Although the external female genitalia are commonly referred to as the “vagina,” the vagina is just one of several organs that comprise the external female genital organs.

Collectively, these external parts are called the vulva. Rich with nerves, the vulva can provide sexual pleasure when properly stimulated.  

The vagina is a muscular tube about 3 to 4 inches long. It is where a penis may enter during sexual intercourse. The vaginal opening is visible from the outside, but the labia help protect it.

The labia majora are two folds of skin that extend from the front of the vaginal opening to the back of it. The outer surfaces of the folds have darker-colored skin and stronger hairs. The inner folds are smoother.

The labia majora join to form the cleft shape of the genitals. This is also known as the pudendal cleft or the cleft of Venus, named after the Roman goddess of love.

Between the labia majora are the labia minora, two folds of skin that also extend from the clitoris and around the vaginal opening. The labia minora vary in size between people. They are joined together by a small fold of skin known as the fourchette, or “little fork.” It can be torn during childbirth or rough sexual acts. Doctors often use sutures to repair it.

The clitoris is a crucial element for sexual arousal. The external glans and hood sit at the top of the vagina at the junction of the labia minora. It appears outside the folds of skin like a small button.

The internal part of this sensitive organ includes a body, crura, and vestibular bulbs. They are all supplied by arteries, veins, and nerves.

During sexual stimulation, the clitoris functions much like a penis in that it becomes erect thanks to signals from the brain. The shaft under the skin has erectile tissue, which becomes engorged with increased blood flow.

The clitoris is a very sensitive area when stimulated. In many people, direct stimulation of the clitoris is needed for orgasm.

The outer female genitals also include the urethra. Located between the vaginal opening and the frontal connection of the labia minora, the urethral opening is where urine is expelled from the body.