5 Things You Don't Know About Your Clitoris

This article was originally published on May 28, 2015.

May is Masturbation Month, and I think it’s about time we took to celebrating our clits a little more seriously.

Whether you agree with me or not, your clitoris is your best friend. That little, hidden part of your anatomy can send you into absolute bliss and relief, sometimes multiple times, without asking for anything in return. Nestled in the face of your vulva, the clitoris is one of the most under-appreciated parts of our bodies. Women, some trans men, intersex or genderqueer folks, and all others blessed with a clitoris — it’s time to wise up on our cliteracy and be okay with talking about sex and our enjoyment of pleasure.

This starts with getting to know the only organ whose sole purpose is pleasure: the clitoris. The all-things-sex-goddess herself, Betty Dodson, cites the clit as the “primary source for women’s pleasure.” The cliteracy movement has gained even more ground recently, as expressed in the works by artist Sophia Wallace. Her 2012 piece, “CLITERACY, 100 Natural Laws" is a mixed-media project that explores a paradox: the global obsession with sexualizing female bodies in a world that is illiterate when it comes to female sexuality.” And, that’s our unfortunate truth.

Too many of us are illiterate about sexuality in general, and the power of the clitoris in particular. Even though your clitoris isn’t your body's only source of pleasure, being "cliterate" in a sexually partisan world is one thing you should definitely do for the benefit of your own sexual health and interest.
When was the first time you discovered your clitoris? When was the last time you looked at your vulva? Have you really unmasked its immense potential for pleasure? The power of the orgasm and its healing effects are magic, and so much of this is owed to the mighty clitoris. Because almost everyone can orgasm via the clitoris, but not everyone can orgasm without it.

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The function of the clitoris is to provide pleasure. That’s it. In providing this function, it may set off reactionary responses that heal, are healthy, or are pseudo-necessary (i.e., the tenting of the vagina). With more density in its little head than exists within the entire vagina, and boasting more than 8,000 sensory nerve endings (the penis has just 4,000), the clitoris reigns supreme.

In theThe Hite Report, Shere Hite points out that 70% of women required some clitoral stimulation in order to achieve orgasm at all. When you become aroused, the crura/crus clitoris (also referred to as the clitoral legs) and the vestibular bulbs that sit behind your labia swell and aid in pushing all your fleshy bits out. This action has the effect of unveiling more surface area and bringing attention to the the hard-working sensory nerve endings, which are highly concentrated on your vulva. This is what helps you experience even more pleasure.
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We all start off with the same tissue in the womb. When certain proteins are triggered by hormones, that’s when genital differentiation occurs. But, there are still a few elements of similarity between the penis and the clit that are worth mentioning. When you get turned on, the clit — much like a penis — becomes erect. It also has a wee shaft, a glans, and a foreskin that we lovingly refer to as the clitoral hood. It's your very own piece of power.
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What you don’t see is the wishbone-shaped powerhouse fueling the clitoris — behind all your vulva goodness. Ranging anywhere from 3-5 inches in length, this part of your body rests fully behind your vulva and is not visible. The clitoral image is finally gaining traction for its full figure and being celebrated by the likes of Gloria Steinem and her clit ring.
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Your clitoris, or your "home button" as I like to call it, is connected to, or at least influences, many of your pleasure spots. Most women (estimated at over 70%) are only capable of orgasm via clitoral stimulation. When you're looking at the wholeness of your body in experiencing pleasure, those other spots may make you feel really good, but the most common and easiest way for most vaginas to orgasm is via titillation of the clitoris — which, in my opinion, includes the G-Spot, labia, and anus.

Orgasms really are better than ice cream. The approximately three to 15 contractions that can last anywhere from 10-30 seconds when you clitorally orgasm are some of the best sexual healing you can give yourself.

Betty Dodson, one of my personal heroes (in case you couldn't tell) discusses the many techniques in clitoral stimulation, differentiating between direct and indirect techniques. Above, below, or right on the clitoris are all direct stimulations. Indirect stimulation occurs by massaging internally against the upper vaginal walls, a.k.a the “G-spot” area. This indirectly stimulates the urethral and clitoral glans from behind — much like the prostate can be stimulated via the perineum (indirect) or via the anus (direct). So really, there are many techniques that you can use to get yourself to climax.
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Some species of mammals, such as dogs, actually have a tiny bone in their clits called the os clitoridis. In an essay titled "A Long-Lost Bone," Brian Switek writes:

The os penis and os clitoridis are osteological correlates of each other. They are the same bone, but in different form in each sex. And, while the os clitoridis — sometimes called by the more elegant-sounding name 'baubellum' — isn’t a feature of all mammal lineages, the bone has been found in a variety of species among distantly-related beasts.

A 1954 paper by zoologist James Layne documented that the os clitoridis has been found in a variety of rodents, carnivores, and primates; in fact, it was discovered that marmots, seals, cats, bats, bears, galagos, gibbons, and more had some sort of bone beneath the clitoris. It's a shame more work hasn't been devoted to this intriguing subject.

So, are you feelin' yourself yet? Whip out your compact or hand-held mirror and take a moment to really look at yourself: Revel in the appearance of your vulva and clitoris. You've just graduated from Cliteracy 101. There is much more to learn about our clits, and there's no time like the present to get started.

Your body is beautiful, powerful, and capable of some of the most effective healing and outstanding pleasure in the world — and so much of that power rests in your clitoris.
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Watch this episode of "So Sketch" for more clitoris-related fun!