The older I get, the more shocked I become that the clitoris wasn’t a more central topic in any sex ed class I ever took from elementary school to high school. Weirdly enough, the clitoris is sort of like this secret that anyone born with one sort of discovers on their own without even knowing what the hell it is. Nobody bothers to really go into detail about any part of the female reproductive anatomy clusterf**k down there beyond vaginas, menstruation, and pregnancy. But what about pleasure? You literally learn about boners and that’s it. Meanwhile, the clitoris is basically the pleasure powerhouse for female bodied people, and loads barely even know what the hell it is.
You might be one of those people, and that’s okay! School has failed you, bodies are weird, sex and masturbation are confusing, and did I mention that bodies are weird? Okay, great. So let’s get the quick and dirty out of the way. Here’s everything you need to know about the clitoris!
First of all, what is the clitoris, exactly?
The clitoris is a female sex organ. Though you might not go into detail about it when you learn about anatomy in school, it is part of the female reproductive system squad.
This is kind of embarrassing but, uh, where is it?
First of all, please, don’t feel embarrassed about this question! Things get sort of confusing down there. The clitoris is a little pearl or button-like membrane that lies above the urethra (the place you pee out of) and nestled at the upper junction of the labia minora (AKA the inner lips…more on that here). It’s protected by a flap of skin usually referred to as the clitoral hood.
It looks small on the outside, but the internal parts of clitoris is actually pretty damn big. Doesn’t this look like a cool alien flower type thing?
What does the clitoris do? Like, what is its purpose, if any?
There’s a lot of debate about this. First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way: Although the clitoris is part of the whole female reproductive system squad like I mentioned earlier, it might not even have a single reproductive purpose. In fact, it’s the only organ in the human body meant for sexual pleasure and nothing more.
You might be thinking, “Uh, the penis, duh!” But the penis does more than just provide pleasure. It’s essential for urinating, releasing sperm, and providing the world with its imprint in gray sweatpants. The clitoris? It’s just chillin’ there, waiting to be stimulated and produce an orgasm.
So, when you’re trying to achieve an orgasm…
Yep, clitoral stimulation is basically like a cheat code. No matter what does the stimulating–fingers, sex toy, penis, your cell phone on vibrate (please don’t use that)–the clitoris is super sensitive to touch, and enough of it can easily produce an orgasm.
You mean you can’t have an orgasm without clitoral stimulation?
No, you can have an orgasm without clitoral stimulation. But honestly, it’s really effing hard. Seriously, 75 percent of women cannot have an orgasm without clitoral stimulation. And not knowing that the clit plays such a huge role in pleasure is a big part in why there can be so much sexual dysfunction in sexual relationships between folks with penises and folks with vaginas. Whether it’s sex ed or bad porn, it’s easy to grow up with the perception that p-in-v sex is just endless thrusting that ends with a woman in the throes of passion.
It’s usually clitoral stimulation that does the trick, whether in concert with penetration or during oral sex or masturbation.
At the end of the day, there seems to be a lot of similarities between the clitoris and the penis though, right?
Yep, which is funny considering the fact that the clitoris is actually, more or less, the “female equivalent” to the penis. Like the penis, the appearance of the clit changes when it is stimulated. It hardens, enlarges, and becomes more flushed due to increased blood flow, just like a penis does. But don’t get it twisted: The clit has over 8,000 sensory nerve fibers, the penis has about half of that. So the clit is like, super penis. Or maybe the penis is just a mediocre clit. Either way, the clit reigns supreme and is the most sensitive part of the body by a long shot.
Why is there so much taboo surrounding the clitoris? It’s…harmless.
That’s where you’re wrong: Societies have had a grand ol’ time characterizing female sexual pleasure as–at best–less important than male pleasure and–at worst–a negative trait that isn’t very becoming of womankind. I wish I was exaggerating, but given the fact that women have had to find ways of experiencing clitoral stimulation in secret, and the fact that there are cultures out there who literally remove the clit so that women and girls can’t experience sexual pleasure…
In fact, the taboo surrounding the clit is why there’s such a lack of research into it until more recently. Like, honestly, it wasn’t until the ’90s that scientists decided to examine it internally, and nobody even did a sonogram to see how it actually responded during sex until 2009. Yes, 2009. Finally, the clit is having its moment, but all the newfound clit information needs to be incorporated into sex ed so that people actually know what the hell it is and why it’s so important, especially for people who have them who are just starting to explore sexual pleasure.
Uh, how do I know if my clitoris looks weird or not.
Everyone’s clitoris is going to look a little different; some are way bigger than others. Don’t worry about it unless you’re actually experiencing irritation.
Is it normal for the clitoris to hurt sometimes?
Consider when you’re feeling pain down there. Is it during or after you or a partner is attempting to stimulate it? Honestly, the clit is super sensitive so you might just be going at it a little too roughly. Or, you could be trying to stimulate it too soon after an orgasm. Be gentle, and please, don’t hesitate to tell a partner to be gentle down there too! That can make or break a hookup session!
Do you think that the clitoris is taught thoroughly enough in sex-ed? Have you come across any clit myths that need to be busted? Tell us in the comments!