The Female Pleasure Anatomy Explained

When it comes to female pleasure, we can get a bit fixated on orgasms and outdated beliefs around what causes pleasure. Contrary to what many of us have been told, pleasure for ourselves doesn’t come from having a tight vagina and squeezing our pelvic floor. Instead, it comes from the walls of the vagina swelling and engorging with fluids, which creates a suction effect and is most pleasurable for all parties involved. In this article, we’ll explain how this works, and the anatomy of female pleasure.

Diagram of the female pleasure anatomy and CUB complex

Our pleasure anatomy 

Although we all share the same anatomical structures, our vulvas come in all shapes and sizes just like any other part of the body. But it’s not just about learning what these body parts are in isolation, it’s about exploring how they are all interconnected to maximize our pleasure. It is the CUV Complex (Clitoral-Urethra-Vagina) together with our cervix and perineal sponge, that make up our pleasure anatomy. 

CUV Complex

The CUV Complex describes the interconnected structures of the clitoris, urethral sponge, and vagina. Not only do the structures influence each other with pleasure signals through a shared network of nerves, they also affect how each structure swells in response to stimulation. 

We tend to focus on individual aspects of our genitals and think of them in isolation. But the truth is, it’s really rare that only one aspect is being stimulated thanks to this complex. Together, the clitoris, urethral sponge (the main part of this is the female prostate), and the vaginal wall all play a starring role in the arousal of the vulva. 

C stands for clitoris

When we look at the vulva, the more obvious part of the clitoris that we see (and feel) is called the glans — but the clitoris is much more than just this. There is also the hood of the glans, which plays an important role in pleasure. We can see how the hood is either attached to the inner lips or not attached, and when you pull on the inner lips gently you’ll notice what happens to it. 

Then there is the shaft of the clitoris, which comes out of the pubic bone. We can find it by pressing down and moving our finger side to side; you will feel something roll under your finger. Pressing, rolling, tapping or stroking this shaft like you would a penis are great ways to activate it. 

The clitoral legs run down the v-shaped bone of the pelvis. A fun way to find these bones is to press gently into your pubic bone and then move down towards your sitting bone. The vestibular bulbs swell with arousal and are what make the outer lips puff out a little — or a lot. They are a key part of engorging the vulva and activating our pleasure systems.

U stands for urethra 

This includes the urethral opening (if you part the inner lips, it sits below the clitoris glans and above the vaginal opening) as well as the openings on either side of it called the Skene’s glands. These connect to the urethral sponge inside the vagina. 

This structure is related to the female prostate. When there is stimulation and arousal of the ostia (smaller openings beside the urethral opening), fluid can transfer through the membranes of the Skene’s glands, resulting in a very unique form of lubrication: female ejaculate. This can occur with very pleasurable peak feelings and orgasm, but not necessarily always with orgasm. 

V stands for vagina 

Then we have the vagina itself, which is the vaginal canal. The clitoral structure dives down beyond the glands and its legs hug the vaginal wall, this is why the anterior wall becomes exquisitely sensitive with pleasure. While it can be a little daunting to explore the vagina, it’s a good idea to get familiar with all of its different textures and sensations. 

So how does it all work together? 

When we stimulate the clitoris, this normally means touching the glans or the shaft. But there is not only localized sensation in these areas. If we pay close attention, we may discover a tingling or warmth moving down the clitoral legs, this can cause the vestibular bulbs to swell, arousing and engorging the outer lips. 

This swelling can also move inwardly, causing the urethral sponge to also engorge, producing sensations in this area. And the opposite is also true: if you stimulate the urethral sponge, you may feel some tingling sensations in the glans of the clitoris. This is a very strong and interconnected system that serves the pudendal nerve (more on that later). 

The cervix 

Many of us might be daunted by the cervix and see it as an organ that’s only related to pregnancy — but it holds so much pleasure potential. The cervix is essentially the mouth of the uterus and plays an important role in pleasure. By touching the cervix, we can activate the pelvic nerve, that’s responsible for sensation in the uterus, cervix and mid/upper vagina, and can result in deeper cervical orgasms. 

Perennial sponge 

The perennial sponge, which is in the wall between the vagina and the rectum, plays its part in sensation and arousal. A great way to bring more blood flow and, therefore, arousal into the vagina is to stretch the area back towards the anus, and hold while breathing deeply. When engorged with arousal and massaged, this area can lead to orgasm.

So, how does this all happen? 

This incredible system connects successfully thanks to our nerves, glands and pelvic floor muscles. Here’s how:

The role of our nerves 

The clitoris has the same number of nerves no matter its size (and they can really vary). We all have around 8000 nerve endings, making it a very sensitive pleasure organ. 

The pudendal nerve 

The main nerve that feeds the clitoris is known as the pudendal nerve, this has its own superhighway straight into the sacrum and right up to the brain. The sole function of the clitoris, and the pudendal nerve, is arousal and pleasure. Clitoral orgasms are often referred to as peak orgasms because of the refractory period, this can cause hypersensitivity, numbness or the desire to stop.

The pelvic nerve 

We also have the pelvic nerve, this is located deeply inside, and serves the cervix, the urethral sponge, the vagina, and the uterus. It is the combination of signals from the pelvic nerve and the pudendal nerve that can result in a very sensorial orgasm. It’s worth noting that there is no anatomical part associated with the g-spot, which is more of an area that hardens and feels pleasurable when aroused. It’s important as we explore the urethral sponge to find the areas that feel really good and very sensitive if we want to start experiencing more internal pleasure. 

The role of the glands

The glands are very important for lubrication. Below we’ve listed some of the most important ones: 

Skene’s glands

We have the larger skene’s glands (either side of the urethra) as well as the paraurethral glands. Think of the latter much like the saliva glands in your mouth. There are many of them in the urethral sponge, producing a lot of fluid. However, these glands are very sensitive to your emotional state. 

Bartholin’s glands

Then there are the Bartholin glands, located on either side of the lower part of the labia. These are really important for lubricating the opening of the vagina. It’s an area of the vagina that may be associated with pain because we often don’t take enough time to massage them. These glands create a thicker and more viscous type of lubrication that is essential for penetration. 

The role of the pelvic floor muscles

The pelvic floor muscles are related to the whole function of the vagina. Pushing down or pulling up these muscles moves the pelvic floor, this, in turn, moves the cervix up and down. This allows the urethral sponge to bulge forward and retract with arousal. This type of breathing or movement can really enhance pleasure and the production of female ejaculate. 

Breathing deeply while pushing the pelvic floor muscles down, rather than squeezing up and holding our breath is the main shift towards pleasure. And if we get used to letting go into this sensation, that is when we surrender into the deeper full-body orgasms. 

Using technology to increase pleasure

Just like women’s reproductive health in general, the lack of investment in research around female arousal leads to poor education. Thankfully, technology can help bridge that divide. Kama offers mindful sex practices for all bodies and is a great resource if you’re interested in learning more about female arousal.

Broadening knowledge around female health is key to our mission here at Natural Cycles. Our FDA cleared app can not only help you plan or prevent pregnancy, but also offers a unique learning experience about your body.

Are you ready to learn your unique cycle?

Chloe Macintosh: Kama founder

Written By

Chloe Macintosh

Chloe Macintosh is the founder of Kama, a sexual wellness educational platform for all bodies. She has been researching intimacy and sexuality for the past 10 years, traveling the world to meet experts and practitioners. Following her own personal discoveries of pleasure, she has made it her mission to share with the world the importance of prioritizing sexual pleasure and wellbeing as a driving force in our lives.

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