We suggest personalizing the information in this

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We suggest personalizing the information in this chapter to yourself. We invite you to sit down, pull out a mirror, and explore your own body as we discuss sexual anatomy and physiology. If you have an intimate partner with whom you feel comfortable sharing this Know Yourself journey or a friend who is interested in comparing notes with you, then begin the dialogue. vulva FEMALE SEXUAL ANATOMY Our understanding of our genitals begins with what we can see on our own bodies and the bodies of others. Because they are visible to us, we tend to know something about how they look and perhaps what they do. Part of learning about sexual anatomy is learning how the appearance of our external genitals corresponds with our internal organs and the physiological processes associated with them (Fausto-Sterling, 2001). External Female Sex Organs The term for the female external genital region is the vulva, though it is often mistakenly called the vagina. (The vagina is an internal organ that lies just inside the vulva.) Figure 4.1 shows the structures of the vulva. The mons pubis (mons veneris) is the fatty tissue overlying the pubic bone. After the onset of puberty, this region is generally covered with pubic hair. The external female genitals; often referred to as the vagina. monspubis Also called the mans veneris, the female pubic mound; the fatty tissue that covers the pubic bone. pubic bone Part of the pelvis, the pubic bone is covered by a layer of fat known as the mons pubis. 97
98 labia majora The outer lips of the vulva. labia minora The inner lips of the vulva, one on each side of the vaginal opening. sebaceous glands Glands that produce oil. tumescence The state of being swollen or engorged with blood. clitoral hood The fold of skin that surrounds and protects the clitoral glans. Figure 4.1 The structures of the vulva, the external female genitals. Glans of clitoris---� Urethral opening Vestibule ----- Vaginal opening ---,.- HUMAN SEXUALlTY Part of the vulva is the labia majora (Latin for "large lips"). The labia majora are vertical liplike structures of skin folds that cover the labia minora; and like the mons pubis, the out- side of the labia majora is generally covered with hair after puberty. The labia minora (Latin for "small lips") are also liplike structures that comprise smaller and more delicate skin folds. Unlike the labia majora, the labia minora are hairless, although they contain numerous sebaceous glands that resemble small bumplike structures. During sexual arousal, blood rushes into the vascular tissue of the labia in a phenomenon known as tumescence. The folds of the labia minora connect at the top of the vulva to the clitoral hood, which covers the clitoris. Unlike the male penis, which serves as the organ of sexual pleasure, reproduction, and urination, these functions are all separate in the female. The sole function of the clitoris is to produce pleasure and thus it contains numerous nerve endings that render it the most sexually sensitive organ in the female body. In comparison

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