9 Fascinating Facts About Female Sexual Anatomy

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As a writer who covers sexuality and women's health, I've read a lot about female sexual anatomy. So, when I opened up Rebecca Chalker's The Clitoral Truth, 2nd Edition: About Pleasure, Orgasm, Female Ejaculation, the G-Spot, and Masturbation, I was expecting to read a lot of things I'd heard before: that the clitoris is central to most female orgasms, that the vagina expands during sex, etc. And I did read those things — but I also read a lot more that not even I'd heard before.

The first edition of The Clitoral Truth was published in 2000, and Chalker published the second edition this year to update it based on current research. "The real focus [of the book] is correct and useful information about various aspects of sexuality, particularly understanding of female and male, and I would hope that would promote a strong sense among women of equity," Chalker tells Bustle. "All around the internet and in many sex advice books, the information is incomplete, not documented through research, and that's the important part of my contribution: the fact that women’s and men’s genitals are extremely similar, that we experience orgasm in the same way. ... Having a better understanding of their anatomy and understanding of how orgasm occurs might make [women] more able to have orgasms with more regularity if that's a goal of theirs."

Indeed, The Clitoral Truth: 2nd Edition is full of information. Here are some of the most fascinating facts from it.

1We All Start Out With Female Anatomy

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The story of Adam and Eve is far from an accurate metaphor for how humans actually develop, Chalker writes. In fact, rather than starting off male by default, most fetuses' bodies resemble female anatomy. It's not until about eight weeks after conception that, due to hormonal differences, male and female embryos begin to look different.

Chalker quotes a Universidad de Guadalajara paper:

“During early embryological development, the basic pattern is feminine, that is to say, we are all females. This changes when the male embryo begins to produce its own hormones, around the eighth week of gestation. Only then the physical development of male and female bodies differs, though less than many assume. In order to form the male prostate, the woman must have a primary structure (urogenital sinus) from which, at the appropriate time, continue the development towards a structure such as the prostate.”

Even as adults, every part of female anatomy has a male analogue. For example, the clitoris is like the penis, the clitoral hood is like the foreskin, and the labia are like the scrotum. Our bodies really are made up of all the same parts, just organized differently.

2Most Of The Clitoris Is Internal

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This fact flies in the face of the belief that the penis is superior to the clitoris: The clitoris is actually just as vast, with a whole structure that extends inside the body. The bud at the top that you usually hear about is just the tip of the iceberg — or, perhaps more aptly, the volcano.

"Why should men have a dynamic, powerful organ system and women have just a touchy little button?" Chalker writes. Indeed, that's not the case. The inner clitoris provides a lot of pleasure, and basically any touch on the vulva will indirectly stimulate it.

3The Labia Are Part Of The Clitoris

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That's not even all: In addition to extending into the inside of the body, the clitoris also includes the inner labia, which is why many vulva-owners enjoy stimulation on this body part.

"The glans, the hood, and the inner lips (labia minora) are the visible parts of the clitoris that you can see and feel," Chalker writes. This has a disturbing implication: Those who get labiaplasties are reducing their capacity for sexual pleasure. It's an individual's choice whether they alter their bodies, of course, but they should know it could affect their sex lives.

4Smegma Actually Serves A Purpose

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You know that white stuff that bunches up around your clitoris and labia? Well, there's actually a reason it does that. Glands on the bottom of your clitoral hood produce a fluid called sebum to help it move around without producing friction, Chalker writes. When you shed skin cells, they mix with this to produce smegma, which comes from the Greek word for soap. So, it actually serves a purpose! But if it bothers you, washing your vulva with plain water or mild soap should take care of it.

5The Clitoral Hood Enhances Pleasure

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There’s a common misconception that those with hooded clitorises find it harder to orgasm. In fact, there's even a surgical procedure to remove the hood to provide easier access to your clitoris. However, you don’t need direct access to the clitoris. In fact, it’s so sensitive that this could be painful. "The function of the hood is to protect the crown from normal irritation or too much pressure during sexual activity," Chalker writes. Touching the crown through the hood provides plenty of stimulation for many clit-owners.

6The Clit Has A Shaft

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Chalker really meant it when she said every female body part has a male analogue. The part of the clitoris you normally see is equivalent to the tip of the penis. But, like the penis, the clitoris also has a shaft. "A short cord of very sensitive tissue, called the shaft, emerges from the crown and extends about an inch toward the pubic mound underneath the skin," Chalker writes. If you want, you can move your clitoral hood up and down over it to produce a handjob-like sensation. Or, press on the skin right above the hood and roll your finger or a toy over it.

7Clitorises Get Erections

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In case you still had doubts about whether the clitoris is as magnificent as the penis, get this: clits get erections when they're aroused, just like penises do — and not just the shaft but the whole thing.

"There are twin elongated teardrop-shaped bulbs of corpus cavernosum, that tissue that lies just underneath the inner lips," Chalker writes. "During sexual excitement, when the bulbs are filling with blood, you can feel the erection as they expand and press on the inner lips, which are themselves becoming engorged and expanding outward."

8The Muscle You Orgasm With Is Part Of The Same Muscle Complex That You Hold In Pee With

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If you want to know how to do Kegel exercises, you can identify your pubococcygeus (PC) muscle by starting to pee and then stopping the flow of urine. These are the same muscles that contract during orgasm, Chalker writes. In fact, you can get stronger orgasms by repeatedly holding and releasing these muscles.

9There Is No “G-Spot” — But There Is A Female Prostate That Produces Female Ejaculation

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One of the biggest updates Chalker made in the second edition was clarifying that there isn’t actually a spot inside the vagina (typically known as the “G-spot”) that leads to female ejaculation or orgasm when it's pressed. “The idea of a spot that is accessed with fingers, toys, or a penis to produce female orgasm and ejaculation is not useful for women,” Chalker tells Bustle.

However, it is true that some women can orgasm during penetration, and some can even ejaculate (which can happen with or without orgasm). Many don't even realize it because the wet spot on the bed is attributed to the man, Chalker tells Bustle. Female ejaculation actually comes from stimulation of the Skene's glands, tiny glands embedded in the spongy erectile tissue surrounding the urethra, now known as the female prostate. You can’t touch the urethra or the erectile tissue directly, but pressure can be applied on it through the vaginal wall by fingers, sex toys, or a penis.

Another thing I didn't know: female ejaculate doesn't come out of the urethra. It comes out of tiny openings invisible to the eye on either side of it, Chalker tells Bustle.

The moral of the story? The human body really is an incredible machine, no matter what parts it has. So enjoy yours.