“Rub it vigorously with a penis, or even touch it with the little finger, the seed springs much faster than air, and that is because of the pleasure (…) If you touch it, you will see it become a little harder and oblong to the point that one would call it a kind of virile part” – Realdi Columbi Cremonensis, 1559 AD
Could you tell that quote was written by a man? The clitoris has been recognised as a part of sexual functioning and pleasure since the 16th century, but stigma and demonisation of “female” pleasure kept it from being properly studied or analysed until at least the early 20th century. In fact, it wasn’t until 2005 that MRI techniques were used to see inside the body, and gave us our first look at the clitoris in all it’s glory.
Isn’t it beautiful? Or… kinda strange if this is your first time seeing one.
So let’s dive in and explore what this wonderful part of our bodies is, and why it matters.
What (and where) is the clitoris?
The clitoris, as most people would know it, is a bulb of sensitive nerve tissue that sits above the entrance to the vagina in people with female anatomy (intersex people notwithstanding). Often it rests just above the labia (vaginal lips), and is covered by a “hood” of skin to protect it.
“The clit”, “The love button”, “Satan’s doorbell”, the clitoris has gone by many names but it holds the unique title of being the only organ in the body, both male and female, whole sole functions appears to be sexual pleasure. It just chills there, minding its own business, until someone or something decides to stimulate it and the floodgates of pleasure are opened.
What an altruistic little bean it is.
At an anatomical level, is a homologous organ to the penis, which means that the clitoris is made of the same basic tissue as the penis but during development inside the womb the two organs branch off into either the male or female organ (of note, this is where certain kinds of intersex variations develop as well). So for any people with penises reading this, just imagine every sensitive nerve in your penis condensed into an area the size of anywhere between a pea and a lima bean.
Yeah. Touching the clitoris can mean a lot of intense pleasure all at once. Which is why the clitoral hood exists – to dull the sensations on the clitoris so it doesn’t overwhelm its owner. Again, what a thoughtful design.
To find the clitoris is just a matter of exploration. Many people who have clitoris’ will already be familiar with where it is located, but may not know exactly what it is. Often it can be stimulated by accidentally, such as riding a bike, or by vibrations caused by a car or bus engine while you’re seated. If you have ever found yourself grinding your hips on something and enjoying the sensation, congratulations! That’s thanks to the clitoris.
That being said, the clitoris varies in size and location depending on the person, and its location is not obvious for everyone. I know many women who, until they spent some time exploring themselves either during masturbation or with a partner, did not think they had a clitoris. Rest assured, they did, but it can just be shy for some people and well-covered by the clitoral hood.
It goes without saying however, that stimulating the clitoris can be a very pleasurable experience. For many people, it is their preferred form of masturbation. Stimulating the clitoris during sex, whether its yourself or your partner, can heighten to sexual experience for you both. According to some studies, 82% of women (because this study focused exclusively on heterosexual women) require some form of clitoral stimulation to orgasm. Whether that is because of biology, or because heterosexual men are notoriously bad in the bedroom, is up for debate. But it is still a testament to the role the clitoris plays in pleasure and arousal. Men and people who like sex with a vulva, if you’re not taking the time to play with the clit, up your game.
Let’s go deeper…
For most people, this is where their knowledge of the clitoris ends. It is a sensitive bundle of nerves, and when you touch it it creates sexual pleasure. Simple enough, right?
There is so much more to it than that.
Remember how I said that the clitoris is similar to a penis? Well, just like a penis, it can become erect when aroused. In essence this means its not all in your head, the hornier you are, the more sensitive you are. This diagram below demonstrates what happens to a clitoris between arousal and resting excellently.
As a side note, did you know that the vagina itself gets longer and larger when you’re horny? Cool huh.
As you become more aroused, the clitoral hood retreats and exposes more of the clitoris. The clitoris itself fills with blood and enlarges, exposing more nerve endings and opening the doors to even more pleasure. It is kinda like a positive feedback loop – the hornier you are, the more pleasure your clit feels, making you hornier, making more pleasure…
This is also why the clitoris can grow and extend significantly for people taking supplemental testosterone, such as testosterone. Because they’re the same biological structure. testosterone causes the clitoris to begin to transform into a pseudo-penis-like structure!
It’s just biology people.
So right now you may be wondering – what’s that tail thing? The long purple thing. The hell is that?
Well dear readers, that is what those researchers discovered in 2005. That is the internal clitoris.
See, it turns out that the clitoris we see on the outside is much like the tip of the iceberg. Majestic in its own right, but only a small fraction of the whole structure hidden beneath the surface. A majority of the clitoris is actually inside the body.
Now, there are a lot of words on there, but basically the clitoris consists of three parts;
- The Glans, which is the bit on the outside that we have been talking about so far.
- The Legs, which consist of the corpus cavernosum and crus of the clitoris
- and The Bulbs, which are large areas of erectile tissue
So, if so much of the clitoris is inside the body, what does it do?
Well, research is still developing, but here is what we understand so far.
The “legs” fill with blood and extend when aroused, which exposes more nerve endings and (like the glans) leads to more pleasure. These legs cary in size and length for everyone, and not a whole bunch of research has been done into their exact function, but one fun theory that has started circulating is that for some people the legs of the clitoris are long enough to actually extend around the vagina and press up against the anus – leading to anal stimulation being more pleasurable. Interesting right?
The bulbs of the vestibules also fill with blood when aroused and expand. This causes them to place pressure on both the crus of the clitoris, causing pleasure, and on the vaginal opening and vulva. Notice your pussy gets puffy when you’re horny? That’s thanks to the bulbs.
Why this is all so cool
Basically, the clitoris is involved in much more of your arousal response than you may have thought. In fact, its responsible for most of it! And since we’ve found out more about it, the clitoris has become a symbol of modern female sexuality and feminist empowerment. Our understanding of the clitoris reflects how women are learning more about their bodies, their rights, and their pleasure. So next time you’re masturbating, having sex, or even just going about your day to day business – remember to thank your clitoris. It does a lot for you that you probably didn’t even know about.