Illus­tra­tion by Kaos Design­stu­dio

Everyone’s body chan­ges during puberty. During this time the inter­nal and exter­nal sexual cha­rac­te­ris­tics necessary for sexual acti­vity and repro­duc­tion deve­lop. Often we are only roughly fami­liar with our dif­fe­rent body parts. Terms such as vagina and vulva are fre­quently misused in ever­y­day lan­guage. Howe­ver, it is important to know your sexual organs and to use the terms cor­rectly. So let’s take a little jour­ney tog­e­ther through the body of mens­trua­ting people.

Vulva vs. vagina

The ent­i­rety of the exter­nal pri­mary sexual organs of a mens­trua­ting per­son is cal­led the vulva. The vulva con­sists of the mons pubis, the labia, the ure­thra ope­ning, the vagi­nal ves­ti­bule and the cli­to­ris. A large part of the vulva is cove­red by hair star­ting with the begin­ning of puberty. In ever­y­day lan­guage, the vulva is often mista­kenly cal­led the vagina. Howe­ver, the vagina is a pri­mary sexual organ that is tubu­lar in shape and con­nects the outer cer­vix to the vagi­nal ves­ti­bule. The vagina  opens into the vagi­nal ves­ti­bule of the vulva and is bet­ween eight and twelve cen­ti­me­tres long. Only the ent­rance to the vagina is visi­ble from the out­side. This is because it pro­tects the sexual 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 Mens­trual ABC there are many more explana­ti­ons of terms rela­ted to the ana­tomy of the geni­tals, mens­trua­tion and hor­mone-free con­tracep­tion. There you will find detailed mens­trual know­ledge from A for ade­no­myo­sis to Z for zero waste menstruation.

Can you see me in the mirror?

The slight hilly ele­va­tion just above the labia, cau­sed by an accu­mu­la­tion of fatty tis­sue, is cal­led the mound of venus. From puberty onwards, hair grows on the mons pubis. The vagi­nal ves­ti­bule is part of the vulva and lies bet­ween the labias. Around the vagi­nal ves­ti­bule are glands that are respon­si­ble for mois­tening the vagina. The cli­to­ris is a sexual organ, the small part of which is visi­ble on the out­side of the upper end of the labia. It con­sists of two thighs that con­nect to the front of the body and lie inside the body. The cli­to­ris, also cal­led clit, strai­gh­tens up during sexual arou­sal due to the erec­tile tissue. 

Insights into the inner life: uterus, cervix and uterine orifice

The ute­rus is part of the sexual organs and extends from the outer cer­vix to the ope­ning of the fallo­pian tubes. It resem­bles a pear stan­ding on its head and is a hol­low organ in which the egg cell can settle and deve­lop after fer­ti­li­sa­tion. The cer­vix is the con­nec­tion bet­ween the ute­rus and the vagina. This nar­row sec­tion makes up the lower third of the ute­rus and extends as the cer­vix into the upper part of the vagina. The nar­row ope­ning of the cer­vix, which is sur­roun­ded by mucous mem­brane, pro­tects the ute­rus from germs. 

Where the preparation for a baby is done

The fallo­pian tubes are a pai­red part of the sexual organs that start from the ute­rus on both sides and end near the respec­tive ovary. They are lined with mucous mem­brane. Ova­ries are part of the pri­mary sexual cha­rac­te­ris­tics, where eggs and sex hor­mo­nes are pro­du­ced. The eggs are sex cells that con­tain all the gene­tic make-up of a mens­trua­ting per­son and are pas­sed on to the child­ren. With the begin­ning of puberty, one egg matures in the ova­ries during each mens­trual cycle. Eggs can be fer­ti­li­sed for a maxi­mum of 24 hours. 

Petition for a language without shame: Vulva lips

In Ger­man the word for labia has the word shame in it. In the Ger­man dic­tion­ary the term ‘shame lips’ is used. Howe­ver, the word crea­tes a false idea of this part of the body, because there is not­hing to be asha­med of. Quite the oppo­site! With the help of the peti­tion ‘Away with the shame: “Vulva lips” in the dic­tion­ary!’ the estab­lish­ment of the term vulva lips and its inclu­sion in the Ger­man dic­tion­ary is fought for. Also the term venus lips would also be an option. The vulva lips are part of the exter­nal sexual organs. The term inclu­des both the outer and inner vulva lips. What is your opi­nion about the terms? Do you perhaps have ano­t­her good idea what we could call our labia? Then please write us a mes­sage with your sug­ges­ti­ons!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

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.