An Introduction to Sex I: What is “Genitalia?”

Approaching topics of sex are some of the most harrowing conversations for children, and we’re sure they’re equally harrowing for our parents. Not only lacking in our society, sex education and discussions around sex are taboo in themselves. So, how do you address this necessary but challenging topic?

Well, there’s no easy way to say this, but you will need to be as direct as possible.  The embarrassment and the stuttering is worth it, we promise. There have likely been times where your child has approached you with questions on what a word means, or what their friend meant when they said this or what a TV show character meant when they said that. It’s ideal to start with the basics of sexual education: our bodies.

Genitalia refers to our external reproductive organs. In females what is broadly referred to as the vagina, and in males the penis and testicles. By the time you’re having this conversation, it’s possible that your child has seen the clinical diagrams in their science textbooks and is probably no less confused on the topic.

The term vagina specifically refers to the muscular canal-like structure through which the menstrual flow is discharged, though it has come to be known as a representative for the entire female genitalia. From above the vagina, the urethral opening emerges, which facilitates the excretion of urine. And above that, the clitoris — a bud rich in nerve endings, whose only known function is pleasure.

The male genitalia consists of the penis and the testicles. The penis is a long, tube-like structure which has an opening at its head that conducts semen during ejaculation and is a passage for the discharge of urine. The testicles are two hanging, sac-like structures connected to the penis, where semen is produced and stored.  A helpful image here.

In addition, there are people who are intersex, whose genitalia may present as a combination of male and female characteristics. These variations are not out of the ordinary and do not warrant being treated as such. Do emphasise that all our bodies are different, and that there is no standard when it comes to the appearance of the genitalia.

Of course, this is the most basic of information and provides a small but crucial view of what sex involves. Your child will hopefully have some clarity beyond their science textbooks now, and hopefully a higher level of comfort — if not mortification — in discussing such topics with you. Remember to support them through their education of sex, and stay tuned for the upcoming articles around it!

Until next week,

Yuvana from REDefine.

Diagram of female genitalia by Tara Palchaudhuri of REDefine.

Image cited: “Male Reproductive System” by
Phil Schatz. License: CC BY 4.0

Author: The REDefine Campaign

A group of students trying to spread the message and bring out of the shell the taboo topics of Menstrual and Sexual Health. The REDefine Campaign is a campaign devoted to helping the population of India understand the key parts of female's life that is known as puberty. This blog is designed to show our progress, reports as well as learnings and new experiences along our journey. We hope that one day this world that we live in will willingly and openly not only talk, but give advice and spread awareness of the bodily cycle that is puberty. We do hope that you learn something along with us, and please spread the word. For any questions please do not be afraid to comment and/or email us. Come along with us on our journey!

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