Home Sexual Pleasure The Clitoris – It’s So Much More Than You Think!

The Clitoris – It’s So Much More Than You Think!

The clitoris

Throughout history, the clitoris has been shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. Various institutions doubted its existence, and condemned the pleasure this vital organ can bring.

While this long-misunderstood organ may come in countless shapes, sizes, and colors, it’s almost always true that the clitoris is the center of sexual pleasure for women. Author Emily Nagoski calls it “the Grand Central Station of Pleasure” in her book Come As You Are. Despite the recent attention however, many women still lack a basic knowledge about the anatomy of the clitoris – and the countless ways it can be touched and teased for even deeper pleasure.   

A History of the Clitoris

Discussion (and celebration) of the clitoris has been considered taboo for centuries. The 1486 guide to hunting witches, The Malleus Maleficarum, called the clitoris the “devil’s teat”. The discovery of clitoral tissue on a woman was enough to prove her a witch. Throughout the 1800s, doctors would treat women suffering from “hysteria” by stimulating the clitoris. And sometimes they would even going as far as to remove the clitoris through clitoridectomies

The field of psychotherapy pathologized women’s pleasure, with Freud calling clitoral orgasms “adolescent” and prioritizing vaginal orgasm which requires a male penis in the mix. Freud went so far as to say that adult women needed to shift their focus “exclusively to vaginal intercourse or risk psychological disorder.” For a long time, the field of psychology defined “proper” pleasure as vaginal, heterosexual intercourse. It fueled the myth that women who climaxed via clitoral stimulation were prone to psychosis.  

In her famous 1970 essay, The Myth of Vaginal Orgasms, Anne Koedt wrote, “The vagina, it was assumed, was able to produce a parallel, but more mature orgasm than the clitoris. Much work was done to elaborate on this theory, but little was done to challenge its basic assumptions.”

While science has come a long way in acknowledging the clitoris for what it is, our culture still struggles to celebrate it.

History of the clitoris

The Taboo of Women’s Pleasure

The aversion to discussion, or even acknowledging, female pleasure is instilled early. It’s commonplace for young boys to joke about sexuality and masturbation on the playground. Young girls however are discouraged from discussing pleasure or sex with each other, or the adults in their lives.

Many women have the experience of discovering their clitoris at a young age. They accidentally grind it against furniture or run water over it in the bath. Girls are often shamed for this exploration and forced to hide it from the world, with a sense of shame following them into their adult lives. 

Some women contend the taboo and shame issues exist because the clit’s sole purpose is pleasure. We are bombarded with images of female sexuality in pornography and mainstream culture, but the pleasure of everyday women is continually pushed into the shadows. Female sexual enjoyment remains exclusively in the realm of the forbidden. 

This taboo is at the core of the importance for women to educate themselves (and their partners) about the erotic terrain of their bodies. Sexual education in the United States is desperately lacking in regards to both pleasure and anatomy.

Luckily, the past decades have brought about a new revolution – one where women are reclaiming their pleasure and empowering themselves with knowledge about their bodies

The Anatomy of the Clitoris – with a Diagram!

A lot of women (and men) believe the clitoris to be the small visible button at the top of the vulva. While this – the clitoral glans – is an important part of the clitoris, it’s really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The clitoris actually extends into the body, and researchers have discovered surprising similarities between the clitoris and penis. Much like the penis, the glans of the clitoris swell with blood and get bigger during arousal. 

So while male and female genitals become engorged in a similar way, there are a few key differences. The first being that the male penis has several biological functions – such as reproduction and elimination through urination – while the sole purpose of the clitoris is pleasure. 

Another difference is the shape. The clitoris is shaped more like a wishbone than a penis – as this 3D model shows.

The head is called the clitoral glans – which is the part people often mistake as the entire clitoris. The internal parts of the clitoris include the crura female anatomy (also known as legs) which can reach more than five inches inside your body, and the vestibular bulbs. The vestibular bulbs are two elongated masses of erectile tissue situated on either side of the vaginal opening. 

For many women, the clitoris is extremely sensitive. This is not surprising, given that it has 8,000 nerve endings. They are responsible for great pleasure, but can also be the source of much pain and irritation.

The sensitive part of the clitoris is protected by a fold of skin known as the clitoral hood. There is no “normal” size for clitoral hoods – they can vary a lot in shape and size. And does the hood affect sexual pleasure? That can really vary from person to person. Some women need additional pressure, some need to pull the hood back, and others like to rub both the hood and glans at the same time. 

Ultimately – empowering yourself with the understanding that female anatomy looks and responds in different ways, can lead to deeper pleasure.

The Clitoris and Orgasm 

Despite the attempts of Freud and the larger patriarchy to diminish the importance of the clitoris, women are vocal about their advocacy.

According to a study in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 37% of American women required clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm. Only 18% said that vaginal penetration alone was enough to come. 66% said they preferred being touched directly on the clitoris, and cited ‘up and down’ with medium pressure as their preferred style of touch.

There are many reasons to explore this pleasure center. Science is showing that stimulating the clitoris may be a key to mental health. Other benefits include better sleep, less stress, and relief from cramps. Your body may the expert on how you like to be touched, but here are some ideas to bring variety to your clitoral stimulation: 

  • Touching the erogenous zones around the clit builds up anticipation and can feel good. Trying exploring pressure on the crura (legs). 
  • Up and down, side-to-side, or circular motion across the clitoris glans.
  • Tapping around your clitoris. You can vary pressure, speed, and rhythm. Try tapping around and directly on the clitoris glans. 
  • Grinding the clitoris on a pillow or bed. 
  • Pinching your clitoris with varying the degree of pressure. 
  • Internal stimulation can also be a great way to explore clitoral pressure. Stimulating the G-Spot or other parts throughout the vagina can offer clitoral stimulation from the inside. 

If you have a tried and true way of achieving orgasm through clitoral stimulation, remember that trying new things can be a lot of fun. It can also empower us to find even more pathways to pleasure in our bodies.

In partnered sex, you can try stimulating your clitoris with your fingers or a vibrator during penetration, or explore partnered masturbation. You may find the friction of rubbing your clit against your partner’s leg is enough to bring you to orgasm. Or perhaps you prefer pressure on your clit while your partner is performing oral sex.

However you decide to explore – remember that the clitoris is more than the eye can see. Women around the world are reclaiming the power of the clitoris through expanded knowledge and deeper sexual pleasure. 

How a Sex Coach Can Help

If you are uncertain about how to begin your exploration into clitoral pleasure, or you have very little experience or shame around sex, you may want to talk with a sex coach.

Sex coaching can help you jump start your self-exploration by teaching you pleasure mapping. It can also be useful to include your partner so the coach can describe how to pleasure your clitoris properly. Often, sex coaches will offer fun homework and low-pressure activities you can do to explore one another.

Want to find a sex coach near you or online? Explore this comprehensive directory of sex coaches by specialization, or by location.