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The clitoris is a small but powerful body part within the vulva and is a crucial part of sexual arousal and the female orgasm. Learn about the importance of the clitoris and tips for pleasurable stimulation.



Emily Morse Teaches Sex and CommunicationEmily Morse Teaches Sex and Communication

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What Is a Clitoris?

The clitoral glans, commonly known as the clitoris, is a small sexual organ at the top of the vulva that contains thousands of nerve endings. In general, the clitoris is homologous (or similar in structure and evolution) to the penis. Both organs develop in embryos from the same outgrowth, called the genital tubercle—eventually developing into a clitoris or penis, depending on androgen exposure. This innervation makes it the most powerful erogenous zone of female genitalia. Clitoral stimulation is one of the most common and reliable ways for vulva owners to achieve orgasm. You can stimulate the clitoris with a vibrator or use your hand to rub, stroke, or apply heavy pressure for significant sexual response and powerful orgasms.

Where Is the Clitoris Located?

The clitoris is a complex structure within the female genitalia, with both internal and external parts. In general, the visible external portion is a small, pea-sized protuberance located at the top of the vulva, above the urethra, and between the vagina’s inner lips. The skin from the labia minora creates a hood that covers the clitoral glans, or clitoris.

In addition to the clitoral glans, the clitoris organ also branches down into two internal legs of erectile tissue (known as crus or corpora cavernosa), which run along either side of the pubic mound beneath the labia majora (near the pelvic floor and suspensory ligament). Two vestibular bulbs rest on either side of the vulval vestibule.

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Why Is Understanding the Clitoris Important?

For a majority of vulva-owners, the clitoris is the key to female sexual pleasure and sexual health. Between seventy and 80 percent of vulva owners can only achieve orgasm through direct clitoral stimulation (called a clitoral orgasm) rather than through stimulation of the vaginal canal or anterior G-spot (called a vaginal orgasm). Thus, most vulva owners require stimulation to the clitoris to achieve an orgasm, whether during masturbation or sexual intercourse. Some vulva owners also report clitoral stimulation as a way to achieve female ejaculation.

How to Stimulate the Clitoris

Here are some best practices for clitoral stimulation:

  1. Determine your preferred motion. Different people respond to different types of sexual stimulation. When you’re first starting, try a variety of movements to see what feels best. Use your fingers to rub the clitoris in small concentric circles; tap your fingers along the clitoral hood; softly pinch the clitoris and tug it in up and down motions; grind the clitoris against a pillow or other soft object.
  2. Experiment with different sensations. Your fingers are a great way to stimulate the clitoris, but many other tools can also be pleasurable. Vibrators offer internal and external stimulation—the two main vibration types are rumbly (low, deep vibrations for slow and steady stimulation) or buzzy (higher, more active vibrations for more intense stimulation). There are also toys with air technology or sucking sensations to mirror the pleasure of oral sex. You can also experiment with different temperatures—warming jellies or ice cubes can increase blood flow and offer new sensations. When shopping for toys and props, purchase ones made of body-safe materials that are non-toxic and non-porous; health-care professionals caution against toys made of jelly rubber or PVC, which can cultivate bacteria or leach chemicals.
  3. Take advantage of the clitoral complex. While the pea-sized clitoral glans is the most prominent part of the clitoris structure, it’s not the only part—the anatomy of the clitoris extends down around the vaginal canal. Stimulating these extensions—both the crura and the bulbs of the clitoris—can bring even more pleasure. Massaging the labia minora or penetrating the vaginal canal (with the proper lubrication) are both ways to stimulate the entire clitoral anatomy further.


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