Labium (genitalia)

Labium (plural labia) is a Latin-derived term meaning "Lip". Labium and its derivatives (including labial, labrum) are used to describe any lip-like structure, but in the English language, labium often specifically refers to parts of the vulva.

Anatomy and medical

The labia majora are lip-like structures comprised mostly of skin and adipose tissue, which extend on either side of the vulva, and after puberty are naturally covered with pubic hair. When standing or with the legs together, they usually entirely or partially cover the other parts of the vulva.

The labia minora (obsolete: nymphae) are two soft folds of skin between the labia majora and to either side of the opening of the vagina. The clitoris is anterior to the vulva where the labia minora meet superiorly. The visible tip of the clitoris, the clitoral glans, is entirely or partially covered by a "hood" of tissue (the clitoral hood).

The coloration, size and general appearance of the labia can vary extensively from woman to woman. In some women the labia minora are almost non-existent, and in others they can be fleshy and protuberant. Usually, but not always, they are symmetrical. Some differences are purely personal, while others may be genetically linked; a striking example of the latter is the elongated labia minora of the Khoisan peoples, whose "khoikhoi aprons" can hang down up to four inches past their labia majora when they are standing.

During sexual arousal, the labia become engorged with blood, typically swelling slightly and darkening or reddening in color.

Labiaplasty is a controversial plastic surgery procedure that involves the creation or reshaping of the labia.

Social and cultural considerations

In most Western cultures, as the most visible portion of the female genitals, the labia are often considered private or intimate parts, whose exposure is governed by fairly strict socio-cultural mores. It is argued that this contributes to the confusion by men and women about normal female genitalia.

Some women, particularly those involved in pornography or exotic dancing, seek labiaplasty to alter the appearance of their labia. This procedure is in most cases unnecessary and can result in reduced sexual pleasure for both the woman and her partners.

See also

External links

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