We all know the age-old joke. Where’s the clitoris? Can anyone find it? Spoiler alert: It’s not some ancient mystery or unsolvable riddle. The clitoris is an amazing organ that lets vulva owners experience unique orgasms and mind-blowing pleasure. If you’re curious to learn more about the clitoris, stick around for a deep dive into this fascinating powerhouse of pleasure.
But Really, Where Is It?
For those of us who haven’t become visually familiar with their lady bits yet, consider this your sign to grab a mirror and get to know your vulva. We know that looking at your genitals up close can seem daunting to some. But rest assured, there’s nothing to be afraid of! Your vulva is uniquely beautiful; no two are alike. So as hard as it can be, try to put any expectations aside and appreciate your body and vulva for the sensuality and pleasure they bring.
Let’s zoom in. Inside your labia majora (outer lips), you’ll find your inner lips (labia minora). These are typically smaller, thinner, and more sensitive than the labia majora. Once you find them, follow your inner lips up until the point where they meet. Here, you’ll find a fold of skin known as the clitoral hood. This hood sits above your urethra and covers some—or all—of the clitoris. Clitoral hoods can vary in size and appearance, so some vulva owners need to gently pull back the skin of their clitoral hood to see the clitoris itself. However, other people may have a smaller clitoral hood with more of the clitoris externally visible. Either way, you’ll know you’ve found your clitoris when you encounter the sensitive bulb of tissue at the top of your vulva.
What Is the Clitoris?
So we know where it is, but what exactly is it? First and foremost, the clitoris is the pleasure powerhouse of the vulva and is extremely sensitive. In fact, it has more nerve endings than any other part of the body! It’s a complex system of erectile tissue with the sole purpose of providing pleasure. And while some may know the clitoris as a small external nub of tissue near the top of the vulva, not everyone is familiar with how the clitoris forms.
Let’s go way back to when you were in the womb. In the early stages of human development, the penis and clitoris actually start out as the same bundle of erectile tissue. Around nine weeks into a pregnancy, this tissue transforms into either a clitoris or a penis—depending on the festus’s biological sex. Once fully developed, the clitoris forms a surprisingly large internal structure. Like an iceberg, only a small portion of the full clitoris can usually be seen externally. According to Cleveland Clinic, the full clitoris is “shaped like an upside-down wishbone, with a clitoral body branching out to form a V shape.”
Fun Facts About the Clitoris
They Get Erections
Did you know that clitorises become erect just like penises? Since the clitoris is made of erectile tissue, it swells when aroused. As the vagina widens and deepens in preparation for sex, the extra blood flow into the clitoris can make it look larger and deepen in color.
They’re All Unique
Just like the people they belong to, clitorises can vary dramatically in shape, size, and color. In fact, Planned Parenthood mentions that clitorises can range from pea-sized to the size of a young child’s finger.
It Can Change Size
Over your lifetime, the size of your clitoris can change. Especially after menopause or pregnancy, changing hormone levels can cause the clitoris to grow in size. Aside from age, the clitoris can also become larger at the point of climax like a penis can.
It’s Responsible for Many, Many Orgasms
This may seem obvious, but a staggering number of women need some sort of clitoral stimulation in order to reach orgasm. Medical News Today mentions that only 18.4 percent of women reported that vaginal penetration alone provided enough pleasure to reach climax.
Science Took Forever To Understand the Clitoris
What if we told you that it took scientists until 2009 to discover the true anatomy of the clitoris? We know…shocking. Before then, the world had never seen a 3-D sonography of the stimulated clitoris and didn’t understand the full extent of its internal structure.
Is Mine Normal?
Unless you’re experiencing any pain, swelling, excessive itching, unusual discharge, or otherwise feel irritation on or around your clitoris, it’s most likely perfectly normal and healthy. Just like vaginas come in all shapes, shades, sizes, and textures, so do clitorises. Loving and accepting your body involves appreciating your lady bits for their uniqueness.
It’s also important to acknowledge that there is no singular “right” way for a healthy, attractive vulva and clitoris to look. While the media and porn may portray a very narrow, unrealistic picture of the vulva, try to remember that these are just idealized portrayals. These rigid beauty standards don’t reflect real-life, beautiful people. So, even though it can be difficult to accept your body and genitals as they are, keep in mind that this form of self-love and acceptance is like a muscle. With enough intentional practice, it can become second nature.
Being familiar with your body and vulva can also be extremely important for your health. If you know how things typically look downstairs, you’ll be able to notice any changes that could potentially mean something isn’t right. Taking your sexual health and wellness into your own hands can be deeply empowering, and staying informed about your own genitals is a key component of having informed conversations with your healthcare provider. We can’t overstate the power of self-knowledge and the ability to advocate for yourself.
We encourage you to embrace your body and vulva as they are. The clitoris is a truly remarkable network of nerves that helps you experience boundless pleasure and explore your sexuality. So next time you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop and thank your (or your partner’s) clitoris for all the excitement, fun, and pleasure it brings.