The vulva – where it all starts

The vulva; the gates to amazing treasures within. The vulva is where it all begins in relation to female genitalia. The outer labia majora lips making up what you actually ‘see’ if you’re staring at a pussy. Sometimes the labia minora are visible too; sometimes not.

Both are normal. Both are awesome.

Here’s a distraction:

My new cute vulva earrings I just purchased via Etsy from the shop Isthatavag

But first, let’s get one thing out of the way: the vula is NOT the vagina. And the vagina is NOT the vulva. I will repeat this many times to make my point!

(It’s not even a point really, it’s a mere anatomical fact: the vagina and vulva are separate parts).

Many many many people – inclding the media – get this incredible confused. Many say ‘vagina’ when they mean ‘vulva’. You can’t actually see the vagina unless you’re using a speculum. Even then, you’re technically not seeing the vagina because the speculum is covering the walls of the vagina when it’s inserted to primarily see the cervix. The link to the speculum article just now, talks of women who have redesigned this hideous but necessary invention. Go girls!

Even this fantastic art piece of many vulvas in London by Jamie McCartney is named The Great Wall of Vagina. Unless he was intending to be artisitc (hahahaha) what you see is a great wall of vulvas, not vaginas.

But this post is not about the vagina, it’s about the vulva. So let’s dive in.

As mentioned, the vulva is the outside and visible part of a female-bodied person. Pussy lips as it were. The external genitalia of the yoni. No two vulvas are the same. Just like no two penises are the same. Amazing!

Reading from Sheri Winston’s incredible book Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, the vulva includes the ‘mons’; otherwise known as the Mound of Venus. This is what you see standing face on to a (probably naked) woman or what you’d see in the mirror if you’re looking at yourself. If not stripped of hair, it usually looks like a triangle shape covered in pubic hair and is the fatty pad between and on top of your thighs. The fat offers some padding and protection over the pubic bone. So clever.

Vulvas come in many different shapes, sizes and colours. If one is into hair-removal, typically it is the mons and vulva that are waxed (and around the anus too if you like a smooth butt-hole). The vulva shelters the clitoris and the clitoral hood; tucking it away under her wings. Within the vulva is the opening to the vagina and the urethra (where the wee comes out).

Here’s an illustration of the seen and unseen parts of the vulva:

By OpenStax College – Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site., Jun 19, 2013., CC BY 3.0,

The vulva vestible contains the inner labia, clitoris and delicate areas surrounding the vagina and anus. Whilst the labia majora has sweat glands, the labia minora doesn’t. However, there is moisture here because these areas are covered in a mucous membrane (mucosa). So you’re always supposed to be a little moist; yay!

The Bartholins glands (or otherwise known as the vulvovaginal glands if think naming female body parts after the man who ‘discovered’ them is wrong), lie at the bottom of the vaginal opening, either side. They secrete fluid when aroused 🙂

Labia vary enormously between women. The problem is most of us vulva-owners don’t get to see other vulvas unless we watch porn, like fucking women or just host a vulva showing off party (whaaa?!). Depending on the type of and site where you get your porn from, professional mainstream pornstars often have ‘neat’ labia, with nothing much (the labia minora) sticking out. Which is ridiculous; there is so much diversity in vulvas, just like breasts or penises! Go for the homemade porn, or ethical porn or feminist porn and see what real human bodies look like.

Sensitivity of the vulva

Dry humping anyone? Teenage fully-clothed sex including copious amounts of rubbing? Such sweet vulva memories! Rubbing the vulva covered in clothes can be very arousing; it kinda teases the whole area and literally turns it on. In an upcoming blog post on the clitoris, you’ll learn just how big the clitoris actually is and how far under the surface it actually extends. The ‘legs’ (crus clitoris) of the clitoris extend alongside and inside the vulva, along the outer edges of the vestibular bulbs. When you get horny, the whole area engorges with blood and swells – just like a cock. Yep, we’re really quite similar in some ways.

Here’s a piccie from Wiki. Note the two bulbs either side of the vaginal and urethral openings, with the crus clitoris (clitoris legs) running alongside the outside of them. You can see the faintly drawn outline of the vulva on top. No wonder this whole area can feel super good when rubbed or teased. Even a cock rubbed over a slippery vulva can feel amazing – as long as it’s not too forceful. Rubbing a cock or sex toy over the clitoris and vulva (and going between the two) can be soooo good! A naked vulva can be very sensitive, so stroke it lightly and gently. Unless you like it otherwise, then do whatever works for you 🙂

File:Clitoris anatomy labeled-en.jpg

Aside from removing hair from the vulva, you can do other crazy things to it too, like pierce it. If you’re into fun fetish things, you can put pegs on the vulva along either side of the labia majora. NMK but there’s plenty of pain sluts out there who willingly do this for themselves or for their Doms. Fisting a pussy stretches the vulva and the vagina, and if you want to try this you need to use A LOT of lube, go very slowly and make sure she’s super horny already. Fun times!

Is my vulva broken?

Like any body part, vulvas can breakdown a little (or a lot). Vulva cancer is a rare occurrence, but can happen, typically post-menopause. Symptoms can include swelling, a lump, itching and soreness. Don’t be shy, definitely go to your GP if you notice anything different with your vulva. Or any of your beautiful lady bits for that matter! Get a second opinion if you don’t feel heard. Check out Kath Mazzella and her work around this topic. STIs (sexually transmitted infections – use a condom to avoid!) can affect the vulva (sores, itchiness, pain, discoloration, blisters, bumps, warts) as can non-STI benign lesions and skin issues.

Vulvodynia is when there is unexplained discomfort and pain in the vulva and around the vaginal opening. This can really suck.

Rare and unusual vulva problems can include bicyclist’s vulva which involves inflammation, swelling and long-term trauma as a result of extensive time on a bike. I commend the woman in that linked article who was brave enough to speak up about her experience with it. Her poor vulva.


Then there’s deliberate maiming of the vulva as a result of misguided religious or cultural beliefs (although I believe that nowhere it is documented that a woman must be surgically cut or ‘circumcised’ in any religious texts). Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/FGC) is still practiced throughout the world despite the Who Health Organisation (WHO) stating that FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

Depending on your belief system, you can interpret problems with any area of the body as being caused by biology, genetics, lifestyle causes, trauma, ageing or energetic/unresolved emotional issues. Or perhaps a combination of any of these. I like and respect science and I also like and respect alternative viewpoints, particularly those which encourage you to tune into and listen to your body.

The vulva speaks

I believe the body is a messenger. And nothing speaks louder than disease to get your attention. Louise Hay in her pivotal book Heal Your Body (originally published in 1976), writes that the vulva is to do with vulnerability…. And when you think about it, of course it’s to do with vulnerability. The vulva is the external presentation of female genitalia, it is the doorway (or yard and porch as Sheri Winston likes to call them) to all the other juicy internal lady bits. Of course then it is vulnerable. It needs to be asked permission to be touched and to enter.

I’m serious. Respect and honor yourself (or her). Entering without conscious intention and consent or before she is ready is either assault (from the other) or because of denial/fear (from her). Entering when things aren’t wet and slippery can be painful and can cause harm.

I read Louise’s book You can heal your life as a teenager and it completely changed the way I viewed my body (this is something I’m still working on however decades later, sigh). Louise recovered from cervical cancer without any medical intervention by changing her unconscious beliefs and thoughts, and old wounds from childhood and adolescence related to traumatic experiences to her sexual and feminine self.

It makes perfect sense to me that any problems/disorders/diseases to do the female sexual and reproductive body parts can be linked to trauma experienced in these areas, and/or toxic beliefs about being female. Trauma may not be (say) a sexual assault, but it could be saying yes (to sex) when you don’t want to, putting up with pain or discomfort during sex, denying your own body signals to please your partner during sex, and even being in an abusive or toxic relationship. Women are master people-pleasers. Even when someone is inside of us we can often still be conscious of not wanting to hurt or offend our partner by saying no halfway through.

Seriously, wtf. When you read that it sounds completely fucking crazy.

But I’ve done it, many times. You probably have too. And if this is a regular thing I promise you that you are repeatedly dishonoring, denying and disrespecting your own self and in particular your feminine self.

Stop that shit right now! Boundaries!!

Connect to your vulva

Just because we can’t overtly see our lady bits doesn’t mean we should ignore them. Although I suspect there is an epidemic of ignoring our bodies, including our most feminine parts. I’m often slightly jealous that my partner gets to see all the action when we fuck. Of course, that depends on the position one is in…

Connecting and tuning into your vulva is important. You can start with just cupping or holding your vulva when in bed. Just rest your hand(s) there and gently breath. Consciously turn your attention to her. Visualise her. Notice if any images or feelings or thoughts come up when you do this. Check her out in a mirror if you want.

A fantastic exercise to do (taken from the book Women’s Anatomy of Arousal book) is to take a photo of your vulva when not turned on. Then take another photo after hot times. Can you see a difference? As mentioned above, vulvas swell with arousal along with the clitoris. It’s so fascinating to actually see the changes pre and post orgasm/intense arousal. Learn more about yourself – you’re worth it and your vulva is worth it ♥

Get more info here:

Published by The Pleasure Advocate

A pleasure seeker like every human, I have a background in therapy and health, and am a passionate student of human sexuality. I'm a pleasure-inclusive sex educator, writer, lover, mother, and sexual explorer. May (consensual!) pleasure be yours always, Melanie x

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