Anatomy Of The Vulva 101

Fact-Checked By : Dr. Tara Scott, OB-GYN

Image Credit: Elina Fairytale via Pexels

Most of us can stand to know a little more about our anatomy. After all, there are so many parts that make up female sexual anatomy, and most of us blessed with vaginas aren’t deeply familiar with our external anatomy.

Let’s start with the right terminology. The vulva is the external part of your genitalia. This includes the labia, clitoris, and openings to your vagina and urethra. The vulva protects your internal sexual organs, and it’s the center of your sexual response. Even though the vagina is just one piece of the puzzle, most people use the term “vagina” when they’re actually talking about the vulva.

Although no two vulvas look the same, they’re made up of the same basic parts. And if you’re worried that your vulva doesn’t look “normal,” don’t worry—there’s no such thing. Just like everyone has a different body shape or eye color, there’s also a huge variation in vulvas. No matter what shape, size, or color your labia is, it’s completely normal (as long as it’s not causing you physical discomfort).

Whether you’re searching for a basic refresher from your middle-school biology class or looking to learn some more in-depth information about your body, here’s everything you need to know about female sexual anatomy.


The vulva has two folds of skin: the labia majora (outer lips) and the labia minora (inner lips). The labia majora are fleshy and covered with pubic hair, while the labia minora are inside of the outer lips. Your labia start at your clitoris and ends just under your vaginal opening.

Your labia might be wrinkled or smooth, or one lip might be longer than the other—and that’s completely normal. In fact, there’s no rhyme or reason why the labia might be different sizes, and labia minora doesn’t necessarily mean that your inner lips will be smaller.

You might als0 notice that the color of your labia changes with age. When estrogen levels drop around menopause, the labia can change from pink to a paler or darker hue. In addition, "the labia may become less plump as estrogen levels wane," according to Lissa Rankin, MD, gynecologist, and New York Times best-selling author. Your labia can also change color when you’re aroused, becoming darker thanks to the rush of blood.

Your labia are responsible for keeping your vagina and urethra safe and protected from harmful bacteria.

Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

They’re also sensitive, so it’s best to stay away from lotion, scented soap, and basically, anything else that isn’t water, lube, or vaginal-friendly soaps. Remember: your vagina has a built-in cleaning system. To properly care for your vulva, most OB-GYNs recommend simply rinsing your vulva with warm water.


The tip of the clitoris can be found at the top of your vulva, where your labia minora meet. Everyone’s clitoris is different, and the size of your clitoris doesn’t affect your level of sensitivity. Some people have pea-sized clits, while other people have thumb-sized clits.

The tip of the clitoris is covered by the clitoral hood. Fun fact: the clitoris is actually bigger than the head of a penis. It’s kind of like a “tip of the iceberg” situation. You can only see the very tip of the clitoris from the outside, but the little structure on the surface of your vulva extends deep into the body, down the opening of your vagina. This part, called the shaft and the crura, is approximately five inches long.

Your clitoris is made of soft tissue that becomes swollen when you’re turned on. “The head of the penis is pretty much anatomically the same as what the clitoris is," says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, OB/GYN and partner of the Know Your Birth Control Campaign. The clitoris has around 8,000 nerve endings—more than any other part of your body and double the number of those in a penis. And if you’ve ever experienced an elusive G-spot orgasm, you were probably hitting the internal extension of your clit.

Urethral Opening

The opening to your urethra is the small hole that pee comes out of. Your urethral opening is located just below your clitoris and above your vaginal opening. Your urethra is a tube-like extension of your bladder.

Vaginal Opening

The vaginal opening is located just under the opening to your urethra. The vaginal opening is a magical place: it’s where menstrual blood leaves your body and where babies come out of. Basically, your vagina is the tube connecting your vulva and cervix. It’s also used for insertion, with fingers, penises, sex toys, menstrual cups, and tampons.

Image Credit: Cotton Bro via Pexels

Your vagina can also act as a route to other parts of your body. During penis-vagina sex, sperm is deposited into the vagina, which then travels through the cervix to reach the uterus. The vaginal walls can also be used as administrative routes for medicines and contraceptives, such as contraceptive rings and intervaginal hormone creams.

Your anus is the opening to your rectum. The anus is responsible for bodily waste functions. Similar to the clitoris, the anus is filled with tons of highly sensitive nerve endings, which is why some people experience pleasure from anal stimulation.


Your anus is the opening to your rectum. The anus is responsible for bodily waste functions. Similar to the clitoris, the anus is filled with tons of highly sensitive nerve endings, which is why some people experience pleasure from anal stimulation.

Mons Pubis

The mons pubis is the fleshy, rounded area above your vulva and below your lower belly. During puberty, your mons pubis becomes covered with pubic hair. It’s composed of fatty tissue and acts as a cushion to your pubic bone. It also contains oil-secreting (sebaceous) glands that release pheromones—substances involved in sexual attraction.

Getting To Know Yourself

Even though there have been significant gains in stigmatizing female reproductive health, there’s still a lot of misinformation out there. Whether you’re looking to form a deeper connection with your body or turn up the heat on your solo sessions, understanding your anatomy is essential.

Don’t be afraid to grab a hand mirror, explore your body, and touch and feel yourself in non-sexual (and sexual) ways. It’s all about connecting with your body, feeling comfortable with yourself, and figuring out what feels good for you.

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your OB/GYN. At the end of the day, you should never feel embarrassed by your anatomy.


Please note, comments must be approved before they are published