The clitoris is one of my favorite things to teach about. My educational background is biomedical sciences and chemistry, so it’s one of my favorite things to research, too. Yes I’m the kind of geek that’s perfectly happy to peruse Google Scholar for as many free text articles as I can.
We all start with the same blueprints, and it’s only the expression of hormones and proteins from our genes that determine the details of how our bodies develop. Long story short, the penis and the clitoris are made out of the same tissue! We often make the mistake of thinking of the vagina as an inside-out penis. The truth is, with an X chromosome and all the proteins and hormones working perfectly, erectile tissue becomes a clitoris. The clitoris as we know it is not a button – it’s an iceberg!
In 2012, artist and activist Sophia Wallace unveiled her “Cliteracy” project in an effort to educate about the clitoris. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that the full structure of the clitoris was studied and described. Even in the early 2000’s, when I was attending college, the clitoris in its full glory was not presented in any anatomy class. It wasn’t until I became a sexuality educator and discovered the true size of the clitoris.
The clitoris has both internal and external structures. On the outside, at the front of the vulva, the clitoral hood protects the skin-covered clitoral glans. If a Y chromosome was present, that would have been foreskin. The glans houses 8,000 nerve endings alone. Internally, the clitoral body, or shaft, continues upwards and then hooks down. The structure splits into two “legs” of nerves, also known as the corpus cavernosum and crus clitoris, and two “bulbs” of erectile tissue, known as the bulbs of vestibule. These bulbs sit on either side of the urethra, where you pee, and the vagina, where babies and your period flow out from. Check it out:
Here’s another look of where it is inside the body, with the uterus and fallopian tubes in blue:
See how it wraps around the vagina and urethra? Some scientists suspect that part of the G-Spot orgasm is stimulation of the clitoris internally, along with the urethral sponge (tissue between the urethra and vagina).
The clitoris has only one function: orgasm. It’s estimated 70-80% of vulva-owners cannot have an orgasm without clitoral stimulation. For far too long we’ve considered the penetration-only orgasm to be “normal” when actually it’s only possible for a small percentage of the population. The fact is, a normal orgasm happens through a nerve signal cascade that originates through erectile tissue. Yes, it’s possible to have an orgasm in other ways, but the clitoris is hands-down the orgasm tissue of the XX body.
The clitoris can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, inside and out. Sometimes the glans is buried deep, and sometimes it hangs outside the body. When arousal occurs, the glans and clitoral body engorge with blood and become erect, just like a penis. Because each clitoris is different, each one will like different types of stimulation. Some prefer vertical strokes. Others prefer circular motions. Still others may like clit spankings. Some like pressure. Others don’t want the glans touched directly at all. Some clits are lefties, while others are righties. Most clits respond well to vibration, especially rumbly vibration, which vibrates the internal structures of the clitoris for more powerful orgasms.
The clitoris is not a self-lubricating organ, so before playing with yours or someone else’s, remember to use a water-based or silicone lube, especially if you’re playing while a tampon or menstrual cup is inserted in the vagina. You should also practice safer sex during partnered play if you’re not fluid-bonded. A dental dam with a drop of lube underneath works great for oral or manual sex.
If you have a clitoris, it’s important to learn what yours likes, so you can communicate that to your partner. Your sweetheart wants to please you, so take responsibility for your pleasure and tell them how!
Sophia Wallis didn’t just create an art project. She started a movement. For more on the awesomeness that is the clitoris, its history, and how you can help educate others, Huffington Post has recently started a campaign educate the general public called #GetCliterate.
I leave you now with renowned sexologist Betty Dodson’s artistic rendition of clitoral anatomy:
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