Exploring and Becoming Familiar with your Vulva

Increasing your Pleasure: Exploring and Becoming Familiar with your Vulva

Many women call their genitalia their vagina. Other women have different names that they have been taught from their childhood such as “down there”, “privates”, and a variety of other unique and interesting names. What many women know as “down there” or as their vagina is actually called the vulva. While it is true that your vagina is located there too, the vagina is actually the canal inside the vaginal opening leading to the uterus, while the vulva is your entire outside genital area.

Do you have no idea what your vulva looks and feels like? Do you feel embarrassed, shameful, or disgusted about looking? There are many reasons that some women have never looked at their vulva or may have negative feelings about it. However, it is important to know this area of your body and how it responds to explore and increase your sexual pleasure. Looking at and exploring your vulva is often an important first step for women with vaginismus and orgasmic difficulties. Below is a simple exercise to guide you through the process. Set aside 15-20 minutes that you can have to yourself and not be disturbed. A diagram of the vulva can be helpful to identify the different parts.

  1. Find or purchase a hand mirror for easier viewing. Remove your underwear and get in a comfortable seated position on the floor or on your bed with your knees up, legs open and a pillow to prop yourself up. Make sure that you are in an area with good lighting or angle a light towards your vulva. You want to be able to see what is there!
  2. With one hand, take the mirror and place it to reflect your vulva so that you are able to see it. For the first few minutes, just look. The main areas of the vulva are the outer lips, the inner lips, the clitoris, the urethra, and the vaginal opening. Your anal opening is located below the vaginal opening. The area between the vaginal opening and the anal opening is known as the perineum. The clitoris is located at the top of the inner lips, the urethral opening is below it, and your vaginal opening is below the urethral opening at the bottom. You made need to spread the inner lips apart to see them. Notice the color, how colors may be different in different sections and the shape and size of the different parts. Vulvas come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. The amount of hair is often different as well. We recommend the book Femalia to see the many shapes, sizes, and colors of different vulvas. While yours is unique, you will likely find a picture in that book of one that looks similar.
  3. Note any feelings that you are having when you are looking at your vulva. Do you feel embarrassed, ashamed, disgusted, scared? Or do you feel interested, curious, or even pleased and appreciative? If you have negative feelings, take your time with the exercise and breathe deeply. If it is too overwhelming, stop and try again at another time. These negative feelings may dissipate as you become more familiar and comfortable exploring yourself.
  4. After you have got a good look, take your finger or fingers, and touch the different areas. You may find the use of a vaginal lubricant to be helpful. Notice the texture of each area. Is it smooth or rough? Do parts feel similar or different? Also notice what sensations you feel in each part. Are the sensations pleasurable? Does it hurt, does it tickle? Does it just feel neutral with little sensation? Are different parts more sensitive than others? Which parts? Take the time to explore the perineum as well. Many women find this area to be sensitive and pleasurable. As with the last step, take note of how you are feeling about touching yourself.
  5. If you feel comfortable, you may also find it interesting and useful to insert a finger or two inside the vaginal opening to feel the textures and the surface inside. You may want to use lubricant or do kegels to ease the insertion. What sensations do you feel? Does it feel pleasurable? Does it hurt? Does it feel neutral? Again, note the emotional reaction that you have.

Exploring and touching your vulva can be an interesting experience. It can help you to increase your comfort with your genitalia as well as learn more about what touch feels good and pleasurable. With practice, you can learn what type of touch you like, where you like to be touched and in turn can then teach your partner what pleases you.