot of fun to play with.
You can read more, as well as check out some handy diagrams, at the Wikipedia page for vulva.
Find What Feels Good
As you explore each area of your body, try experimenting with different types of touch in that spot. See if you can find all of the pleasurable ways of stimulating each part of your genitals. You might like a light pinching of your outer labia, going in circles around your clitoris, and the tiniest bit of pressure on your anus. This kind of exploration can literally last a lifetime, and it's the best way to develop more pleasurable relationship with your body! And the more comfortable you are with it, the better your sex is going to be.
(Almost) Everything You Should Know About Your Genitals
Now that you're a little more familiar with the anatomy, let's talk about the things that can happen in, around, and to your genitals.
Pleasure And Orgasm
This is undeniably the most fun thing about having lady parts. Women have about three times the amount of nerve endings present in their clitorises than are present in the average penis, so our capacity for pleasure is much higher! (Sorry, guys.) We're also capable of having multiple orgasms.
The clitoris is the centre of the orgasmic universe for most women. The majority of women will have an area of their clitoris, such as the surface, or the upper left quadrant, that feels more sensitive than the rest of the clit. Repetitive stimulation of the clitoris is typically what leads to orgasm.
A fun piece of party trivia, though, is that the clitoris is much larger than most people realise. The visible portion of the clitoris can range in size from a small pea to an inch or more, but the clitoris actually extends into your body and splits off into two legs, much like a wishbone! Most sex researchers believe that stimulation of the internal parts of the clitoris can lead to orgasm, just like stimulation of the external part can. The implications of this fairly recent discovery are huge. The vast majority of women can't orgasm from penetration alone, and virtually all of those women feel guilty and deficient for not being able to do so. I try to remind my clients that women who can orgasm from penetration are simply getting stimulation to the inside portion of their clitorises. It's still the clitoris getting stimulated, just different parts of it!
Your vagina also has an enormous capacity to stretch (remember, it's designed for newborn babies to travel through!). The vagina also goes through a fascinating process known as "tenting", where the vaginal muscles help the uterus lift up to make even more space for penetration. Fortunately, the vagina is also designed to return to normal after all this stretching. A lot of women feel self-conscious about their perceived vaginal "looseness". Without having seen your vagina, I can assure you that there's absolutely nothing wrong with your muscle tone.
If you'd like to develop more control over your muscles, however, try doing Kegels. Squeeze the muscles you use to cut off the flow of urine, then release and repeat. You can also invest in a nifty little toy like the KGoal to help you develop a training regimen!
Pubic Hair Care
Pubic hair grooming is an important part of your relationship with your genitals. Pubic hair styles change all the time, but it's worth noting that your pubic hair is there for a reason: it helps prevent chafing if you have intercourse. If you choose to remove all or some of your pubic hair (and you certainly don't have to!), make sure you go to a trusted professional at a hygienic salon. Sugaring seems to be the hair removal method that is easiest on the skin. The most frequently-used method of hair removal is shaving, but it can lead to some pretty gnarly nasty razor burn and ingrown hairs.
If you insert a finger into your vagina, you'll probably be able to feel the natural lubricant that your body secretes through the vaginal walls. When you become aroused, your vagina secretes more lubrication to make penetration easier (even if penetration isn't your jam). Women vary widely in the amount of lube they produce, and the volume of lube can change based on cycle and age. Getting wet "enough" is yet another one of the endless number of ways that women stress out and feel insufficient, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with getting a little help from artificial lube. In fact, adding more lube is almost always more fun!
The lubrication process is happening constantly, so Unfortunately having a vagina means having discharge. Most women feel self-conscious about discovering wetness in their underwear at the end of the day, but rest assured that this is totally normal. The vagina is a fascinating little ecosystem that does a great job of keeping itself clean and at the proper pH.
If you insert a finger into your vagina, you'll probably be able to feel the natural lubricant that your body secretes through the vaginal walls. Your body is always producing natural lubricant. It fluctuates throughout your cycle, so there are days where you have much more secretion than others, and times of the month where the secretion looks different.
You absolutely do NOT need to douche or clean your insides with soap. In fact, that will actually do far more damage to your vagina than good, by killing off the good bacteria that your vagina needs to stay healthy. You'll know that something is up with your vagina if your discharge is thick and clumpy, a markedly different colour, or a very strong odor.
Just as the G-spot is a source of great debate, so is squirting (also known as female ejaculation). Some sex therapists believe that all women are capable of squirting, while others believe it to be a rare phenomenon. This is another question that seems like it should have been answered already, but there's still some debate over the exact identity of the fluid that gets expelled when a woman squirts.
Women who squirt typically report that they require G-spot stimulation to do so. The G-spot typically requires very intense stimulation. That's why I recommend hefty toys like the njoy Pure Wand if you want to experiment with it. When you start stimulating the G-spot, you might initially feel like you need to pee. Don't worry -- it will go away if you keep going, and a more pleasurable, non-pee-related sensation will build. Fluid may come out of you, but it's not going to be like sitting down on a toilet and urinating. Put a towel down on the bed if you'd like, but don't concern yourself with anything other than what feels good!
There are still plenty of women who aren't sure about what's "normal" and "abnormal" when it comes to periods. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor if you notice any sudden changes to your period, if you go for long stretches (months at a time) without one, if you bleed ("spotting") or have another full period in between normal periods, or if your period is so heavy that you have a hard time changing tampons fast enough.
Speaking of tampons, swap them out every eight hours and try to find tampons made of unbleached cotton. Tampon users can be susceptible to Toxic Shock Syndrome from leaving an overly-absorbent tampon in for too long, but TSS is pretty rare these days.
Your vagina maintains a delicate bacterial balance. Introducing unhealthy bacteria or killing off the good strains can lead to infection. Here are some easy tips for avoiding yeast infections:
- Wipe from front to back.
- Take probiotics when you have to take antibiotics (the antibiotics kill off the good bacteria in your vagina as well as the bad bacteria that's making you sick)
- Never put anything that has been in your butt into your vagina without a solid cleaning first.
- Give your vagina some room to breathe! Don't wear thongs all day every day. Sleep naked when you can.
- Don't hang out in your gym clothes after you've worked out.
Yeast infections are never pleasant, but the good news is that it only takes a dose of Fluconazole and a few days to clear up. (Pro-tip: Don't bother with the suppositories you find at the drugstore. Those things are a pain in the arse to deal with!)
Urinary Tract Infections
The location of the urethra -- right in the middle of all of the action -- makes peeing right after sex an absolute necessity. Bacteria get pushed up into the urethra when you're getting down, which can result in a urinary tract infection if you don't pee right afterwards. Having a UTI is excruciatingly painful; it feels like thousands of tiny glass shards are being pushed into your urethra every time you urinate. Trust me, you want to avoid UTIs like the plague. You can also take cranberry extract as a precautionary step.
Your vaginal walls are delicate and susceptible to tiny microtears. Most of these lesions will heal up quickly and on their own, but it's worth giving yourself a break from penetration when you feel sore. Using artificial lube is a great way to prevent tearing from happening in the first place, too.
If your sex life includes any sort of vigorous thrusting, you're bound to have a queef (aka "vaginal fart") at one point or another. Queefs happen when air gets trapped in the vagina and squelches out. Queefs can be embarrassing in the moment, but they're a natural byproduct of penetration. Just laugh it off or ignore it!
While we're on the topic of air in the vagina, never, EVER let anyone blow air forcefully into your vagina. While rare, it can cause an air embolism, which can be fatal.
Lips picture from Shutterstock