Vulva - an article  

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7/30/2006 11:25 am

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8/1/2006 5:59 pm

Vulva - an article

Vulva

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The external genital organs of the female are collectively known as the vulva.

In human beings this consists of the labia majora and labia minora (while these names translate as "large" and "small" lips, often the "minora" can be larger, and protrude outside the "majora", clitoris, opening of the urethra (meatus), and the opening of the vagina.

(In common speech, the term "vagina" is often used improperly to refer to the vulva or female genitals generally, even though strictly speaking the vagina is a specific internal structure and the vulva is the exterior genitalia only. Calling the vulva the vagina is akin to calling the mouth the throat.)

Contents

1 Description
1.1 Sexual Homology
2 Cultural attitudes
3 Popular culture
4 See also
5 External links

Description

The soft mound at the front of the vulva (fatty tissue covering the pubic bone) is the mons pubis, or specifically for human females, the mons veneris or "mound of Venus". After puberty it is covered with pubic hair, the amount being determined primarily by heredity. The labia majora or large lips extend on either side of the vulva, and are also covered with pubic hair. The labia majora entirely or partially hide the other parts of the vulva. The colour of the outside skin of the labia majora is usually close to the overall skin colour of the individual, although there is considerable variation. The inside skin is often pink or brownish.

The labia minora are two soft folds of skin within the labia majora and to either side of the opening of the vagina. Between them is the vulval vestibule. The clitoris is at the front of the vulva where the labia minora meet. The visible tip of the clitoris, the clitoral glans is entirely or partially covered by a 'hood' of tissue (the clitoral hood).

Below the clitoris and just in front of the vagina is the urethral opening. This is where urine passes from the bladder to the outside of the body.

The opening of the vagina is near the back (or bottom) end of the vulva. In women who have not yet had sexual intercourse, the opening of the vagina is sometimes partially covered by a piece of skin, the hymen.

Slightly below and to the left and right of the vaginal opening are two Bartholin glands; when the woman is sexually aroused, she produces a lubricating substance that makes sexual penetration easier (the vagina also exudes vaginal lubrication). If this lubrication is insufficient, artificial lubrication may be used to facilitate sexual intercourse.

The area between the vulva and the anus is the perineum. The perineum may tear during childbirth. To prevent this, doctors may perform an Episiotomy, surgically cutting the perineum, which some believe to be more sterile. However, some believe that a natural tear has a lower instance of infection and quicker healing time.

The appearance of the vulva and the size of the various parts varies a great deal from one woman to another, and it is common for the left and right sides to not "match" exactly in an individual woman.

Sexual Homology

In short, this is a known list of sex organs that evolve from the same tissue in a human life.

The anatomy of the vulva is related to the anatomy of the male genitalia by a common developmental biology. Organs that have a common developmental ancestry in this way are said to be homologous.

The clitoral glans is homologous to the glans penis in males, and the clitoral body and the clitoral crura, are homologous to the corpora cavernosa of the penis. The labia majora, labia minora and clitoral hood are homologous to the scrotum, shaft skin of the penis, and the foreskin, respectively. The vestibular bulbs beneath the skin of the labia minora are homologous to the corpus spongiosum, the tissue of the penis surrounding the urethra. The Bartholin's glands are homologous to Cowper's glands in males.

Cultural attitudes

In some cultures, including modern Western culture, some women have shaved or otherwise depilated part or all of the vulva. This is a fairly recent phenomenon in the United States, but has been prevalent, usually in the form of waxing, in many eastern European and Middle Eastern cultures for centuries, usually for the purpose of hygiene. High-cut swimsuits compelled their wearers to shave the sides of their pubic triangles. Shaving may also include all or nearly all of the hair. Some styles retain a "racing stripe" (on either side of the labia) or "landing strip" (directly above and in line with the vulva). See the article on pubic hair.

Since the early days of Islam, Muslim women and men are obliged by Islamic law to "pluck the armpit hairs, and shave the pubic hairs". This obligation could be fullfilled by shaving, waxing, trimming, or any other shaving method. This is a regular practice that has to be done at most every forty days, not more, and is considered in some more devout Muslim cultures as a form of worship, not a shameful practice, while in other less devout regions it is a practice for the purpose of good hygiene. Only the husband is allowed to help the woman, as Islamic law allows only husbands to see their wives' genitals. The reasons behind removing this hair could also be applied to the hair on the scrotum and around the anus, because the purpose is to be completely clean and pure and keep away from anything that may cause dirt and impurities according to Al-Munajjid, Sheikh Muhammad Saleh (Released 27th July 2004). "Islam Ruling on Shaving the Pubic Hair, Scrotum and Around the Anus".

Many cultures have commonly viewed the vulva as something shameful that should be hidden; the term pudendum literally means "shameful thing." However, in some other cultures it has been celebrated and even worshipped. In some Hindu sects the vulva is revered under the name yoni, and texts seem to indicate a similar attitude in some ancient Middle Eastern religions. As an aspect of Goddess worship such reverence may be part of modern Neopagan beliefs, and may be indicated in paleolithic artworks. Some cultures consider some or all parts of the vulva to be "unclean" and go as far as to advocate female circumcision.

Many sculptors and painters have chosen not to display vulvas in their works, even when depicting nude women. The pubic region was often covered with a piece of cloth, fig leaf or a hand. When it was displayed, it usually lacked pubic hair (acomoclitic trend) and the vulva, even though the vulva would be visible on a real woman in that particular pose. In modern times Japanese anime artists often depict female characters without vulvas (even in hentai pornography) to comply with censorship laws. Because for most of history vulvas were neither displayed by women, nor shown in art, aesthetic standards for the vulva in the West developed after visual pornography became more widespread. Currently, color desaturation is often used to purge photographic images of associations with pornography.

Popular culture

The title of John Cleland's erotic classic, Fanny Hill, or the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, is a punning reference to this anatomical feature: 'Fanny' being a British English slang term for the vulva.

The terms Cameltoe, Moose knuckle, and Cat's paw describe a condition produced when wearing pants/shorts so tight that the shape of the vulva becomes clearly visible.

In one of his older skits called "The Bookmobile", David Letterman produced an alleged book by Dr. Ruth Westheimer, entitled The 100 Dumbest Questions I've Been Asked. Number 17: "Why does she want me to touch her Volvo?"

In a celebrated Seinfeld episode, Jerry Seinfeld does not remember his girlfriend's name - he only remembers her joke that it rhymes with a female body part. George's guess of "Mulva" is not successful; it was actually "Dolores," which rhymes with clitoris in some dialects.

In one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray's mother unwittingly sculpts a statue that looks like a vulva.

In the film East is East the son's art project is revealed to be a model of a vulva - done from a life pose by a local girl, we learn. The crafted vulva is accidentally thrown onto a visiting prospective in-law.


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