The vulva (from Latin, vulva, plural vulvae or vulvas) refers to the external genital organs of the female.
The vulva has many major and minor anatomical structures, including the labia majora, mons pubis, labia minora, clitoris, bulb of the vestibule, vestibule of the vagina, greater and lesser vestibular glands, and vaginal orifice. Its development occurs during several phases, chiefly the fetal and pubertal periods. As the outer portal of the human matrix or womb, it protects its opening by a "double door": the labia majora (large lips) and the labia minora (small lips), as well as a vulval vestibule. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, sustaining healthy microbial flora that flow from the inside out; the vulva needs only simple washing to assure good vulvovaginal health, without recourse to any internal cleansing (douching).
The vulva has a sexual function; these external organs are richly innervated and provide pleasure when properly stimulated. Since the origin of human society, in various branches of art the vulva has been depicted as the organ that has the power both "to give life" (i.e., often associated with the womb in pre-historic periods and antiquity, decreasingly so as science has progressed), and to give sexual pleasure to humankind.
abridged version derived from: http://www.wikipedia.org