Friday, October 4, 2013

Below the Equator...


I brushed the dark earth aside and the first glimpse of a skull appeared. Slowly, a delicate profile emerged from the grave. I lay beside her – my arm extended, brush in hand, as I worked to expose her torso. She had been buried over thirteen hundred years ago, in a cemetery tucked among the dunes along the North Sea, in the shadow of the medieval castle, Bamburgh. I was midway through my PhD and had travelled to northern England to hone my skills as an archaeologist. Her cemetery was my classroom.

The shape of her bones indicated she was female: the high arch of her forehead, the slender angle of her jaw, and especially her pelvis, which exhibited the telltale architecture of a body designed for childbearing. In bioarchaeology, where we read the past through the skeletons left behind, the pelvis is one of the most effective means of assessing the sex of an individual. But it’s the fleshed pelvis that really marks the difference between males and females. Let’s explore…

We’ve already covered the male anatomy (see A Natural History of the Penis), so today we’re zoning in on the female form. The subject is long overdue, for the female anatomy, though frequently splashed across screen and page, is the more mysterious of the sexes. Perhaps this will clarify things.
Although men and women look very different, they actually possess some of the same private parts. In fact, during certain stages of development, our genitalia are indistinguishable. Like men, women have a pair of gonads (ours are called “ovaries”), although unlike men, ours don’t swing between our legs. The ovaries are tucked in the abdomen and connect to the uterus via the fallopian tubes.

The uterus is a flexible, muscular pouch that can expand to accommodate a growing fetus. It’s also the source of those miserable cramps women suffer each month, as it sheds its inner lining (a.k.a., menstruation). The uterus tapers downward into the cervix, which is connected to the outer world via that magical passageway, the vagina.
During the reproductive years, an egg is released each month by one of the ovaries. The egg enters the fallopian tube, makes its way toward the uterus and the countdown begins. The egg has a seventy-two-hour window during which it can be fertilized. Sperm can survive for several days once they’ve been deposited – something to keep in mind for all you daredevils practicing the “rhythm” method of birth control.

Side joke: What do they call people who practice the rhythm method? Parents!!

But back to the female anatomy…
Since most women understand the fundamentals of their inner anatomy and most men couldn't care less, let’s concentrate on the outer parts, for this is where men can lose their way. So consider this as not just an anatomy lesson, but a means of improving your (and especially her) sex life.

It may come as a shock to you boys, but women actually have three holes down yonder and it behooves you to know the order in which they reside. The urethra sits just in front of the vagina, which in turn is positioned in front of the anus (another orifice you guys seem obsessed with). But most important for sexual arousal is the female version of the penis – the clitoris.
Pay attention!

The clitoris stands at the front of the line, just before the urethra (memorize the acronym CUVA: clitoris, urethra, vagina, anus). Like the penis, the clitoris contains erectile tissue and, like the penis, it becomes stimulated when stroked. Arousal of the clitoris is fundamental to a woman's achieving orgasm, so instead of being mesmerized by the boobies (although they require attention, too) or making a beeline for the vagina, you boys should be homing in on the “joy button.” Take your time, do it right and I guarantee you’ll receive your just rewards.
As a cultural side note, you’ll be amused to discover that for thousands of years, the vagina has evoked fear and intimidation, resulting in outlandish legends concerning its dangers. The myth of the vagina dentata – literally a “vagina with teeth” – dates back to the Greeks and is rooted in the belief that the female sex contains hidden perils. Succumb to our charms and risk castration – or worse! Obviously the stuff of fiction, but it pays to be careful.

I hope this little lesson has clarified that murky zone of the female genitalia. Yes, it can be tricky, but a little knowledge goes a long way. So I wish you a safe and fruitful journey, and should you have the opportunity to exercise your newfound knowledge, be meticulous and be sure to glove up!

PREVIEW: Since we now have a thorough understanding of both sexes, next we'll explore the bizarre and twisted world of necrophilia... If you're not familiar with the term, you will be next week! See you then and don't forget to share.