Knowing how bodies work is important. It can help us understand:
- how we can take better care of our bodies
- more about other people’s bodies
- how birth control and safer sex works
- and that our bodies are pretty amazing!
You can watch this video (it’s just over 11 minutes long) to learn a whole bunch about how our genitals work. You can also read more info below!
The pictures below are drawings and not pictures of real bodies. We all look different, including our genitals. From skin colour, to pubic hair, to body parts, size and shape and everyone’s genitals are unique.
- For all types of bodies the anus is basically the end of the digestive system. It’s where gas and feces (otherwise known as farts and poop) come out. A finger, a penis, a sex toy, or nothing could go in the anus. The most important thing is that it’s always up to the owner of the anus to decide what, if anything, goes in. The anus is connected to the large intestine (see the Bodies with Vaginas Internal diagram below for more details), so if something goes into the anus it needs to have a large base or be attached to something so it can easily come out. The anus doesn’t make a lot of its own lube, so often a water-based lube is used if something goes in.
- The vagina is made of muscle and connects the external genitals (vulva and labia) to the cervix. Vaginal fluid and period blood come out of the vagina. If someone chose to carry a pregnancy to term, a baby could come out of there. A tampon, a finger, a sex toy, a penis, certain types of birth control, or nothing could go into the vagina. As always, it’s up to the owner to decide what, if anything, goes into their body.
- The urethra (or “pee hole”) is where pee comes from. Some people with this body ejaculate sex fluid when they orgasm and the fluid comes from near the urethral opening. Usually not much goes into the urethral opening because it’s really small.
- The clitoris is a nub of flesh that is sensitive and can be a source of sexual pleasure and orgasm. Everyone’s body is different and we all like to be touched in different ways or not at all. Exploring your own body can be a fun and safe activity that can help people figure out what they like and don’t like.
- Labia and Vulva
- The vulva is the external part of the genitals, it’s the part you see from the outside and covers the labia. Labia (minora and majora) are the inner skin folds that cover the clitoris, urethra and vagina. Our genitals are supposed to be unique and different and the labia minora especially come in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, pornography has created an unrealistic standard: small, perfectly symmetrical labia. Body parts look different from person to person, so everyone’s labia will be a different size, colour and shape.
- Sexual Arousal
- When people get sexually aroused more blood flows to the genitals. This extra blood flow enlarges the vulva, labia and clitoris and helps the body produce more sex fluids. Some people might notice their genitals get darker when they are sexually aroused. When someone is really aroused it’s called orgasm, cumming or ejaculation.
- The vagina is made muscle and connects the external genitals to the cervix. When someone puts something inside, like a tampon, for example, the walls of the vagina hold it in place. As you can see from the picture, you can’t lose anything in the vagina because it’s stopped at the end by the cervix (see below).
- The cervix is at the end of the vagina and is made of cartilage, it kind of feels like the tip of your nose. It has a really small opening that semen and menstrual blood can pass through (unless someone is giving birth, in which case the cervix opens so that the baby can come out). Because the opening in the cervix is usually so small, it’s not possible to lose a tampon, condom or sex toy in the body. The cervix prevents things like that going into the uterus.
- The ovaries are two little sacs that contain the eggs that are there from birth. Ovulation, when an egg is released, starts during puberty as part of someone’s menstrual cycle. Most people ovulate once during a cycle, but some people might ovulate more than once.
- Fallopian Tubes
- The tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus are called fallopian tubes. When an egg is released from one of the ovaries, it moves into that fallopian tube and for about 24 hours. If there is unprotected penis-vagina sex, or if a condom breaks, the sperm can find their way up to the fallopian tubes and fertilize the egg. If an egg is fertilized it will travel to the uterus. Even though the egg only lasts for about a day, sperm can live inside the body for as long as five days. This means that if ovulation happened after the unprotected penis-vagina sex a pregnancy could still happen. If there is no sperm to hook up with the egg, the egg just disintegrates and the menstrual cycle starts over.
- If someone chooses to carry a pregnancy to term the place where the fetus grows is called the uterus. The lining of the uterus changes throughout the menstrual cycle; each cycle the uterus is basically preparing itself (by building up the lining) just in case there’s a fertilized egg. Pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. If there’s no fertilized egg or the egg doesn’t attach, the lining of the uterus is shed which is the bleeding that happens during someone’s period.
- The bladder in all types of bodies holds the urine (or pee). The urine comes out of the bladder into the urethra and leaves the body through the urethral opening.
- For all types of bodies the anus is basically the end of the digestive system. It’s where gas and feces (otherwise known as farts and poop) come out. A finger, a penis, a sex toy, or nothing could go in the anus. It’s always up to the owner of the anus to decide what, if anything, goes in.
The anus is connected to the large intestine, so if something goes into the anus it should have a large base or be attached to something so it can easily come out. The anus doesn’t make a lot of its own lube, so often a water-based lube is used if something goes in.
- The urethra is the opening at the tip of the penis. It’s where pee, ejaculate (cum) and pre-cum come out. Pre-cum and ejaculate contain sperm and can carry any STI/HIV a person may have. This is why Teen Talk always talks about using a condom on a penis before it goes near anyone’s mouth, anus, or vagina. Even though there’s just one opening at the tip of the penis, it’s not possible to pee and ejaculate at the same time. This is because the bladder closes off when the penis is hard (erect). If someone has to pee while their penis is hard, they might have to wait to soften up a bit first.
- Penis’s come in all sizes, some are circumcised (meaning the foreskin has been cut) some are not. A penis can be either soft (which is most of the time) or hard (when someone has an erection). An erection is when blood rushes to the penis which makes the penis harder. Erections happen for different reasons, sexy thoughts, no reason at all, because it’s the first thing in the morning, or because someone is going through puberty. During puberty erections and ejaculations may be happening more often.
- The testicles are held in the scrotum. During puberty, the testicles begin to produce sperm and keep producing sperm for the rest of someone’s life.
- The scrotum is a sac of skin that holds the testicles.
- Vas Deferens
- When someone gets an erection (gets hard), the sperm in the testicles move up a tube called the vas deferens.
- Prostate Gland and Seminal Vesicles
- After travelling into the vas deferens, the sperm combines with fluids from the prostate and seminal glands. The fluids give the sperm the nutrients they need for when they leave the body and help to make the semen (the creamy fluid with tons of sperm in it) stick together.
- Sexual Arousal
- When people get sexually aroused more blood flows to the genitals. This extra blood flow enlarges the penis and helps the body produce more sex fluids. Some people might notice their genitals get darker when they are sexually aroused. When a penis gets hard the body makes a small amount of fluid called pre-cum or pre-ejaculate that shows up at the tip of the penis (or just inside). Pre-cum contains sperm and can carry any STI/HIV a person may have. This is why Teen Talk always talks about using a condom on a penis before it goes near anyone’s mouth, anus, or vagina. Usually, at peak arousal, the semen will come out of the penis. This is called orgasm, cumming or ejaculation.
Questions about Bodies
- My genitals are itchy. What should I do?
- It depends on how itchy they are. It’s normal for all body parts to get itchy sometimes, especially if they get sweaty or irritated. If your genitals are very itchy all day, you should probably go to a doctor or teen clinic to get checked out. Extreme itching is usually uncomfortable and a doctor should be able to help you out. If you are having sex and you notice genital itching, or any changes in your genitals such as bumps/sores, or a change in the colour or smell of your discharge, it could be a sign of an STI. All teen clinics offer free STI testing that is quick and easy and confidential.
How do you know if something’s up with your genitals? Take a good look and see. Might as well get comfortable with all your body parts so you know exactly what’s normal for you. Check yourself out regularly because knowing what you usually look like will make it easier to know if anything changes.
- What does it mean for someone to have “blue balls”? How do you get rid of them?
- “Blue balls” refers to discomfort some people might feel in their testicles (balls) if they get turned on and don’t have an orgasm (cum). Not everyone gets this feeling and fortunately, testicles don’t actually turn blue. If someone feels uncomfortable from blue balls it won’t last long. Some people say the “cure” for blue balls is masturbating and ejaculating. This can be done in the privacy of a bedroom or bathroom. Remember, nagging someone to have sex because you have blue balls is not ok and a form of sexual coercion. A person can take care of their blue balls themselves.
- Is it ok to have pubic hair?
- Totally. Pubic hair starts growing on and around the genitals during puberty. It can be straight or curly, everyone has a different amount of pubic hair, and it can be the same or a different colour than the hair on your head. Unrealistic “ideals” in pornography can make it seem like removing pubic hair is necessary, but what you do with your pubes is a personal choice. Some people choose to trim or shave their pubes and others choose to leave it. There is no hygienic advantage to removing pubic hair, but shaving or waxing can make the area irritated and itchy temporarily when the hair is growing back. Whatever you decide is totally up to you.
If you do choose to shave use your own razor to avoid Hepatitis C which is spread through blood (if you and someone else use the same razor and accidentally get a small cut Hep C can be transmitted).
- What are breasts supposed to look like?
- Just like every person has a unique looking face, so do all our body parts, including breasts. Breast tissue develops during puberty. Breasts in the media (video movies, tv, pornography) often look more or less the same (usually big and round and the same on both sides). In real life, breasts come in all different shapes and sizes. Breasts can be big, small, saggy, perky, floppy, bouncy, flat, or any other shape and like the rest of the body, breasts change over time. Everyone’s nipples look different too! Also just like most of us have one foot that’s a little bit bigger than the other, it’s common for one breast to be smaller / bigger than the other, usually it’s hardly noticeable by the end of puberty. Breasts (and nipples) are sensitive to touch and can be especially tender when breasts are growing when someone is close to their period, or if they are pregnant. If you are worried about your breasts you can always ask questions at a teen clinic.
- What is the average penis size?
- Penis size depends on many things like whether someone has gone through puberty, the level of sexual arousal, time of day, and room temperature. The average adult erect penis is between 4-6 inches in length. Some people spend a lot of time wondering if their bodies are normal, or if their penis is “big enough”. We get a lot of messages from the media about how body parts are “supposed” to look, and a lot of those messages say that all guys are supposed to have a huge penis. A lot of the pressures around penis size are tied to a myth that the bigger the penis, the better at sex someone might be. The size of someone’s penis has nothing to do with their ability when it comes to sex.
Good sex happens through good communication with partners. What feels good for one person, may not feel good for another person. It’s sort of like how we all have toppings we love to put on pizza, and we all have ones we don’t like. Some folks don’t like pizza at all, and that’s cool too. It’s the same when it comes to sex. Asking partners what they like and do not like and sharing what we like and do not like before, during and after sex can make for the best hookups. Communication sets up a situation where both people are more likely to experience pleasure, which is what sex is about. It’s also a part of ongoing consent!
In real life, just like everyone has a unique face, every penis will be a bit different. Some people have foreskin at the tip of their penis (uncircumcised), others do not (circumcised). Penises can be different widths, lengths, curves and they can be smooth or a bit bumpy. If someone notices a change like lumps, irritation, or a rash on their genitals, and they are sexually active, it could be a sign of an STI. If you are worried about your body or think you have an STI you can get checked at a teen clinic.
- Should it hurt when you use tampons?
- If the tampon is the right size and there is no infection or STI in the vagina, using a tampon shouldn’t hurt. The instructions in the tampon package are usually pretty clear, but if it’s your first time using one it can take a little practice getting it into a comfortable position. Being relaxed also helps since the vagina is a tunnel of muscle that can tighten up if someone is tense. Some tampons are bigger than others and you might have to try a few sizes to find one that works for you. Don’t worry about a tampon going “too far up”. It can’t happen, because the cervix at the top of the vagina stops anything big from going past the vagina. (see the Bodies with Vaginas Internal diagram)
If using a tampon does hurt it could mean that there is an infection, or if you are sexually active, an STI. You can ask any questions you have or get an STI test at any teen clinic.
If tampons don’t work for you there are also pads or menstrual cups (like the Diva cup for example). Everyone has their own personal preference.
- What is a hymen?
- The hymen is a thin membrane of skin around the opening of the vagina. The function of the hymen isn’t really known, but most bodies with ovaries are born with one. How much of the vagina it covers or how thick it is will be different for everyone. Some hymens cover most of this opening, and some don’t cover very much at all. Some people are born without a hymen and, in very rare instances, some people’s hymen can cover the entire vaginal opening. This can be an issue of it blocks period blood or makes it so that they can’t insert anything into their vagina (assuming they want to of course). A health care provider can do a simple procedure if there is some issue with the hymen.
For some, the first time they have sex the hymen may stretch or be torn a little which may cause bleeding (usually a small amount). For others the hymen may not tear so there will be no bleeding. Hymens may also stretch or tear from masturbation, or other activities like playing sports, riding a bike or using tampons.
- What is “cum”? How much cum should there be during ejaculation?
- “Cum” can mean the sex fluid that comes out of a penis or vagina when someone is sexually aroused (horny). “Cum” can also mean when someone has an orgasm (sometimes also called “cumming”). Cum the sex fluid is usually white or clear and/or creamy. For bodies with penises, cum is also called ejaculate or semen. For bodies with vaginas, cum is also called vaginal fluid. STI and HIV are spread through sex fluids from all types of bodies. You can get
The amount of cum (ejaculate) can vary a lot, usually, it’s between 1-15 ml (a teaspoon is 5ml). It depends on the person and how long it has been since the last ejaculation. Someone might notice there is more ejaculate at some times and less at other times. If the person has an STI or HIV, it’s in their sex fluids and can be spread through sex without a condom. Even small amounts of ejaculate, pre-ejaculate (or pre-cum), and vaginal fluid can spread STI/HIV. Pre-ejaculate and ejaculate also contain sperm that can make someone pregnant if they are having unprotected penis-vagina sex. You can get free condoms, STI/HIV testing, and pregnancy testing at any teen clinic or community health centre.
To learn more about how the different kinds of bodies work, check out the anatomy section.
- Is it possible to masturbate too much?
- Masturbation is when someone touches their genitals in a way that feels good. It can be a healthy part of someone’s sexuality, and there is no risk of pregnancy or STI. Some people might masturbate a lot, others might choose not to masturbate at all. If you find that masturbating is affecting other areas in your life – you are missing too much class for example because you’re spending a lot of time in the bathroom or if it starts to hurt, then it is a good idea to take a break.
- Is it possible for the vagina to make a noise?
- Sure, it’s totally normal for all kinds of sounds to come from our bodies, even from the vagina. Sometimes if something goes into the vagina (penis, finger, sex toy, tampon) air can also get pushed in. When the air comes out, it might make a sound (sometimes called a ‘queef’). Some people might notice it happening when they remove a tampon or with certain sex positions, but it isn’t anything to be worried about.