The ins and outs of the vagina

Vaginal vs. clitoral orgasm, G-spot, vulva, and clitoris: the sex organs of females and their role in arousal and orgasm are completely shrouded.

Controversy surrounds the existence of the G-spot and the routes to orgasm.
Controversy surrounds the existence of the G-spot and the routes to orgasm.

Women and the female body image are frequently misrepresented in our increasingly digital culture. Nevertheless, sex makes people happy and plays an significant role in both mental and physical wellbeing and social bonding.

So, it’s time to demystify common misunderstandings about the sex organs of women and their role in sexual pleasure.

We shine a spotlight on how the vagina, vulva, and clitoris function, as well as what is known about the mysterious G-spot and the female orgasm today.

Inside and out: The vagina and the vulva

The vagina is the muscle tube which connects with the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus.

Often known as the birth canal, the vagina allows blood and cells to pass during menstruation, sperm entry during puberty, and baby and placenta delivery at the end of pregnancy.

The vagina has only a small number of nerve endings which are believed to be essential to help women cope with childbirth pain.

The outer part of the female genitals is the vulva. It consists of the majora labia, or outer fold, the minora labia, or inner fold, urethra, and clitoris. Every single woman has unique shape and size of the vulva.

In a study involving 32 women, Dr. Haim Krissi – from Soroka University Medical Center’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel – and the team found a significant variation in the length and width of the different sections of the vulva.

The clitoris: The gateway to sexual arousal

Although many people assume the clitoris is a tiny spot just above the vaginal opening, it is actually a much bigger complex. The most prominent component is the glans, which are on average 16 millimeters in length. This is the part common to most people.

The glans are concealed by the prepuce, a skin formed out of the vaginal labia. Some people liken the foreskin to the prepuce. The remainder of the clitoris is concealed within the pubic bone, and the entire complex is identical in form to the penis, with a total length of 9 to 11 centimetres.

The clitoris is an erectile organ, and is believed to be at the center of female sexual arousal.

In a 2015 study published in the journal Clinical Anatomy, Dr. Rachel N. Pauls – from the Divisions of Female Pelvic Floor Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at TriHealth / Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio – describes the clitoris as “[…] the centre for orgasmic reaction.”

With the densest number of nerve fibers found in the glans, the clitoris is strongly innervated. These nerve fibers respond to stimulation by causing swelling of clitoris erectile tissues.

As Dr. Pauls states, “It is important to remember that indirect stimulation of the glans is central to female sexual arousal, but the dense innervation of the glans can lead to intense sensitivity upon direct stimulation.”

That being said, the clitoris is not the only part of the female sex organs that, according to others, can lead to excitement. Equally credited was the mysterious G-spot, said to be located inside the vagina.

Does the G-spot exist?

The so-called Gräfenberg spot, or G-spot – named after the German-born physicist Ernst Gräfenberg – is a highly controversial subject matter.

Although Gräfenberg was widely credited with discovering the supposed location guaranteed to generate sexual arousal, Dr. Frank Addiego and colleagues originally invented the term in a paper published in the Journal of Sex Research in 1981.

The hunt for this elusive structure that promised unlimited pleasure has been on since then.

A research by Dr. Adam Ostrenski – of the Institute of Gynecology in St Petersburg, FL – and colleagues in An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology defines it as a series of nerve bundles in the front or anterior wall of the vagina.

Anastasios Mpotsaris – from the University Hospital of Cologne in Germany – and colleagues find a “special morphological form” in 62 percent of study subjects at the same location using MRI scans.

Does that mean the quest finished? No; not every expert agrees. In an article in the journal Clinical Anatomy, Dr. Vincenzo Puppo-from the Centro Italiano Sessuologica in Bologna, Italy-notes that there is no empirical or medical evidence confirming the presence of the G-spot.

Instead, he notes, “The G-spot has become the focus of a multimillion-dollar business: G-spot enhancement, also known as G-spot augmentation, G-Spotplasty, or G-shot, is a cosmetic surgery operation that momentarily improves the size and strength of what some people claim to be the G-spot […].”

This thought is reiterated by Dr. Pauls, who sums up that there is no medical or surgical method.

So, the jury is still out on the G-spot. Whether stimulated by G-spot or not, female orgasms remain a mysterious and controversial subject.

What happens during orgasm?

The debate about the intent and routes leading women to experience an orgasm is possibly as old as medical science.

While from an evolutionary point of view the male orgasm has a clear role in that it is central to the survival of the human race, experts have not been able to agree on a comparable “intent” for female orgasms.

The path to sexual arousal is clear, from a physiological point of view.

Dr. Pauls explains, “In simplistic terms, genital arousal is characterized by increased blood flow to the pelvic region. In females, this vascular flow results in clitoral engorgement and erection and accompanying vulvar swelling and vaginal [secretion] of fluid.”

“If a threshold is reached, orgasm can follow arousal. Activation of [nerve pathways] triggers pelvic floor skeletal muscle contractions that accompany sexual satisfaction,” she adds.

So, do we see orgasms as simply the product of our nervous reflexes? The issues are more complex, as so much in biology. Naturally, our nerves transmit sensory signals to our brain, where studies have shown that sexual pleasure is interpreted in the same way as other forms of pleasure.

“[…] the mind may be the ultimate sexual organ, which in combination with anatomy can augment sexual enjoyment.”

Dr. Pauls

The vaginal vs. clitoral orgasm

The ultimate core which causes the greatest pleasure for women remains a topic for debate. There are two conflicting theories: the vaginal orgasm and the clitoral.

The word “vaginal orgasm” is misleading, according to Dr Puppo. He says “the vagina has no anatomical structure that can induce an orgasm.” Rather, he states, “the ‘vaginal’ orgasm that some women experience is often induced by the erectile organs surrounding it.”

Dr. Puppo further states, “Orgasms with a finger in the vagina are possible in all women, but the partner must always pass the hand in a circle to stimulate all erectile female organs.”

On the other side of the debate is the psychologist Prof. Stuart Brody, who claims that the path to vaginal orgasm is penile-vaginal intercourse, which he says plays a larger role in sexual pleasure.

In a review published in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, Prof. James G. Pfaus – from the Department of Psychology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada – states, “Women are likely to have a considerable capacity to experience orgasms of several different forms […] their subjective experience is not inherently the same for each woman, and may even be different for each time a woman has one.”

Dr. Pauls also notes that “[…] pressure on the vagina during sexual intercourse will result in friction, vibration, and clitoral stimulation.” “Therefore, describing a ‘clitoral orgasm’ as a separate phenomenon from a ‘vaginal orgasm’ is problematic at best,” she adds.

Due to the fact that the different parts of the female sex organs are very similar to each other, it is difficult to classify one specific location as the ultimate road to pleasure.

One question that remains is whether a description of different types of orgasms is needed or not.

Does it really matter?

The sexual pleasure and orgasm every woman has is unique. A recent study found that just 6 per cent of women claim that every time they have sex they reach orgasm.

Some interested in researching female sexual pleasure would argue that better knowledge of the routes to orgasm will benefit some struggling to attain the fulfillment they desire. Yet orgasm is just a part of the sexual experience.

“Maybe it is time,” says Professor Pfaus, “to avoid treating women’s orgasm as a sociopolitical subject with different sides telling women what they can and can not feel.”

Sexual satisfaction is a special phenomenon. Through derived from clitoral stimulation or some other method, the best measure of satisfaction at the end of the day is the enjoyment felt by those concerned.

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