What’s a vulva? Where is the clitoris? Can you pee while wearing a tampon? With sexuality being such a taboo conversation, it’s no surprise that many people cannot answer these basic questions. Surveys indicate most people cannot even identify major parts of female reproductive anatomy, such as the vagina and labia. A survey conducted by Summer’s Eve found that 70% of women cannot identify major parts of their own anatomy while a study in the U.K. found that one in four women do not understand how the menstrual cycle works.

The lack of discussion leaves vagina owners confused, disconnected from their bodies, and feeling like there is something wrong with them. Adult women don’t realize discharge throughout the month is normal and are still trying to live a life with a scent-free vagina. This makes it more difficult to detect when something is wrong and a yeast infection has occurred or an STI has been contracted. Furthermore, many people don’t realize the vagina is a muscle, which expands up to 200% when sexually aroused and is 4–6 inches long (the same length as the average penis, go figure). The infamous clitoris is the ONLY body part that has no other purpose than pleasure. With so many facts about female anatomy, why are so many women in the dark?

The problem with not knowing about female anatomy is that it affects self-esteem, self-worth, and romantic relationships. Women who are unfamiliar with their own anatomy associate feelings of disgust to their vaginas and see their genitalia as something that doesn’t belong to them. In turn, this inhibits sexual pleasure because they don’t know what they like sexually, or feel they don’t deserve it. Sex therapist, Kristen Lilla LCSW, has met dozens of women who don’t feel comfortable receiving oral sex because of their natural odor. Other women are sure there is something wrong with them because they cannot orgasm from penetrative sex (when in reality only about 5% of women do). They feel embarrassment and shame having these conversations, but also seem to be aware there is more to sex than his pleasure.

It also does a disservice to victims of sexual assault. If one cannot name their own anatomy correctly, how can they file a report? A 2nd grader recently said she refers to her “private parts” as her “pocketbook”. Can you imagine filing that report? “Well, he touched my pocketbook”. Case dropped. The earlier we start learning the anatomically correct body parts, for all genders, the more comfortable we are talking about them. This leads to improved communication as adults, both in and out of the bedroom. You’re more likely to have an orgasm if you tell your partner to touch your clitoris lightly, than if you say, “Will you grab my pocketbook?”

In an effort to normalize female anatomy, we must normalize the conversation. Vaginas and Periods 101: A Pop-Up Book does just that! The pop-up, available for pre-order on Indiegogo, explains that the vulva is external anatomy, the vagina is an internal canal, and the urethra is a small internal tube for urination (your pee). An ovulation wheel discusses exactly how the menstrual cycle works and discusses the four phases of menstruation- follicular, luteal, ovulation, and the period. It also offers alternative options to tampons and pads, another area of misinformation among the masses.

Approximately 73 million women use tampons, yet most tampon users don’t know what’s in their product, or that the tampon expands inside the vaginal canal (which makes sense since it has to fit and expand inside the vaginal walls to collect menstrual blood with no leakage). Currently tampons and pads aren’t FDA regulated to disclose ingredients because they are considered “medical devices” so many products contain harmful ingredients like chlorine, bleach, and even asbestos. Even more women have no idea they have a variety of other options including cloth pads, menstrual cups (made with FDA approved medical-grade silicone), and sea sponges.
So, What’s a vulva? Where is the clitoris? Can you pee while wearing a tampon? A vulva refers to external anatomy, the clitoris is part of the vulva, and you can absolutely pee while wearing a tampon since it’s two different holes.

created by artist Sara M. Lyons

Co-author of Vaginas and Periods 101: A Pop-Up Book (pre-order today on Indiegogo) and Nebraska’s only Certified Sex Therapist and Sexuality Educator

Co-author of Vaginas and Periods 101: A Pop-Up Book (pre-order today on Indiegogo) and Nebraska’s only Certified Sex Therapist and Sexuality Educator