Vulva, vagina, labia… What is all of this exactly?

by Britta
Vulva, Vagina, Vulvalippen, Uterus, von kaosdesignstudio, Vulvani, Anatomie weibliche Geschlechtsmerkmale

Illus¬≠tra¬≠tion by Kaos Design¬≠stu¬≠dio

Everyone‚Äôs body changes dur¬≠ing puberty. Dur¬≠ing this time the inter¬≠nal and exter¬≠nal sex¬≠ual char¬≠ac¬≠ter¬≠is¬≠tics nec¬≠es¬≠sary for sex¬≠ual activ¬≠ity and repro¬≠duc¬≠tion develop. Often we are only roughly famil¬≠iar with our dif¬≠fer¬≠ent body parts. Terms such as vagina and vulva are fre¬≠quently mis¬≠used in every¬≠day lan¬≠guage. How¬≠ever, it is impor¬≠tant to know your sex¬≠ual organs and to use the terms cor¬≠rectly. So let‚Äôs take a lit¬≠tle jour¬≠ney together through the body of men¬≠stru¬≠at¬≠ing peo¬≠ple.

Vulva vs. vagina

The entirety of the exter¬≠nal pri¬≠mary sex¬≠ual organs of a men¬≠stru¬≠at¬≠ing per¬≠son is called the vulva. The vulva con¬≠sists of the mons pubis, the labia, the ure¬≠thra open¬≠ing, the vagi¬≠nal vestibule and the cli¬≠toris. A large part of the vulva is cov¬≠ered by hair start¬≠ing with the begin¬≠ning of puberty. In every¬≠day lan¬≠guage, the vulva is often mis¬≠tak¬≠enly called the vagina. How¬≠ever, the vagina is a pri¬≠mary sex¬≠ual organ that is tubu¬≠lar in shape and con¬≠nects the outer cervix to the vagi¬≠nal vestibule. The vagina  opens into the vagi¬≠nal vestibule of the vulva and is between eight and twelve cen¬≠time¬≠tres long. Only the entrance to the vagina is vis¬≠i¬≠ble from the out¬≠side. This is because it pro¬≠tects the sex¬≠ual organs that lie deeper in the body. As part of the birth canal, it is flexible.

Have you heard of our Men­strual ABC?

In our Men¬≠strual ABC there are many more expla¬≠na¬≠tions of terms related to the anatomy of the gen¬≠i¬≠tals, men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion and hor¬≠mone-free con¬≠tra¬≠cep¬≠tion. There you will find detailed men¬≠strual knowl¬≠edge from A for ade¬≠no¬≠myosis to Z for zero waste menstruation.

Can you see me in the mirror?

The slight hilly ele¬≠va¬≠tion just above the labia, caused by an accu¬≠mu¬≠la¬≠tion of fatty tis¬≠sue, is called the mound of venus. From puberty onwards, hair grows on the mons pubis. The vagi¬≠nal vestibule is part of the vulva and lies between the labias. Around the vagi¬≠nal vestibule are glands that are respon¬≠si¬≠ble for moist¬≠en¬≠ing the vagina. The cli¬≠toris is a sex¬≠ual organ, the small part of which is vis¬≠i¬≠ble on the out¬≠side of the upper end of the labia. It con¬≠sists of two thighs that con¬≠nect to the front of the body and lie inside the body. The cli¬≠toris, also called clit, straight¬≠ens up dur¬≠ing sex¬≠ual arousal due to the erec¬≠tile tissue. 

Insights into the inner life: uterus, cervix and uter¬≠ine orifice

The uterus is part of the sex¬≠ual organs and extends from the outer cervix to the open¬≠ing of the fal¬≠lop¬≠ian tubes. It resem¬≠bles a pear stand¬≠ing on its head and is a hol¬≠low organ in which the egg cell can set¬≠tle and develop after fer¬≠til¬≠i¬≠sa¬≠tion. The cervix is the con¬≠nec¬≠tion between the uterus and the vagina. This nar¬≠row sec¬≠tion makes up the lower third of the uterus and extends as the cervix into the upper part of the vagina. The nar¬≠row open¬≠ing of the cervix, which is sur¬≠rounded by mucous mem¬≠brane, pro¬≠tects the uterus from germs. 

Where the prepa¬≠ra¬≠tion for a baby is done

The fal¬≠lop¬≠ian tubes are a paired part of the sex¬≠ual organs that start from the uterus on both sides and end near the respec¬≠tive ovary. They are lined with mucous mem¬≠brane. Ovaries are part of the pri¬≠mary sex¬≠ual char¬≠ac¬≠ter¬≠is¬≠tics, where eggs and sex hor¬≠mones are pro¬≠duced. The eggs are sex cells that con¬≠tain all the genetic make-up of a men¬≠stru¬≠at¬≠ing per¬≠son and are passed on to the chil¬≠dren. With the begin¬≠ning of puberty, eggs mature in the ovaries dur¬≠ing each men¬≠strual cycle. Eggs can be fer¬≠tilised for a max¬≠i¬≠mum of 24 hours. 

Peti¬≠tion for a lan¬≠guage with¬≠out shame: Vulva lips

In Ger¬≠man the word for labia has the word shame in it. In the Ger¬≠man dic¬≠tio¬≠nary the term ‚Äėshame lips‚Äô is used. How¬≠ever, the word cre¬≠ates a false idea of this part of the body, because there is noth¬≠ing to be ashamed of. Quite the oppo¬≠site! With the help of the peti¬≠tion ‚ÄėAway with the shame: ‚ÄúVulva lips‚ÄĚ in the dic¬≠tio¬≠nary!‚Äô the estab¬≠lish¬≠ment of the term vulva lips and its inclu¬≠sion in the Ger¬≠man dic¬≠tio¬≠nary is fought for. Also the term venus lips would also be an option. The vulva lips are part of the exter¬≠nal sex¬≠ual organs. The term includes both the outer and inner vulva lips. What is your opin¬≠ion about the terms? Do you per¬≠haps have another good idea what we could call our labia? Then please write us a mes¬≠sage with your sug¬≠ges¬≠tions!

Published at 14. January 2020
Britta Wiebe is the co-founder of Vulvani. She loves researching, writing and designing new articles or innovative educational concepts about menstruation all day long. When she is not travelling the world, she enjoys spending time with her loved ones in the beautiful city of Hamburg in Germany. Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter

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