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What works, what doesn't and why?

Sexual responses are as varied as physical appearance, and having an orgasm is by no means all that women need from sex. However, most women want to have an orgasm or two at some point, and many do need specific kinds of stimulation.

Some basic information about women’s anatomy might help you understand women’s experiences with orgasm.

We are so hung up about and divorced from our bodies in Western culture that couples are often too embarrassed to really study one another’s bodies, and end up fumbling around in the dark.

Unfortunately, the erotic parts of the body don’t contain magnets that will automatically draw fingers, tongues, penises, or any other desirable object to them. And fumbling doesn’t generally lead to a delightfully sensual experience.

Given that women’s anatomy varies so much, it’s a good idea for anyone who is making love to a woman to take the time to admire what she’s got between her legs and familiarize themselves with her physical parts.

An Anatomy Review

Many people assume that female sexual organs consist of the vagina and the clitoris. In fact, the part that is actually visible from the outside is the vulva, which is comprised of the inner and outer labia, the glans of the clitoris, and the clitoral hood (which often obscures the glans until you either pull it back, or she becomes aroused).

Even today, girls may grow up in total ignorance of the existence of their clitoris and vagina; in fact, for many girls, it is the use of a tampon that first introduces them to the vagina. But if they wash down there, they know what the vulva feels like.Female Anatomy

Apart from the fact that knowing what is where greatly facilitates lovemaking, vulvas are beautiful to look at.

Sadly, it is not just those who love women who need to learn to love vulvas, it is also the women who own them; many of us are repulsed by our own genitals. How can you experience sex as loving when you feel that way about your sexual parts?

There are plenty of ways to go about learning to love yourself.

First, familiarize yourself with your own vulva, using a mirror. You can put the mirror on the floor and squat over it, and then pull your lips aside with your fingers to see what’s really there. You may also want to check out what you look like when you are aroused because the color and shape can change quite dramatically.

Female genitals vary enormously in size, shape, color, and amount of hair. Familiarizing yourself with other women’s genitals will reassure you that yours aren’t weird. If you don’t want to or aren’t able to do this firsthand, there are several books with excellent illustrations. The best of these is Femalia (edited by Joani Blank, published by Last Gasp).

Knowledge of anatomy also helps to make sense of sexual response. The clitoris is actually much bigger than the little nub of hard flesh (the glans) that I manipulated to achieve my first orgasm.

The clitoris consists of hard tissue with legs (or wings, technically referred to as crura) that extend into the walls of the vagina and are surrounded by spongy tissue that swells when a woman is aroused. When the clitoris is erect the glans gets bigger and protrudes from under its hood.

The perineal sponge is a pad of spongy erectile tissue that lies between the rectum and the rear wall of the vagina, and the urethral sponge is another pad of spongy erectile tissue that lies between the urethral canal (which leads to the bladder) and the front wall of the vagina.

They can both be felt through the walls of the vagina, and they tend to be the most erotically sensitive parts of the vagina. The part of the urethral sponge that you can feel from inside the vagina is known as the G-spot. It is homologous to the male prostate gland, and some women find it to be highly sensitive. The sexual organs are supported by a sling of muscle called the pubococcygeal, or PC, muscle.

The word clitoris is occasionally used as a catch-all term that refers to all of a woman’s sex organs. I think this is a little confusing, but it does help to change the ridiculous perception that female genitalia consist of separate and distinct parts.

The whole area is interconnected with an intricate web of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. When the glans of the clitoris is stimulated, all of her erectile tissue, including the urethral sponge and the perineal sponge, will probably swell, and vice versa.

The urethral opening is between the vaginal entrance and the clitoral hood. You can see it if you pull your inner labia apart; it is a small hole, with a slight mound around it. Laura, a nurse, reports that once she had a female patient whose urethral opening was actually inside her vagina and therefore not visible at all. So if your anatomy is different, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong.

The urethral opening may be quite sensitive to touch. Many women find it very arousing to be stroked in that area.

The vagina is often thought of as a hole. In fact, the only time it is visible as a hole is when the erectile tissue around the entrance is engorged, which usually happens when a woman is very aroused. At other times the entrance to the vagina may be quite difficult to find.

This extract is taken from Mikaya Heart's The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women and is published with permission from Book Promotions and Cleis Press.

To purchase a copy of the book, visit