Know Your Body

7 Jun

 A healthy sexual appetite is a natural and beautiful thing. Unfortunately, one of the unintended consequences of belonging to a faith and culture that puts a premium on chastity before marriage is a lack of comfort with and a confusion over our own bodies. As I said in my first post, virtue does not equal ignorance, yet too often in practice, we equate practical, real knowledge of our sexual bodies with embarrassment and impurity. This is wrong. It must stop.

Knowledge of your sexual body is vital. Awareness of how any other part of our body works and needs to be taken care of is simply common sense- yet many women have a hard time even saying the word “vagina”- let alone naming the beautiful parts contained within.

If you understand and know your own body, you won’t (and don’t) have to rely on random luck or the fairytale of your husband sweeping you away and taking responsibility for your sexual satisfaction. Wanting someone else to be responsible for your sexuality, whether out of fear, ignorance, or misguided piety, is an attitude of a child. God created your body, every bit of it, with purpose and passion. Learn to use it.

Knowledge is power.

Your vagina is made up of similar tissue as a man’s penis and scrotum (we’ll cover that later)- just put together differently. Very, beautifully, wonderfully different. Covering your pubic bone is a pad of tissue called the mons veneris (it means Hill of Venus- pretty!) and it protects you from impact during sex (pretty and useful!). This area can be incredibly sensitive in some women, and not so much in others.

Moving down from the mons veneris is the labia majora. These are the outer part of the vulva, and protect the labia minora, which are found within. Like all bodies, there is wide variation, and labia can be small and tucked up inside or can be exposed outside the majora. The purpose of the labia minora is to protect the vaginal opening. These are the parts of the vulva that are often compared to flowers or orchids.

Just above the top of your inner labia is your clitoris. It’s a small, highly sensitive nodule of flesh that actually extends back into your body. The button you can see is only the very tip, and it hides under a retractable hood of skin. When you are sexually excited, the clitoris swells with blood and extends past the hood- making it easier to manipulate and stimulate. This is meant to happen. It’s a good thing.

Just under your clit is a small membrane covered hole called the urethra. It’s where you pee from. In a comment on a recent post (The Talk) someone said she didn’t understand why peeing after sex was important. If you know your body, your physiology, you will understand. The urethra is between the vaginal opening and the clitoris; after a rousing round of sex, peeing clears anything that might have made its way into the urethra, and keeps a woman from getting painful urinary tract infections.

The vaginal opening is also nestled between the labia, and is directly under the urethra. On either side of the vaginal opening are glands that produce lubrication when a woman is sexually aroused. The vaginal opening may be quite sensitive in some women, and less so in others. In a woman who has never had sex, there can be (but not always! especially if a woman is athletic, active, or just due to normal dimorphism) a thin membrane of skin partially covering the vaginal opening. This is the hymen, and it’s what can tear and bleed during the first penetrative sex.

It’s normal for penetrative sex to possibly hurt the first time- it’s also well within normal for it not to hurt. Some women bleed a lot, some don’t at all. A woman is a virgin– regardless of the state of her hymen– if she has never had penetrative sex. [edit: the term “virgin” is problematic, but I have used it here for the sake of brevity. Until a woman consents to sex, she is a virgin- any woman- especially one who is the victim of sexual violence- can define those terms in ways that are healing and meaningful to her.]

Be glad you’re a woman! There are many ways a woman can experience orgasm. The most common is clitoral orgasm, achieved by stimulation of the clitoris. It’s also possible to have vaginal orgasms through stimulation of the vaginal canal alone, but a great many women have an easier time reaching orgasm through clitoral stimulation. Women can have nocturnal orgasms from dreams just like a man. Inside the vaginal canal is the Grafenberg spot- (G-Spot) it’s on the front wall of the interior of the vaginal canal, and it can create intense orgasms through pressure. And yes, it’s real- G-spot orgasms are not a fairytale.

Inside, at the top of the vaginal canal, is your cervix. The cervix is the opening to the uterus. Some women experience slight cramping when the cervix is stimulated, some women find it enjoyable. Find yours and check it out. During orgasm, a woman’s cervix actually dips down into the vagina, to better able to draw semen into the uterus- if you want to get pregnant, this might be a good thing to know.

You don’t need a party like the ladies in Fried Green Tomatoes, but getting a mirror and taking a long look at yourself is a really good idea. There is nothing to be afraid of, and everything to gain. No other part of your body would you intentionally ignore- don’t do it here, either.

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12 Responses to “Know Your Body”

  1. elizaR June 7, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Fanny, thank you thank you thank you for this very informative and practical post.

  2. KLS June 7, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    LOVE.

  3. Corktree June 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    I love what you gals are doing here. So needed.

  4. Lucy W June 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Sister Fanny, this was a brilliant post. Thank you.

    Re peeing after sex: Right after my honeymoon I started aching all over my body and finally, when I couldn’t move, my brand new husband took me to the emergency room. I had a kidney infection. I didn’t have any symptoms of a urinary tract infection, and I had no idea what was going on. When the doctor found out we were just off our honeymoon, he smiled indulgently.

    Apparently, a lot of women don’t get that instruction.

    I was sick for a week before I went to the hospital, and for two weeks after I got antibiotics. It was very painful. I doubt Heavenly Father wants us to experience unnecessary pain that three little words of advice could have prevented.

  5. mfranti June 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    Amen Fanny and Lucy.

    It’s sad that these posts are scandalous to some readers. It’s even more sad that that our young women (and men) don’t have the basics of their bodies down pat. Imagine if both sexes knew about each other’s parts before the wedding night. Their honeymoons might be a lot more enjoyable.

    /wink

    Keep up the good work, ladies. I’m doing what I can to spread the word.

  6. mfranti June 7, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Hey there CC and KLS. Good to know I’m not alone anymore.

  7. Sylvia Lyon June 8, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    I LOVE coming to this blog! I love being a part of this necessary dialogue! Thank you!

  8. c June 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I really like this, except this one line: “A woman is a virgin– regardless of the state of her hymen– if she has never had penetrative sex.” First off, I think the word “virgin” is really complicated and a minefield and I don’t really like it at all. But even if we set that aside and go with a definition in the vein of what you said here, I think there should always be an explicit clarification that victims of rape are virgins in every meaningful sense of the word. I assume you totally agree with me on that, because, again, everything else about this piece was great. But the sentence above seems to unintentionally suggest otherwise.

  9. Fanny A June 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    C, thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right in your observation- and I do totally agree with you. I’ll amend the post to clear up the unintentional suggestion and clarify. Thanks!

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