The vagina, (from the Latin for "sheath" or "scabbard" ) is the tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles. Female insects and other invertebrates also have a vagina, which is the terminal part of the oviduct.
The human vagina is an elastic muscular tube about 4 inches (100 mm) long and 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter that connects the vulva at the outside to the cervix of the uterus at the inside. If the woman stands upright, the vaginal tube points in an upward-backward direction and forms an angle of slightly more than 45 degrees with the uterus. The vaginal opening is at the back (caudal) end of the vulva, behind the opening of the urethra. Above the vagina is Mons Veneris.The inside of the vagina is usually pink, as with all internal mucous membranes in mammals.
(In common speech, the term "vagina" is often used improperly to refer to the vulva or female genitals generally; strictly speaking the vagina is a specific internal structure and the vulva is the exterior genitalia only. Calling the vulva the vagina is akin to calling the mouth the throat.)
Length, width and shape of the vagina may vary. When a woman gives birth and during sexual intercourse, the vagina widens and lengthens up to 2-3 times.
The hymen—a membrane situated behind the urethral opening—partially covers the vagina in many organisms, including some human females, from birth until it is ruptured by sexual intercourse, or by any number of other activities including medical examinations, injury, certain types of exercise, introduction of a foreign object, etc.
Functions of the vagina
From a biological perspective, the vagina performs the following functions:
- Providing a path for menstrual fluids to leave the body.
- Giving birth
- Admitting the male penis for sexual intercourse
The concentration of nerve endings particularly close to the mouth of the vagina causes pleasure to be experienced during sexual activity. The opening of the vagina is home to the clitoris, which is located at the anterior of the vaginal opening; for most women, the clitoris is the main source of sexual pleasure (although it can be too sensitive for direct stimulation in some women). Some women have a very sensitive erogenous zone called "the G-spot" inside their vagina (in the anterior of the vagina, about five cm. in from the entrance), which can produce very intense orgasms if stimulated properly, possibly responsible for the disputed female ejaculation. Not all women have a g-spot that is responsive to stimulation, however.
During live birth, the vagina provides the route to deliver the fetus from the uterus to its independent life outside the body of the mother. During birth, the vagina is often referred to as the birth canal.
Sexual health and hygiene
Other than the penis, fingers or sexual devices, many women insert tampons during menstruation. These must be regularly changed - every four hours at most. Other objects inserted include diaphragms (placed against the cervix, blocking it from sperm), spermicidal cream and lubicrant. Additionally, some women use vaginal douches, which serve to cleanse the vagina with a gentle soap intended to remove odor. These days, such treatment is advised against by doctors, as it may upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina, rather than helping it. Thus, the vagina itself needs no particular treatment in the name of basic hygiene.
The vagina and popular culture
Sexual organs being stigmatised in practically all human cultures, it is not surprising that Western society treats the subject as somewhat taboo. A one-person play by Eve Ensler known as The Vagina Monologues was a rare example of the word appearing in mainstream culture. The popular TV series Sex and the City contains many discussions about the vagina and its health.
- WikiSaurus:vagina — the WikiSaurus list of synonyms and slang words for the vagina in many languages.
- vagina dentata
- vulvovaginal disorders
- vagina tightening and toning
- vulvovaginal health
- Skene's glands
- artificial vagina
- Pink Parts - "Walk through" of female sexual anatomy by noted sex activist and educator Heather Corinna (illustrations; no explicit photos)
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