Sex education is a tricky subject as with many subjects currently in today’s society. Sex ed is yet another topic in the United States with a clear divide. An aspect of sex education that has me scratching my head has to do with the divide between certain states on educating about which term to use with regard to female genitals; vulva or vagina. Some argue that they are essentially the same thing. They are interchangeable words and the distinction doesn’t need to be made between the two. Correct?

Many use the term vagina to talk about the whole area between the legs. When in fact it is made up of more than just the vagina. The vagina is the opening where the fluid from a period comes out and where intercourse happens. The vagina is a muscular hole leading from the outside of the body to the uterus.

5 Vulva parts

But there is more to the female anatomy besides the vagina, specifically, 5 other parts:

  1. Labia majora-outer lips (outer folds of skin on each side of the opening of the vagina).
  2. Labia minora-inner lips (inner folds of skin on both sides of the opening to the vagina).
  3. Clitoris (two small erectile bodies: the glans and the hood).
  4. Mons pubis or mons veneris (cushion of fatty tissue over the pubic bone. Touching leads to sexual arousal).
  5. Perineum (the area between the vagina and the anus).

Together, they are called the vulva. The vulva is the whole area of soft skin between a female’s legs. The vulva covers the clitoris, the labia majora and minora, the clitoris and mons pubis, and the perineum. In other words, the visible parts of the genitalia are the vulva. The vagina while an important part does not completely or accurately represent all parts to the female genitalia.

So with regard to sex education, it is a good idea to start girls and boys out during adolescence with accurate information. I’m not saying that they have to share every minute detail about sex during adolescence sex education classes. I am just asking to start early with breaking the habit of using the word vagina to encompass and represent the entire female genitalia. Many sex educators would agree that pride and/or shame of one’s body starts at an early age. Shame begins with incomplete information. Pride begins with accurate information.

Vulva

One sex educator shared with me they could write a simplified paragraph such as:

Many use the term vagina to talk about the whole area between the legs. When in fact it is made up of more than just the vagina. The vagina is the opening where the fluid from a period comes out. It is also the opening where a baby passes through when being born. But there are other parts too. There is also something called the labia, which are tissues that extends from the vagina and the urethra which is a very small opening that passes urine from the body. All of these things together are called the vulva. It can be a little confusing because when we talk about menstruation, we will be referring to the vagina because this is where the fluid comes out, but it is important to know the word for the whole area.

Breaking the habit of using the word vagina is similar to breaking the habit of using the slang words YOLO or triggered. The vulva is similar to the penis because they are both sex organs that are outside the body. It is time to break the proverbial misinformation chain. Sex education classes must be consistent throughout the U.S. Females should be empowered their entire lives with accurate information about their bodies. The vulva is the term for the female genitalia and the vagina is the opening. Period. No pun intended.


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