Clitoris Anatomy: Everything You Need To Know

The clitoris is a pea-sized sex organ located at the top of the vulva. Its sole purpose is to provide pleasure.

There's a lot to know about the clitoris that they didn't teach us in health class. Many of us don't know exactly where the clitoris is, its function, and how it factors into sexual pleasure and orgasms. For this reason, the media labeled the clitoris as some mystical, elusive body part. This doesn't have to be the case.

To help you become more "cliterate," Health turned to experts to compile 10 facts about this amazing part of our bodies.

Where Is the Clitoris?

The clitoris is located at the top of the vulva. The vulva refers to the outside parts of your genitalia, including the opening to the vagina, clitoris, labia (folds of skin around the vagina), and opening of the urethra (where pee comes out).

What Is the Clitoris?

The clitoris is part of the genitalia of those assigned female at birth, and it plays an important role in orgasm during sex. You may recognize its external part, which can look like a hooded pea-sized nub near the top of the labia. But it has internal components, too.

External Anatomy

On the outside of the clitoris, the clitoral hood is skin that covers and protects the glans. The glans is a small structure that provides input for sexual arousal through the dorsal nerve, which extends inside the body.

Internal Anatomy

The clitoris may be bigger than you think—it measures 9 to 11 centimeters in length and most of it is inside the body. The body, root, crura, and vestibular bulbs are all internal parts of the clitoris.

What Is the Purpose of the Clitoris?

Even though the clitoris is a part of the reproductive system, it doesn't have a reproductive function. The clitoris is the only organ in the body with the sole function of providing pleasure.

When it comes to climaxing, "the clitoris is really, really crucial," Jim Pfaus, Ph.D., professor and sex researcher at Concordia University in Montreal, told Health.

Interesting Facts About the Clitoris

Now you understand the clitoris anatomy and its function. What else is there to know about the clitoris?

You Only See the External Part of the Clitoris

When people talk about the clitoris, they're usually just talking about the glans, which is "the very sensitive outside part," Rebecca Chalker, Ph.D., professor of sexology at Pace University and author of "The Clitoral Truth," told Health. But the bump you can see on the vulva is only the tip of an iceberg.

There is more to the clitoris than the glans; two internal shafts are spongy, long, and extend along the sides of the vagina. These parts are called the shaft and the crura. Like much of the clitoris, these sac-like structures of tissue become engorged with blood when you get aroused.

The Clitoris Has A Lot of Nerve

The clitoris is the most nerve-rich part of the vulva, Debra Herbenick, Ph.D., a sexual health educator from The Kinsey Institute, told Health. The glans contain about 8,000 nerve endings, making the clitoris the powerhouse of pleasure.

Every Clitoris Is Different

Everyone is unique, so why would clitorises be any different? Every person needs a different kind of stimulation to feel satisfied, depending on their unique biology.

"Just because it's sensitive doesn't mean everyone wants it to be stimulated directly," said Herbenick. "Some women prefer touching near the clitoris but not on it."

Pfaus agreed. Some people may be too sensitive for direct clitoris stimulation.

It's the Real G-spot

We've all heard about the infamous G-spot. That's because the G-spot is part of the clitoris. This notorious pleasure zone became sensationalized in the 80s, which, explained Chalker, "created this idea that if you could only access the G-spot inside the vagina, it would promote female orgasm."

According to research, the number of people with vaginas who orgasm during vaginal intercourse is low—only 6% of the participants in one study reached orgasm with only vaginal stimulation. In another study, only 18% of participants could orgasm during vaginal intercourse.

But in regards to the G-spot, the chance of orgasm may be higher if clitoral stimulation is involved. Almost 70% of people with vaginas will orgasm when, during vaginal intercourse, there is also stimulation of the clitoris—this may be done by yourself, by a partner, or with a sex toy.

One way is not better than another way, added Pfaus; it's really about exploring the possibilities to find out what you like best.

It’s Very Similar to the Penis

The clitoris and the penis are somewhat mirror images of each other, just organized differently, explained Chalker: "In fact, up until two weeks of pregnancy, all embryos appear to be female."

The gonads, or sex glands, of a fetus will either become testes or ovaries. "None of these parts disappear; they just get rearranged," said Chalker. "If you consider the clitoris only consisting of the glans, then that's like saying the only part of a penis is the tip."

It Even Gets Erect

When we talk about erection, we can't just talk about the penis, said Pfaus. We have to talk about the clitoris. It might be less noticeable with the clitoris, but it can be observed and felt. This occurs when the vestibular bulbs become engorged with blood during arousal. The blood is then trapped here until released via orgasmic spasms.

Size Doesn't Matter

Just like penises, clits come in all shapes and sizes. And size doesn't matter for either, explained Chalker.

"Think of it this way: since the brain is your main sex organ, the genitals are simply the receptors of pleasure. It has to do with visual, tactile, and oral stimulation rather than the actual size of the clit," said Chalker. "While glans may vary from woman to woman, this shouldn't affect the pleasure potential."

It Can Grow With Age

Although the size of your clitoris doesn't impact your sex life, don't be surprised if it changes dimensions over your lifetime. According to Chalker, due to a change in hormone levels after menopause, the clit may enlarge for many people. If you notice some differences in the size of your clitoris over time, don't be alarmed.

A Quick Review

The clitoris is a reproductive organ that can vary in size and shape and is different for each person. It is the only organ created just for pleasure, with no other function. If you have a clitoris and are curious about it, you can explore it by yourself or with a partner. If a partner is involved, it's important to communicate what is working for you and what isn't.

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