Sexual Anatomy: Understanding your Body
Understanding your body and how it works is an important part of sexual health. This can help you to know what is typical with your body, as well as help you to better understand your partner’s body.
This page focuses mostly on male and female anatomy. The language used for certain body parts in this guide might not be the language that you use to describe your own body. For example, you might use “chest” instead of “breasts,” “front hole” instead of “vagina,” or “strapless” instead of “penis.” When you were born, you were likely assigned a sex (male or female) by a doctor. Your sex assigned at birth may not necessarily match your gender identity.
Gender identity is one’s internal sense of self. This could mean someone is masculine, feminine, neither, or some combination that may or may not conform to societal expectations. Because it is internal, gender identity is not necessarily outwardly apparent.
Gender expression is one’s outward presentation of gender, often demonstrated by dress, mannerisms, hair, and/or speech, and may not correspond with a person’s gender identity.
Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different concepts that often get intertwined. Sexual orientation describes to whom a person is attracted sexually, emotionally, and/or romantically. Orientation is not dependent upon sexual experience, but rather on a person’s feelings and attractions. Some people may choose to identify their sexual orientation through other terms.
The vulva (the external part of female genitalia) includes the labia minora/majora, the vaginal opening, the urethra (where urine comes out), and the clitoris. The clitoris is the main source of sexual pleasure for females. It has thousands of nerve endings and the only purpose is pleasure. Many females are able to orgasm through clitoral stimulation. In fact, for most females, clitoral stimulation is needed to reach orgasm during sexual activity; vaginal stimulation is not always enough.
Everyone’s vulva will look different—different colors, sizes, and shapes. Your labia might be longer or darker than the rest of your skin, your clitoris might be larger or smaller—all of this is normal!
Looking at the front view:
- The vagina is where period blood flows out of the body, where body parts (such as fingers or a penis) and objects (such as sex toys or tampons) can be inserted into the vagina, and it can expand during childbirth and if a female feels aroused.
- The cervix connects the vagina to the uterus. It looks like a donut with a hole in the middle; the hole allows period blood to leave the uterus. The cervix expands during childbirth. Because of the cervix, things will not “get lost” in a female’s body through the vagina.
- The uterus is where a fetus develops.
- The endometrium is the lining of the uterus that sheds approximately monthly when a female has a period.
- Fallopian tubes carry eggs from the ovary to the uterus. Sperm travel through the fallopian tubes to try to fertilize an egg.
- The ovaries store and release eggs. They also release hormones that control things like puberty, periods, and pregnancy.
Looking at the side view:
- The rectum and anus are the bottom of the intestines; fecal matter is expelled from the body here.
- The bladder is where urine is stored. The urethra connects to the bladder and is the tube where urine leaves the body.
- The pubic bone connects the hip joints and forms the top part of the external female genitals, right above the clitoris; this is known as the mons pubis.
Learn more about female anatomy here.
The penis, scrotum, and anus are the only external parts of male anatomy.
- The penis has several parts:
- The inside of the penis has layers of spongy tissue. The penis does not have a bone in it. When a male is turned on, the spongy tissue fills with blood, which is what causes an erection. Penises look different for everyone person—some are larger or smaller, some are wider, some may curve when erect—all of that is normal!
- The glans is the tip or head of the penis. The urethral opening is located here; urine and ejaculation come out of the urethral opening.
- The foreskin is a patch of skin that protects the head of the penis. Some people have their foreskin removed; this is called circumcision. About half of all males in the U.S. are circumcised. Uncircumcised penises are not dirty—it is totally normal to not be circumcised.
- The shaft of the penis connects to the body. The urethra is inside the shaft.
- The scrotum hangs below the penis and contains the testicles.
- Most males have two testicles, although some people may have one or even three. The scrotum helps regulate the temperature of the testicles—if it is cold, the testicles will move up closer to the body, and if it is warm, they will hang lower from the body. The scrotum is super sensitive—that’s why it hurts so bad to get hit in this area.
- The testicles make sperm and hormones.
- The anus is where fecal matter leaves the body.
- The epididymis is a tube where sperm matures. It connects to the vas deferens.
- The vas deferens connects the epididymis to the seminal vesicles. This is often the tube that is cut during a vasectomy.
- The seminal vesicles are two small organs that produce semen, which is the fluid that sperm travel in.
- The prostate gland makes a fluid that sperm travel in; this is combined with the fluid made in the seminal vesicles.
- The bladder is where urine is stored. It is connected to the urethra.
Learn more about male anatomy here.