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Vulva

Vulva (noun) - The name that refers to all of the external female genitals - those you can see - is the vulva, meaning "covering". The different parts of the vulva are the mons, the labia, the clitoris, and the perineum.

The mons, also called mons pubis or mons veneris, after the Roman goddess of love, is a soft mound of cushioning fatty tissue covered by skin and pubic hair (after puberty). This region has numerous nerve endings, so touch or pressure here may lead to sexual arousal. Many women find that stimulation of the mons area can be as pleasurable as direct clitoral touch.

The labia are the visible parts of the female genitals, commonly called lips. There are outer lips (labia majora) and inner lips (labia minora). The labia majora are folds of skin, or fatty tissue, covering a thin layer of smooth muscle lying along each side of the vaginal opening. After puberty, the sides of the outer lips are usually covered with hair. The labia majora contain numerous sweat glands, oil glands and nerve endings. In their sexually unstimulated state, the outer lips usually are folded together, meeting in the middle to cover and protect the vaginal and urinary openings. During sexual arousal, the labia majora swell and flatten out, exposing the vaginal opening. This is caused by blood collecting in the many vessels there. The labia of women who have had a child sometimes show the response a little more strongly than the labia of women who have not given birth, turning a deep wine or amber color compared to the bright red pre-birth color. After menopause, the labia majora thin out and lose most of the fatty tissue that gave them shape, and they no longer swell and flatten out to the extent they did before menopause.

The inner lips, or labia minora, are the inner folds of tissue that can sometimes look like curving petals. The lips meet just above the clitoris forming a fold of skin called the clitoral hood. They are not as thick as the labia majora, and are hairless, but they contain many sensitive nerve endings, which means they can feel good when touched. They have a core of spongy tissue rich in small blood vessels, but they do not contain fat cells like their counterparts, the labia majora.

When a woman reaches a certain level of sexual excitement, her labia minora change color. The color change is called the sex skin change and indicates that orgasm can occur if proper stimulation continues. At the same time as the color change happens, the labia minora become larger because of the increased blood flow that results from her arousal. When sexual stimulation stops, both the larger outer lips and the smaller inner lips return to their usual size and shape within a short period of time.

Female external genitals may vary greatly in appearance. There are differences in the size, shape and color of the labia, in the color, texture amount, and distribution of pubic hair, and in the appearance of the clitoris, vaginal opening, and hymen. All of the various shapes, sizes and colors are normal. Many women think that their genitals are ugly or disgusting because they appear to them, for whatever reason, to be abnormal. Perhaps they compare themselves to some sexually explicit pictures they have seen and conclude that because they are different, they must be abnormal. Sexual anatomy varies as much as facial features differ from one person to another.

While we cannot imagine a person unable to identify eyes, nose, mouth and chin, many women and men grow up without learning the locations and names of either sexual structures. Taking a direct look at your own genitals (it is easier with a mirror) and perhaps inviting your partner to observe your anatomy along with you, is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with your body.

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Related Words

Clitoris

Mons

Perineum

Vagina


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