Psst…ever taken a peek at what’s really down there? Half the population has a vagina, yet few of us know our inner from our outer labia (yup, there are two). “When sex ed covers female anatomy, it’s always the internal stuff like the uterus and fallopian tubes. No one talks about the outside,” says Kelly Culwell, M.D., medical director for WCG. Body knowledge is key for your health and your sex life, which is why we’ve made it our mission to normalize these intimate conversations—like in this new video with Jessica Biel. Here, a handy guide to getting to know yourself below the belt.
Grab a handheld mirror and lock the door, then strip from the waist down and sit with your knees bent and spread slightly apart. Ready? Hold the mirror up between your legs and take a look. Disclaimer: It might look different than you expect. “We rarely see images of female genitalia—when we do, it’s usually porn stars who have been airbrushed or surgically altered—so women are often surprised by what they see,” says Culwell. If you’re feeling nervous, take some deep breaths, say a body positive mantra—heck, maybe even pour yourself a stiff drink.
What you see:
All that stuff you see reflected back at you? Nope, it is not the vagina. “The vagina is just one part of your genitals,” says Dr. Culwell. “Your vulva is what encompasses everything you see from the outside.”
The mons pubis
At the top, you’ll see this round mass of fatty issue that sits over your pubic bones. “It’s typically covered with pubic hair—unless you wax or shave it off—and gives cushioning and protection to your pubic area,” says Dr. Culwell.
As you scan down, you’ll see these folds of skin that are also known as the lips. The outer lips are the labia majora and inside those are the labia minora. Filled with nerves, blood vessels and glands, the labia’s job is to secrete lubrication for sex and help protect the vagina. Most importantly, they come in all shapes, colors and sizes. “Some are pink, some are purple, some have short minoras and others have long ones you can see outside the majora—it’s all totally normal,” says Dr. Culwell.
Gently open the lips and at the top you’ll see flap of skin (the clitoral hood) and under that a small nub. This is the clitoris. “Its sole purpose is for sexual pleasure, thanks to its concentration of super sensitive nerve endings,” says Dr. Culwell. (Feel it and you’ll see what we’re talking about!) Like a penis it has a foreskin—aka the clitoral hood—and swells when aroused.
This tiny hole just below your clitoris is where your pee comes out—not the vagina.
The next hole down is the entrance to your vagina, a muscular canal that leads to your cervix. The vagina increases in length and width as you become sexually aroused, increasing lubrication and pulling the uterus upwards to create more space for intercourse—another reason not to skimp on foreplay!
A small diamond-shaped patch of skin below the vagina. “It supports our pelvic floor muscles and other muscles that enable us go to the bathroom, have sex and give birth,” says Dr. Culwell.
This is the last hole you can see. (You may have to get on all fours to find it.) In addition to emptying your colon, some people find it can be a source of pleasure. Curious? Experiment to see what you like, just be sure to use lots of lubrication and proceed S-L-O-O-O-W-L-Y.
See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Sign up for the Tryst e-mail newsletter to join our sex positive community and be the first to see what’s coming next.