So often we focus on the differences between men and women. But we’d do well to consider how alike we are, too -- especially when it comes to sexual anatomy. Rather than thinking of a woman’s parts as inferior, miniature versions of his, embrace the fact that they are equitable, albeit more internal, sexual structures that enjoy stimulation just as much as his. There are important parallels between his and her sexual machinery that will help you both understand how best to use what you've got on your own and with your partner. For instance, did you know that he has a clitoris too?! Going beyond the inadequate anatomy lessons we got in high school sex ed will help us all find more common ground in the bedroom.
|penis, a.k.a. the male clitoris: The MVP of male sexual function. This very visible shaft is often considered the corresponding puzzle piece to the vagina. Understandable, but that leads both men and women to discount the importance of her clitoris (especially when it doesn't seem to actively provide stimulation to his member). The penis actually incorporates many of the same or similar sexual components that are key to female sexual functioning, including the clitoris.||clitoris, a.k.a. the female penis: Contrary to popular belief, the clitoris is more than just that little nubbin you see or feel protruding near the top of the labia – that's just the tip of the iceberg. No, the clitoris is actually a complex organ of nerve-rich erectile tissue (just like the penis) extending throughout the genital area. We're talking four inches long (one inch shy of the average penis, but proportional to her body size) in the shape of a wishbone. During arousal, this tissue becomes engorged and erect, just like the penis – it's just more difficult to notice in women because most of the erection occurs internally.|
|foreskin, a.k.a. male clitoral hood: The retractable sheath of skin attached to the shaft of the penis via the frenulum that serves as a sort of oversized polo neck: it's pulled over most if not all of the penile glans when not erect (protecting the naturally moist mucous membrane of the glans), and pulled back during arousal (aiding in both his and her pleasure during penetration).||clitoral hood: The female equivalent of foreskin: the clitoral shaft runs under it and the clitoral head sticks out of it. The hood is created by the junction of the outer edges of the inner lips meeting above the clitoral head.|
|penile head or glans: At the outermost end of the penile shaft, the corpus spongiosum forms the acorn-shaped head or glans which is molded over the rounded, exterior end of the corpus cavernosum (see below). Many consider this the equivalent of the female clitoral glans, especially when you consider how both the female and male hoods or foreskins protect these two "heads".||clitoral head, tip, or glans: The little "handle" of the wishbone which protrudes externally at the junction where the top of the labia connect – what most people usually think of when they think "clitoris". Some clitoral heads extend out like an erect nipple, while shyer ones hide under the hood.|
|corpus cavernosum: Within the penis runs this narrow wishbone-shaped erectile tissue much like the woman's clitoral wishbone, except in men the "handle" end is long, about 4 inches (running the length of the shaft, parallel to the urethra), and the two clitoral "Y" legs are short (splitting at the base near the pubic bone). Upon arousal, it fills with blood and becomes bigger, straighter and more sensitive, i.e. erect, just like her clitoris.||clitoral legs: The two slim prongs of the clitoral wishbone which run underneath the labia and flank either side of the urethra, the urethral sponge, and the vagina. Like the clitoral head and shaft, the legs are made of erectile tissue which stiffens during arousal.|
|corpus spongiosum: Like the female urethral sponge, this erectile tissue surrounds the length of his urethra, responds to stimulation, and fills with blood upon arousal (though it remains much more pliable than the corpus cavernosum so the urethra doesn't get pinched closed, which would cut off ejaculation). Some consider this the single equivalent of the two clitoral bulbs in women, as it ends in one bulbous structure within his body just past the base (what's considered the "root" of the penis).||clitoral bulbs: In addition to the wishbone, there are two eggplant-shaped bulbs that run along the inside of the clitoral legs, beneath the inner labia and around the sides of the urethra, the urethral sponge, and the vagina. This erectile tissue also becomes engorged during arousal, puffing up even more than the legs, and causing the inner labia to balloon.|
|prostate gland: The smooth, walnut-sized organ located behind his public bone, below the bladder and above the perineum, through which the urethra runs. The prostate produces an alkaline fluid that constitutes up to a third of the contents of ejaculate which helps transport and protect sperm during and after ejaculation. The muscles of the prostate also help expel the ejaculate from the body. The embryonic tissue that develops into the prostate gland in male fetuses is the same tissue that develops into the urethral sponge in female fetuses.||urethral sponge, a.k.a. the female prostate: The spongy erectile tissue surrounding the length of the urethra that consists of glands, known as paraurethral glands, which produce an alkaline fluid similar to that produced by the male prostate (i.e. it's not urine). This fluid may be expelled into and then out of the urethra and out of the paraurethral ducts in a process known as female ejaculation; this may occur in spurts, in a rush of fluid, or in such insignificant amounts as to be undetectable|
|P-spot (for prostate), a.k.a. the male G-spot: The area of the prostate gland that can be felt and stimulated through the top, belly-side wall of the rectum by inserting a finger, fingers, penis or anal sex toy a few inches inside and pressing toward the navel or the back of the pubic bone.||G-spot: The area of the urethral sponge (or female prostate) that can be felt and stimulated through the top wall of the vagina by inserting a finger, fingers, penis or sex toy a few inches inside and pressing up toward the navel or the back of the pubic bone. The texture of this area in the vagina is often rougher and more ridged than the other, smoother vaginal walls.|
|penile tip, a.k.a. U-spot: The sensitive, innervated skin around the urethral opening.||U-spot: The external area surrounding the urethral opening. Like the area right around the penis's urethral opening, this nerve-rich spot is sensitive to touch and may be an undiscovered erogenous zone for her, because you are indirectly stimulating one end of the urethral sponge (similarly, with G-spot probing, you are stimulating one side of the urethral sponge). Upon arousal, it may protrude a bit and take on the appearance of an acorn top (like the external tip of a penis).|
|testicles: The two reproductive organs which produce sperm and male hormones (like testosterone).||ovaries: The two egg- and estrogen-producing reproductive organs.|
|scrotum (a.k.a. the male labia): The testicles are housed in the scrotum or scrotal sack, the male equivalent of a woman's outer labia (both develop from the same early embryonic tissue), which hang down outside the body (behind the flaccid penis) and may similarly enjoy gentle stroking.||outer labia or lips, a.k.a. the female scrotum: Developed from the same embryonic tissue that becomes the scrotal sack in men, the outer labia are the two hairy pads of fatty tissue that pocket the inner labia, clitoral head, and the urethral and vaginal openings.|
|frenulum: A highly sensitive band of tissue on the underside of the penis, just under the penile glans, that keeps the foreskin in place. Whether the frenulum is left intact, partially removed or fully removed during circumcision, the area tends to remain a particular pleasure point (albeit to varying degrees).||frenulum, a.k.a. bridle: The junction of the inner edges of the two inner lips, usually just below the clitoral head, which, like a man's frenulum, is sensitive to stimulation. It may also be considered a part of the external clitoris.|
Em & Lo blog daily about sex and relationships on EMandLO.com.