Take a Tour... of Your Own Body
There's one major difference between male and female genitalia: men can see their bits while women can't.
All men have to do is look down, play around a little and all is revealed.
Women's bits aren't in view (assuming there are no giraffes reading this) and it's for this reason we know less about our bodies and genitals.
We're curious though - it's a rare women who hasn't looked at her vagina in a hand mirror - but even if we have gazed in wonderment and possibly horror (let's face it, the genitalia of either sex are hardly going to win beauty competitions are they?), you'd be well advised to look again.
The more you know about how everything works, the more enjoyment you'll get from sex so it's for this reason I'm going to take you on a guided tour of your own body.
The next five minutes of exploration could make a massive difference to your sex life.
The Outside Bits
The external organs - everything you can see on the outside - are collectively known as the vulva.
The fleshy bit with pubic hair on it is called the mons pubis or just the mons which acts as a cushion during intercourse - diet all you like (please don't, by the way) and it'll still be fleshier than the rest of your body.
The labia majora are the outer vaginal lips - folds of skin covered with pubic hair. Open them and you'll uncover the labia minora, the inner vaginal lips, usually purply and slightly moist because they contain glands which secrete sebum, the fluid which makes the vagina wet.
The outer lips usually cover the inner lips but don't worry if yours poke out a bit: that's normal too.
(While we're on the subject of 'normal', the colour of the labia ranges from bright pink to purple or dark brown).
The vaginal lips turn red and swell when you're aroused. (Remind you of anything?)
The hymen is the thin membrane that can sometimes cover the opening to the vagina if you're a virgin.
I say sometimes because even if you haven't had sex, the hymen can do a bit of a disappearing act.
A gym bunny? Loved horse-riding? Used tampons? Got a bit carried away during 'heavy petting' with your boyfriend? All are reasons why your hymen might not be intact even if you are a virgin. It's not an impenetrable barrier anyway as it has holes to allow menstrual blood to escape.
The perineum is the smooth area of skin between the anus and the vaginal opening. It's highly sensitive to sexual stimulation because the hidden part of the clitoris lies directly beneath (see 'the most important bit').
The Inside Bits
The vaginal opening is the part the penis penetrates when you have sex but contrary to popular perception, it's actually not a hole.
It's a muscular tube: put your fingers inside when you're not aroused and you'll easily feel the sides touch each other. The vagina is about four inches long and tilts at an upward angle toward the small of your back, extending to the cervix, the gateway to your uterus.
A penis can't penetrate further than nature intends because the entrance to the uterus is smaller than the width of a drinking straw. (It's only during birth that it opens wide to allow the baby to get out.)
When you're turned on, the uterus and cervix rise, lengthening the vaginal tube. When his penis penetrates, the walls of the vagina stretch to accommodate the difference.
This is why, although the average penis is 5.1 inches long and the average vagina is 4 inches long, the bits fit anyway!
The urethra is the tiny hole you urinate from - which doesn't sound terribly exciting or relevant to sex but wait, there's more!
American researchers recently unveiled the erotic potential of what's now called 'the U-spot' by discovering women had a powerful sexual response when the area was gently stimulated by a finger, tongue or tip of the penis.
Look for a small patch of sensitive erectile tissue just above and on either side of the urethral opening and get your partner to concentrate on this area with their tongue or finger (use lubrication unless you are really wet).
During intercourse, spread your legs widely, pressing yourself against his penis and pelvis to allow maximum contact and get him to grind rather than thrust.
The Most Important Bit
I've written this many times but I can't help repeating it because it's such a wonderful fact: the clitoris is the only organ on the whole body purely designed for pleasure. (Yippee!)
It looks like a tiny pea covered by a protective hood of skin but in total, the clitoris is about four inches long and when the tip is stimulated, the entire thing becomes engorged, firm and sensitive.
Men have the equivalent of the clitoris along the upper side of their penis but it's completely covered by skin while the tip of ours protrudes and is visible.
Most of the clitoris is hidden beneath the surface.
The visible tip is attached to an inner mound of erectile tissue the size of your first thumb joint.
That tissue then breaks into two 'legs' that extend another 11 centimetres and there are also two clitoral 'bulbs' that run down the area just outside the vaginal opening.
All this tissue is erectile (it enlarges or swells with stimulation) and contributes to orgasmic muscle spasms. So it's really a lie to say some women can orgasm without clitoral stimulation because the act of thrusting alone massages the hidden parts of it.
Men can often reach orgasm in two or three minutes; women usually need between 10 and 20.
The male orgasm lasts around five seconds, the average female orgasm 15 seconds: ours is three times longer!
But here's the payback: almost all men orgasm during sex, while less than half of women do.
Now you know the mechanics it's time for the fun part! Check out Touching Techniques that Work on Every Woman from the archives. Or explore ways to make orgasm easier with What to Do if You Can't Climax.