Women's Health
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6 Amazing Facts About Your Clitoris

This tiny hot spot has 8,000 nerve endings dedicated solely to pleasure—and that’s not all.

1 / 7

By Taylor Lupo

When we talk about female anatomy, it seems like the vagina gets most of the attention. So much so, it can be easy to overlook the mecca of most sexual pleasure—the clitoris.

The clitoris is a cluster of nerves nestled just above the vaginal opening. Some say it looks like a small button, or the eraser at the end of a pencil. Despite its modest appearance, however, the clitoris is a fascinating organ.

We spoke to Elizabeth Newell, MD, an OBGYN with Swedish Medical Center in Littleton, Colorado. She revealed some jaw-dropping facts about the clitoris, including must-know details about its size, shape and role in female sexuality.

It has no purpose besides pleasure

2 / 7 It has no purpose besides pleasure

Most of our organs have a function that’s necessary for survival. The heart pumps blood to the rest of the body. The lungs deliver oxygen we need to breathe. Even the penis has a job, to expel urine and aid in reproduction. 

The only organ with no purpose—aside from pleasure—is the clitoris. Perhaps that’s why it disappeared from medical literature in the 1900s and again in the 1940s. That’s right—illustrations of the female reproductive system in the 25th edition of Gray’s Anatomy, published in 1948, were entirely void of the clitoris.

Luckily, the love button made a comeback. In 1953, Dr. Alfred Kinsey, an American biologist and the founder of the Institute of Sex Research at Indiana University, called it "the center of female pleasure." We can’t say for sure Kinsey’s proclamation is the reason why, but it was written back into medical literature. Women, rejoice!

It has more nerve endings than the penis

3 / 7 It has more nerve endings than the penis

Step aside, gentlemen, this is one argument you surely won’t win. The penis contains an astonishing 4,000 nerve endings, but the clitoris contains nearly twice that amount—between 7,000 and 8,000.

Nerve endings are sensors responsible for sending messages back to the brain. They're found all over the body, especially in places like the feet, hands and genitalia. Your nerve endings can help keep you out of danger, alerting your brain when you brush against something hot, cold or sharp.

These tiny endings can also transmit pleasure signals, and the more endings, the more powerful the message. That means the clitoris, with its many sensors, sends some serious pleasure cues. 

It’s responsible for most orgasms

4 / 7 It’s responsible for most orgasms

If you struggle to climax from vaginal stimulation alone, you’re in good company. Regardless of a man’s size, shape or performance, only about 25 percent of women can successfully achieve an orgasm this way. A majority of women require clitoral stimulation to reach climax.

“To orgasm, some people have to specifically focus on the clitoris, with manual stimulation,” says Newell. “Other people can orgasm through friction against the clitoris during vaginal intercourse.” Some women have clitorises positioned nearer to their vaginal openings—and thus, may be more likely to achieve the big O during sex. 

It's much bigger than you think

5 / 7 It's much bigger than you think

 “Although we only see a very small part of it, it's actually a decent sized organ,” says Newell. So, how big is the clitoris? The visible portion, on average, is between 3/4 inch and 1 inch in size. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The clitoris stretches deep into the body, extending a whopping 3 to 4 inches, and continues to grow as we age.

Portions of it—bulbs and shaft—are tucked inside the body, and help the organ function. The shaft connects the part of the clitoris we see to the bulbs, which are responsible for helping a woman orgasm. 

It can become erect

6 / 7 It can become erect

Much like the male penis, the clitoris can become erect. During sexual arousal, the blood vessels dilate, sending more blood to the area, which causes it to swell. “When the size of the clitoris increases or expands, it gets what we call vasocongestion,” says Newell.

When aroused, a woman’s clitoris can double in size. Following orgasm, swelling typically subsides within about 10 minutes. If a woman’s clitoris becomes engorged, but she doesn’t reach a climax, the erection can last for several hours. Some women find this uncomfortable—others may not. 

Every clitoris is different

7 / 7 Every clitoris is different

Women come in all shapes and sizes, as do their lady parts. Fear not—even if yours looks a little different from the colorful drawing you remember from high school health class, your clitoris is probably normal.

“Most people have a clitoral hood covering the bulb of the clitoris. In some people it's more prominent, and for others, it's a bit more hidden,” says Newell. For those with a larger covering, it may take a little more work to find the clitoris. Occasionally, a woman may opt for surgery to reduce the size of the hood and increase pleasure.

Regardless of size, shape or position, it is important to get comfortable with your body, and figure out what works best for you.    

Women's Health

Women's Health

Did you know that women are more likely to seek medical care than men? Sexual health needs, like pregnancy and contraception, often necessitate early visits to a doctor. But as we age, various health issues affect women more than ...

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