Human sexual anatomy: a refresher course, or what your child needs to know

One of the most important things children need in their health education is accurate, age-appropriate information about bodies and bodily functions. There’s actually a lot going on down, or in, there – and sometimes parents might enter the chat not remembering every little body part or what they all do. And that’s okay! It’s not exactly everyday information. So, we thought we’d give our parent audience a refresher (and hey, you might even learn a thing or two). It’s also worth noting that some of this information on sexual pleasure you can wait to tell your kids until you feel they’re mature enough to know. They don’t need to know all of this, all at once.

FEMALE

OUTSIDE

Vulva

This is the whole outside part of the genitals. It includes the outer and inner labia, the vagina and urethra openings, and the clitoris.

Labia majora

The labia are the folds of skin around the vaginal opening. The labia majora, otherwise known as the ‘outer lips’, are usually fleshy and covered with pubic hair.

Labia minora

Otherwise known as the ‘inner lips’, the labia minora, are the fleshy folds insider the labia majora. They begin at the clitoris and end under the opening to the vagina, and may be covered by the outer lips, but also might extend outside. Vulvas come in all shapes and sizes.

Clitoris

On the outside of the body, the tip of the clitoris is the spongey tissue at the top of the vulva, and ranges from about the size of a pea to a thumb. The clitoris also has a shaft that extends inside the body and down both sides of the vagina. It’s very sensitive, with more nerve endings than any other part of the body. It’s function is for sexual pleasure.

Vaginal opening

The vaginal opening is right below the urethral opening – they’re not the same! See ‘vagina’ below for more info.

Urethra opening

The urethra is the tube where urine leaves the body from the bladder. It’s opening is very small (much smaller than the vaginal opening) and is located below the clitoris.

Anus

The anus is the opening to the rectum where ‘poo’ or faeces leaves the body. 

INSIDE

Vagina

The vagina is a stretchy tube that leads from the cervix to the outside of the body. It’s where menstrual blood and vaginal discharge leave the body, as well as a baby if being born that way, and where the penis fits for sexual intercourse. It’s the place where some menstrual products like tampons are inserted. The vagina can expand and become moist when a person is sexually excited.

Cervix

The cervix is located between the vagina and uterus and divides and connects the two. It’s what lets menstrual fluid out and sperm in. During childbirth, the cervix stretches so that the baby can come through.

Uterus

The uterus is a hollow organ above the cervix that expands during pregnancy. This is where a baby can grow, although if there is no pregnancy the uterus will shed its lining once a month (also known as menstruation/periods).

Ovaries

The ovaries are two glands that grow and store egg cells (ova), and produce sex hormones (including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone). During puberty, the ovaries release an egg each month until menopause (when a woman’s period stops). This is also known as ovulation.

Fallopian tubes

The fallopian tubes are two narrow tubes on either side of the uterus that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. Sperm can travel up along these tubes to try and fertilise an egg.

MALE

OUTSIDE

Penis

The penis is a fleshy tube that hangs from the body and is used for urination and sexual intercourse. It is made from spongy tissue and blood vessels. When a person has an erection, nerves cause the blood vessels to expand; this makes the penis hard and stand away from the body.

Glans (of the penis)

The glans is the tip, or head, of the penis. It contains the most nerves and is very sensitive. This is where the urethral opening is, and where urine, pre-ejaculate and semen leave the body.

Foreskin (of the penis)

The foreskin is a covering of skin that protects the head (glans). When a penis becomes erect, the foreskin pulls back and the tip is exposed. Sometimes the foreskin is removed by a doctor through circumcision.

Scrotum

The scrotum is the loose, pouch-like sac of skin that hangs below the penis containing the testicles. The scrotum protects the testicles and keeps them at the right temperature. Sperm can be damaged if their environment becomes too heated.

Urethral opening

The opening to the urethra is at the tip of the penis, and connects to the tube that transports both semen and urine out of the body. Semen, which contains sperm, is ejaculated through this opening at the point of orgasm. When the penis is erect, the flow of urine is blocked from the urethra, so only semen can pass along the tube.

Anus

The anus is the opening to the rectum, where ‘poo’ or faeces leaves the body.

INSIDE

Urethra

The urethra is the tube that runs from the bladder to the tip of the penis. It carries urine, pre-ejaculate and semen to the urethral opening and out of the body.

Testicles

The testes or testicles are the (generally) two oval organs that hang inside the scrotum. They produce both sperm and testosterone.

Epididymis

The epididymis is a coiled tube that sits at the back of each testicle, connecting to each through the vas deferens. It’s where sperm matures until it’s ready for fertilisation and releases the sperm into the vas deferens before orgasm. 

Vas deferens

The vas deferens are the two tubes (one connected to each epididymis) that carry the sperm from the testicles.  

Prostate gland

The prostate gland is a walnut-sized gland below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It makes extra fluid that nourishes the sperm and helps them move. Body parts like the epididymis, the vas deferens and the prostate gland you don’t need explain to your primary-school-aged children, but they might like to know if they’re curious and asking questions.