SexEdNotes ~ Female Anatomy
Secondary Sexual Characteristics - Female:
In most cases, a male human and a female human can be separately identified by the appearance of their genitalia, which are their primary sexual characteristics. However, as the youthful human matures sexually with age, after completing their puberty stage, they can usually be identified by their Secondary sexual characteristics, which are minor characteristics that help to identify a body as a male or a female. Some women may share male characteristics, and the opposite is also true.
Typical female secondary characteristics are:
FACIAL HAIR - Generally females do not have facial hair... at least enough to form a mustache or beard. As females age, they do tend to have a little bit of facial hair, but that can be due to her lower levels of estrogen hormone and higher levels of testosterone, brought on by conditions such as menopause.
NARROWER SHOULDERS - The female generally has a narrower chest, smaller bones and smaller muscles. However any woman can, through serious training through exercise and diet (and in some cases the use of steroids) develop larger muscles to have broader shoulders.
BROADER HIPS - The female pelvis is wider to allow the delivery of a fetus during childbirth. Also, if a woman carries excess fatty tissues, they tend to accumulate around her hips or thighs.
HIGHER-PITCHED VOICE - Obviously this is not visible in the images, but females will often have a higher, softer voice than a male.
LESSER DEVELOPMENT OF SKELETAL MUSCLES - The average female will usually have less body strength from smaller skeletal muscles. There are some women that increase the size and strength of their skeletal muscles, from serious exercise and training.
GREATER DEVELOPMENT OF THE BREASTS - Females produce milk in their breasts when pregnant or when it is induced, and continue to produce it as long as it is expressed from their breasts on a reliably regular schedule.
You can see in the following images that some women show each of these characteristics, more or less than the next woman.
The female sexual organs consist of the genitals, which make up the external organs, and the various internal organs that are unseen. The term Genitalia comes from 'genit- 'which means "pertaining to organs of reproduction", and technically is referred to as the Pudendum. More commonly called the Vulva, it consists of the Mons Venus, Labia Majora, Labia Minora, Clitoris, Prepuce and Vagina.
You may note that these women do not have the same amount of pubic hair that you have. Those women in the images above that show very little or a narrowed pattern of pubic hair have most likely trimmed their pubic hair to cover a smaller area. This may be done to prevent the hair from showing when they wear brief attire such as a swim suit or skating uniform, etc.
External Reproductive Organs
The Vulva (or Pudendum) on a female generally hides most of her genitalia. The most visible is the Pubic Hair which may have been removed by a razor, depilatory crème, laser treatment, or a process called 'waxing'. All women will have Pubic Hair unless it is removed. In the images above you can see that some remove all of it, some remove part of it, or some merely trim it slightly. If removed it will constantly attempt to grow back. If left to grow naturally it will vary in the degree of development, with some women having more and some having less.
The Mons (or Mound of Venus) is the fleshy mound of skin upon which the bulk of the Pubic Hair grows. It pads and protects the woman's pubic bone that is directly behind the Mons. The Pubic Bone is part of the Pelvic Bone.
The Labia Majora (or Outer Labia or Outer Lips) provide some protection to the Labia Minora and the openings (Meatus) to the Urethra and the Vagina. They contain sweat glands, sebaceous (oil) glands, fatty tissue, erectile tissue and many nerve endings which make then sensitive to the touch. At the time of Puberty they will become fleshier, darker colored and covered with Pubic Hair. On some young girls before Puberty, and on some nullipara women (delivered no children vaginally yet), the Labia Majora are normally the only part of the genitalia visible when they are standing. During sexual excitation they will become somewhat enlarged (like the Penis or Clitoris does) and somewhat darker in color (similar to the Scrotum in a male). The corresponding tissue in the male is the Scrotum.
The Labia Minora (or Inner Labia or Inner Lips) provide further protection to the urethral and vaginal Meatus (openings). They are even more sensitive than the Outer Labia, due to an even greater number of nerve endings, and they contain two small glands called Bartholin's Glands. Normal coloring may be from light pink to near black, in all races, and they may protrude from between the Labia Majora (more often in more mature women or multiparae women (delivered more than one child vaginally)). They may protrude very little or none, or they may protrude as much as one inch... or more. They normally do not match each other, and you should be alarmed only if you see sudden changes in size or color. They may have very little or no Pubic Hair on them and they will become enlarged when she is sexually excited. They contain fewer sebaceous glands than the Labia Majora, and corresponding tissue in the male is the tissue that closes off the underside of the penis, forming the urethra.
The Clitoris is located just behind and below the skin where the top (front) of the two Labia Minora meet together, and is usually the most sensitive area of the Vulva. Highly sensitive to physical stimulation, it is usually the focus of sexual stimulation for the woman. Stimulation can be very pleasing, but too much can be very painful. It becomes erect (larger, longer and more firm) when sexually aroused. It has the same identical parts as the Penis, but it contains no Urethra. The main body is referred to as the Shaft, which contains erectile tissue. The end is called the Glans Clitoris or Glans Tip.
Most of the Clitoris is usually contained within the body, and the part that shows may approach the size of a shelled pea or small bean. In some cases it may develop during Puberty to show an inch or more in length, and would be referred to as a condition called Clitoromegaly, meaning an abnormally large Clitoris. If the Clitoris is longer than an inch and wider than an inch, it may be a Penis. If that person also has a Vagina and a Scrotum they could be inter-sexual or Hermaphroditic. This is extremely rare.
Images can be seen on the internet in pornographic sites of women with a large Penis and large Breasts. These people are almost always males and have had hormone treatments or surgery to give them the Breasts. It is very difficult to build a Penis surgically. These people may have the feelings and emotions inside that tell them that they are female but their body reflects that they are male. It can happen the other direction as well.
The Clitoris also has a Hood (or Prepuce or Foreskin) that may completely cover over and hide the Clitoris from sight, until it becomes erect. The Hood is actually part of the Labia Minora.
The Hymen is a Greek word that means "Membrane" and was at one time referred to as a "Maidenhead". It is a thin but tough skin tissue that covers over the Vaginal opening, with one or more small openings that will allow menstrual flow to exit the Vagina after Menarche' (a girl's first Menstruation or 'period'). The Hymen usually grows thicker during Puberty, if it is still there. Many times it will become ruptured from running, playing hard, jumping, straddling horses, riding bikes, using tampons, etc. and disappears essentially. Historically it was demanded that it be intact on new brides to prove that they had no history of previous coitus (sexual entry into the vagina). This guaranteed the first child born would be fathered by the new groom. With the physical activities of our young girls today, its absence is no longer any kind of a guarantee she is not a virgin. A torn Hymen no longer means a woman is not virginal, and some girls are even born without one.
The Hymen is checked as a possible cause of
Primary Amenorrhea (delayed onset of Menstruation after age 18). An
imperforate Hymen (no opening through the Hymen) will prevent
Menstruation from showing, but it may have started years earlier. In
that case the doctor can simply create a small opening in the Hymen
so the Menstrual flow can proceed normally. If
the Hymen exists when the girl has her first Coitus (sexual
Intercourse), Penile entry can be painful and requires extra force to stretch
it. An exam by an OB/Gyn doctor can determine if it will be a
problem before the sexual activity is attempted. The girl can basically
determine if there will be a problem herself by merely determining if there is a restriction
at the entry of her Vagina
that would prevent Coitus.
Internal Reproductive Organs
The Vagina (from the Latin word for "Sheath") is about 3 1/2 inches long on average, and is extremely flexible. It is about the shape and size of an empty tube of tooth paste, but can easily accept the average sized Penis, which is six inches long. During childbirth it is called the Birth Canal and it expands wide enough to pass the newborn baby through from the Uterus and out into the open. During coitus (the Penis enters the Vagina) the PC muscles (Pubococcygeus) or Pelvic Floor muscles can contract making the entry of a Penis difficult. They are not strong enough to prevent entry (usually) but it is much more comfortable for both partners if she can relax those muscles before entry. That requires cooperation and consideration of both partners. Usually a little time and some type of Foreplay can help the woman to relax.
The Vagina contains glands and ducts that clean and lubricate the interior. The Vagina is able to completely clean itself without any washes or douches and only requires cleansing of the outside. The fluid in the Vagina is slightly acidic with an average pH of 4.0 to 5.0. In some rare cases a woman can be born without a Vagina, and that is called Atresia. During Coitus the Vagina receives the Penis and the Ejaculate from the Penis, which contains the Sperm. The Ejaculate is held near the deep end of the Vagina while it finds its way into the Uterus through the Os (or opening) in the Cervix. Cervix means "Neck" and is part of the Uterus.
The Uterus (from the Latin word "WOMB") is the shape and size of a somewhat flattened pear, and it is suspended with the small end down. It is about 7.5 cm long (3 inches) by 5 cm wide (2 inches) and weighs about 40 grams (1.5 ounces). It is the strongest and most elastic muscle in the woman's body that stretches enough to accommodate a full-sized baby. In a process called Hypertrophy the cells expand and very few new cells develop when it enlarges to hold a developing fetus. It's strength expels the baby when it contracts during the birthing process.
When deposited in the Vagina
during Coitus, Sperm finds its way to the Uterus through its Cervix
and Os. The Os is as small as this "o" but when the fetus is
ready to be born the Os gets large enough for the baby's head to
pass through. The Sperm passes clear through the length of the Uterus to find one of the
two Fallopian Tubes that exit the top end of the
Uterus. The tubes carry the Sperm to the Egg where it
Fertilizes the Egg. The Egg then flows down the Fallopian Tubes into
the Uterus, which is filled with blood. The Os has closed off to hold
the blood in the Uterus. The fertilized Egg finds a grip on the
inside wall of the Uterus and begins to develop into a Fetus.
The Ovary (or Female Gonad, from the Latin word "Ovum" which means "egg". The Greek word is "Oophoron") is one of a pair that reside within the woman's pelvic cavity. They are from 2.5 to 4 cm long (1 to 1.5 inches) and shaped like a jumbo-sized olive. When a woman is born, her Ovaries already contain every Egg she will ever produce. Over her lifetime she will have 200,000 Eggs but only 400 will mature enough to be Fertilized. When a 20 year-old mother delivers a baby, it is the result of a 19 year-old Egg that was fertilized. A 40 year-old woman will deliver a baby from a 39 year-old Egg. This is the "Biological Clock" that women talk about, and women try to have their babies when they are in their twenties, because after she is over 40 years old her babies are much more likely to be born with a birth defect. More than half the babies born with Down's Syndrome are born to mothers over 40.
On the average, one Egg is released every 28 1/2 days, alternating between which Ovary will release one. If one Ovary is removed or missing, the remaining Ovary will still provide plenty of Eggs over the woman's fertile lifetime. When the very first Egg is released, that is called Menarche (Men' - are - key), and is one sign of the start of Puberty If the Egg is not fertilized it is released in the first Menstruation (first Period). Breast development and Pubic Hair growth are the other two signs of the start of Puberty. Menarche will occur between the age of 8 to 16 years old, with the average age of Menarche at about 12.5 years old. This gets four months earlier each decade, possibly because of diet, exercise, lifestyle, etc. Breast development or Menarche before the age of 8 suggests a condition called Precocious Puberty and is often treated with medication to slow physical development. This would be similar to a fourth-grade school girl fitting into an A-cup bra.
The woman's Eggs each have the DNA information to start a new human being, if it is penetrated by a Sperm cell, which contains equal DNA information from a male. As each Egg matures, it breaks out of the surface of the Ovary and flies free, but hopefully it will be entrapped by the Fallopian Tube that is in close proximity. The release of the Egg is referred to as Ovulation. Some women can feel the moment Ovulation occurs.
The Ovaries produce some main Hormones, including Estrogen and Progesterone, which control the Ovulation/Menstruation cycle and the development of the Secondary Sexual Characteristics listed at the beginning of this unit. The corresponding tissue in the male is the male Gonad or Testicle (Testis).
Now and then a woman's Ovaries are half Ovary, half Testicle.
The Fallopian Tubes (or Oviducts or Uterine Tubes or Fallopia's Canals) are four inches long, with the outside the size of spaghetti and the inside the size of a human hair. The small end of the tube, called the Isthmus, is attached to the top end of the Uterus. The large end is fan-shaped and funnel-like, called the Fimbria, and is in close proximity to each Ovary... similar to a baseball sitting in a baseball glove. The midsection is referred to as the Ampulla. The tubes act as a catcher's mitt and capture the released Egg, allowing it travels down the Fallopian Tube to the Uterus. For Conception to occur, Sperm will need to be waiting in the tubes when the Egg comes by. Small hair-like Cilia inside the tubes move the Ovum or Egg down the tube to the Uterus over the period of 3 to 4 days.
The Fallopian Tubes were named for Gabriello Fallopio, an Italian anatomist, in 1564, who invented a linen sheath which was the earliest condom, as a protection against Venereal Diseases (sexually transmitted diseases). The tubes can be surgically severed during a surgical procedure referred to as a Tubal Ligation which is a female sterilization procedure. It is severed and cauterized and tied back onto itself so the two pieces cannot come together. With the Fallopian Tubes severed, the Eggs cannot reach the Uterus and the Sperm cannot reach the Egg. Conception cannot occur.
Know Thyself For a woman to know her own body, which is important for keeping aware of any changes happening that may indicate a disease or physical problem, or is essential in her being able to convey to her sexual partner what helps her to find satisfaction in her sexual union, she should find out what is happening 'down there'. Too often we know less about our own body than we know about someone else's. Possibly this is because we can observe someone else's, but it is tough to see what is happening on some parts of our own bodies.
Let's get real and resolve this issue. Get a small mirror and a flashlight. There is nothing wrong with seeing what we have. It has been there since we were born, and hopefully will be there when we die, so let's find out what it is. After you evaluate what you can see there, and find all of the anatomical features that we have pointed out on this website, you may want to invest in a simple, inexpensive Speculum. They come in different sizes but are fairly cheap, so get a couple of sizes and learn to use them. If you have a regular OB/Gyn doctor, ask him or her what size you need. You will be amazed at how much you can learn about yourself, and you may be able to spot an issue that needs attention long before your next doctor's visit. Just like doing Breast Self-Examinations, you are your best health advocate.
Mothers... teach your daughters. A more informed person is a person that has more personal control over her body. An uninformed person is a person that can be told things that are not true, and that can be dangerous. More young people get themselves into trouble because "...someone said that was ok". Teach them what really is ok and what is not ok.
You are too young to remember the "common knowledge" we had when I was young, something about Pepsi douches and jumping up and down to prevent pregnancies. All of those that practiced those ideas are now mothers. We all need to know all that we can know, for our own sakes.