From a young age, most girls demonstrate a more passive and timid personality than most boys. Girls focus on social activities and rather than physically active play. This gender difference is apparent before puberty. Women need to deal with men who can be ruthlessly aggressive. Women have evolved a survival strategy of being more passive and cooperative. Men tend to disrespect this female amenability, which is considered a weakness in men. To be motivated to care for children, women need certain characteristics. Foremost, they need to be less driven than men are about following their own pursuits. Secondly, they need to enjoy nurturing others.
At puberty a girl’s body starts producing oestrogen and progesterone, which cause physical changes and often have an impact on emotional responses including depression. Oestrogen causes the breasts to grow. In girls the appearance of the breast bud is the first sign of puberty, though the appearance of pubic hair precedes it in about one-third. Growth of pubic hair begins at 12.3 years of age on average. The uterus and vagina develop simultaneously with the breast. The labia and clitoris also enlarge. The vagina, uterus and fallopian tubes also develop. The way fat is stored changes, which makes a woman’s waist, hips and buttocks more curvy.
Female adolescence focuses on reproductive function rather than responsiveness. The age of first menstruation ranges from 9 to 25 years but the median girl starts periods at 13. The early cycles are irregular and do not include ovulation. A period lasts around 5 days each month and involves losing the cell lining of the womb (more like gelatinous clots than liquid blood) that builds up each month in preparation for pregnancy. Regular ovulation does not begin until sixteen to eighteen years of age. After puberty, oestrogen and progesterone control the menstrual cycle including ovulation and periods. A girl’s growth is complete by 15.8 years old.
Most women ovulate anywhere between Day 11 and Day 21 of their cycle, counting from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP). Women use sanitary pads or tampons to absorb the blood. Some women spend days in bed with stomach cramps and have pre-menstrual tension (PMT), which can make them bad-tempered. Other women experience no period pains.
A woman has a life-time supply of eggs within her body from the day she is born. After puberty, a woman ovulates automatically (without conscious awareness). One mature egg is released from an ovary each month. After the egg is released, it moves down into the fallopian tube where it stays for about 24 hours. A woman can conceive (if sperm are present from a recent ejaculation) during that time. If the egg is not fertilized during that time, the egg disintegrates and menstruation (blood flow) begins 2 weeks later. A woman can be impregnated any time she has intercourse. A man only needs to ejaculate into her vagina (or close to it). Sperm can sometimes enter the vagina if a man ejaculates just outside. To know the days when she is fertile, a woman needs to keep a temperature chart. Few women do this and so assume that they may conceive any time after their period ends.
The opening to the vaginal lies between the urethra and the anus. A woman should use soap to wash the pubic hair either side of her labia majora (outer lips or skin folds). As a woman ages, the skin either side of her labia majora becomes wrinkly and slightly baggy, reminiscent of the scrotum (the equivalent male anatomy). There is no need to clean inside the more delicate labia minora (inner lips). A man’s anus is isolated to the rear but a woman’s is close to her vaginal opening. Many women think genitals are dirty. They will not touch their genitals even in the shower. So they never insert a finger into their vagina. There is nothing inherently unclean about the vagina. A man urinates from the end of his penis, which allows him to direct the urine stream away from his body. A woman likes having soft paper even for urinating because when she urinates, her public hair becomes wet.
Female anatomy is more susceptible to infection than the male because of the proximity of the orifices: urethra, vagina and anus. A woman should wash between her buttocks and anus separately by reaching her hand down behind. She can insert a finger into the vagina to check for discharge. Some of these are healthy but others arise from infections such as thrush. These discharges mark underwear, which women can find embarrassing. A woman considers her monthly period to be an unhygienic and distasteful body function that is often associated with unpleasant smells. She hides any view of her menstrual blood flow from others, including her lover, because she considers the whole process to be very unattractive. For this reason, women are appalled by some men’s fascination with women’s underwear.
Male puberty causes men to have a new curiosity in their own genitals and also in any opportunity to observe nudity in others. Female adolescence does not include this sudden and intense increase in responsiveness that boys experience. Women may have a general curiosity about genitals just as children do. Women are not automatically aroused by hormones as men are. Neither are they aroused by observing or thinking about the genitals of a lover. So most women are not remotely curious about masturbation.
… the capacity to reproduce is not synonymous with the capacity to be aroused erotically and to respond to the point of orgasm … (Alfred Kinsey 1953)