The Clitoris

What is it about the clitoris that really gets people going in the pleasurable sense and in the “we can’t talk about THAT!” way? Not only is the clitoris an amazing part of a woman’s body, but it is also a very important aspect of many women’s sexual satisfaction.

Why is the clitoris so amazing?

First, the only function of the clitoris is to bring pleasure¹. How awesome is that? The pleasure-potential of the clitoris is astounding. For instance, nearly 8 thousand nerve-endings take up post in the clitoris, which is double the number in the penis!¹ And don’t think the clitoris is only limited to only the small pencil eraser-sized glans you can see poking out under its hood, there is a whole lot more of it that we can’t see.

Attached to the tip of the clitoral glans is a ¾ to 1 ½-inch long shaft (called the “clitoral shaft”) that extends up and connects to the pubic bone. It is at this point the shaft, now called the clitoral cura, extends down and out on both sides about 2 to 3 ½ inches where it again attaches to the pubic bone. Picture a wishbone. Along with the vestibular bulbs (erectile tissue), the shaft is where numerous blood vessels fill as a woman is sexually aroused, which pushes the clitoral glans forward. A woman is able to have multiple orgasms because the blood can flow in and out easily, allowing the clitoris to swell and relax easily¹.

Go HERE for a great picture of the internal clitoris and HERE for an amazing picture of the nerve supply. Also, THIS is a fun, quick video of Betty Dodson drawing the clitoral structures.

How does the clitoris factor into a woman’s sexual satisfaction?

It has been a long-time attempt to convince women that they should only need penetration during sex to have an orgasm. However, the results of The Hite Report, a study of over three thousand woman conducted by Shere Hite, found that only 30% of women have an orgasm through penetration alone. The study also found that half of that 30% also needed simultaneous clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm through intercourse². That means the majority of women rely on clitoral stimulation to orgasm. What’s more, in a study where 20,000 orgasms were monitored by sexologists William Hartman and Marilyn Fithian, it was found that it takes the average woman 20-30 minutes of constant, sustained stimulation to have an orgasm³. It’s no wonder women have orgasm difficulties during intercourse when they rely on short durations of penetration alone for orgasm. Although it works for some, it doesn’t work for a lot of women (Sorry boys, the penis alone just doesn’t cut it for most women). This is where girl-girl fun is awesome because, although penetration may come into play, there isn’t the expectation that the penis is the ruler of all that is orgasmic.

There are many ways to stimulate the clitoris for the majority of women that need it during intercourse. For instance, the woman can be on top so she can grind her clitoris on the man’s pubic bone. Or, she or her partner can also stimulate her clitoris with a hand or vibrator. It also isn’t necessary to expect that both partners should both have an orgasm at the same time during intercourse. It is a rare occurrence for most (and an exhausting goal to try to reach). Also, remove the expectation that everything has to occur, or lead up to, intercourse. The pleasure can happen before, after, and even instead of intercourse by self-pleasuring, mutual self-pleasuring, oral sex, massages, etc. Rebecca Chalker puts it nicely in her book The Clitoral Truth, when she says non-intercourse can be “exquisitely intimate” and that “intercourse is only one way to experience the rich banquet of sexuality” (138).

What’s more, sexual pleasure doesn’t always have to be about “achieving” orgasm. You can simply want to feel some pleasure but not want an orgasm. Or perhaps you aren’t in the mindset to have one. Whatever it may be, orgasm shouldn’t be the determining factor or end-all-be-all in your pleasure, but rather a part of your overall exquisite experience.

How exactly does a woman like her clitoris pleased?

I can’t answer this for you. What I can say is that each woman is different and therefore you need to ask her if she likes it licked slow or fast, sucked, blown on, nibbled, rubbed, touched with or without a vibrator, etc. Further, because women often change what they like sexually, including how they like their clitoris played with, partners should encourage a woman to say exactly what she wants and women should also speak up if this time you want a more vigorous approach than you normally like. If you don’t know what you want the best way is to find out yourself. As one woman in The Hite Report puts it “Through masturbation I can learn how my body can feel and how it wants and likes to feel” (74), the importance of which is helpful for intercourse but also for a woman’s own solo fun (because we don’t all have a partner!)

A note to the anti-clitoris crusaders

Because the clitoris is solely for pleasure, it is no wonder the anti-sex crusaders are also anti-clitoris. Many try to prevent kids from receiving comprehensive sex education due to the fear that the discussion of sex will increase the chances kids will have sex. With this mindset, discussing a pleasurable part of sex, like the clitoris, would also be out of the question. A small survey of mine conducted on my blog showed that many don’t learn about the clitoris until they are much older, with 40% of the respondents having learned about the clitoris between the ages of 11 and 15 and 53% having learned about the clitoris between the ages of 16-20. Further, parents were never the source of how the respondents learned about the clitoris. Rather, they learned about it from a magazine (7%), a friend (14%), a book (14%), online (14%), by accident (21%), Sex Ed at school (21%), and other means (7%).

I believe parents should not only educate their kids about the clitoris but also discuss it’s pleasurable capabilities. Parents (and future parents), wouldn’t it be nice for your kids to know about an awesome source of pleasure? And wouldn’t it be nice to encourage your daughter to explore pleasure on her own so that the first partner she is intimate with and with whom she experiences pleasure, isn’t mistaken for love? The clitoris is a wonderful, pleasurable part of a woman. So I ask of you, don’t hide it or downplay its amazing role in bringing many woman amazing sexual satisfaction. It is an amazing part of a woman’s body that is worthy of discussion.

Because I could not possibly tell you everything there is to know about the clitoris, I recommend that you also read The Clitoral Truth and visit


  1. Stewart, E. G. & Spencer, 2002. The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health. New York: Bantam Books
  2. Hite, S. 1992. The Hite Report. New York: Pandora Press
  3. Chalker, R. 2000. The Clitoral Truth: The Secret World at Your Fingertips. New York: Seven Stories Press

Dr. Chelsea Holland

Chelsea Holland, DHS is a sex educator and counselor based in Colorado. She is also a blogger at SEXuality Education from Dr. Chelsea. She helps individuals, partners, and groups regardless of their sexual orientation, sexual interests, ability, and age with concerns and questions around their sexuality and relationships. Further, she uses her open-minded, sex-positive, and nonjudgmental approach to help individuals become aware and accepting of who they are, to learn to be authentic in society about who they are, and to gain the skills that will help them develop and maintain positive relationships that are accepting of the individual's authenticity.

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