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08 Mar 2017 (Last updated 30 Jan 2024)

Clitoris 101: What is it, where to find it & complete diagrams

Sexual Health 9 min read
Clitoris 101: What is it, where to find it & complete diagrams

Get to know the clitoris and how to find it.

The clitoris is an important part of any vulva owner’s sex life* and deserves to be celebrated. We want to make sure that everybody understands the joy of the clitoris. Knowing where yours or your partner’s clitoris is and how it works can lead to more and better sexual pleasure, who doesn’t want that?!

When it comes to our clitoris, science still has a lot of research to do.

"Medical textbooks are full of anatomical pictures of the penis, but the clitoris barely rates a mention. Many medical professionals are uncomfortable even talking about it" (Wahlquist, 2020).

It wasn’t until the late nineties that we truly understood the real structure we’ve already discussed, thanks to the great female urologist, Helen O’Connell! Nevertheless, a lack of scientific discovery should not stop our own self-discovery nor clit appreciation.

What is a clitoris?

In short, a very significant pleasure organ and erogenous zone! The word ‘clitoris’ comes from the Greek word key. We mean, we LOVE how much sense this makes as the clitoris is the key to the gateway of a lot of female pleasure.

Although there (sadly) hasn’t been nearly enough research on the clitoris as there should be, it is understood that the clitoris has around 10,000 nerve endings. In comparison, the penis is understood to have 4,000 nerve endings. The clitoris also interacts with over 15,000 additional nerve endings throughout the pelvis. So, we know it feels good!

The anatomy of the clitoris

You wouldn’t be blamed for never having seen it represented in the way below. Many of us associate the clitoris with the exterior glands that exist outside of the body above the vaginal opening. But that’s just the visible part of the clitoris. The rest is internal. These internal parts of the clitoris surround the vagina like a band, wrapping around the sides of the vaginal walls to form a wishbone shape.

The clitoris is a complex and fascinating organ. It’s made up of many different parts…

  • Clitoral glans. The visible part of the clitoris in the vulva, which sits above the urethral opening. Often described as a nub or button-like, and mistaken for the entire clit.
  • Clitoral hood. Also known as the prepuce, this is the fold of skin that surrounds and protects the glans and is attached to the labia minora.
  • Clitoral shaft. Connects the glans to the body of the clitoris.
  • Crus clitoris & corpus cavernosum. The clitoris legs (crura for the pair) are made up of erectile tissue forming part of internal wishbone structure. They can make the labia feel plumper during arousal.
  • Vestibular bulbs. The other part of the wishbone that wraps around the vaginal canal and comes into contact with the urethra and towards the anus. The bulbs swell with blood, applying pressure to the vaginal walls and assisting natural lubrication.

Wait, the clitoris gets erect?

Yes! Made of the same erectile tissue as the penis, the clitoris engorges with blood when stimulated, and just like the penis, the entire clitoris can become erect when aroused. When this happens, you will usually be able to see the physical change even from the outside as the vulva will appear puffier and the clitoral glans will look harder.

The role of the clitoris

The clitoris is the only human organ that’s sole purpose is for pleasure. What about the penis, some might say? It’s true that the clitoris is often compared to the penis, both having similar constructions and tissue. However, the penis has multiple purposes other than pleasure, including urinating and reproducing. While the clitoris on the other hand has no role in the reproductive system, nor does it have a urethra running through it. The only function the clitoris has is to give us pleasure, which is pretty clitastic!

The clitoris plays a large role in sexual arousal and female orgasms. Only less than a third of vulva owners climax through penetration, otherwise known a vaginal orgasm. It’s SO common for us to need additional clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, and it’s highly likely that we can orgasm from clitoral stimulation alone. Even when we experience vaginal orgasms it is often because the internal parts of the clitoris have been stimulated via the G-zone. Several parts of the clitoris can be accessed through the vaginal walls during sex.

So, what does a clitoris do? It’s a pleasure powerhouse for most people with vulvas, in some way or another.

How to find your clitoris

According to Natalie Anger’s, “Woman: An Intimate Geography” nearly 30% of women have no clue where when asked where is the clit. As expected, even more men couldn’t identify what a clitoris really is. Why is this? We’re guessing because we’re very rarely actually told or taught about it! Alas, things are changing thanks to more pleasure-positive sex ed.

We can use the above anatomy diagram to work out exactly where we can find the external part of our clitoris, the rest we can’t reach directly! To locate the clitoral glans why not use a mirror or feel between the labia for a nub above the vaginal opening – that’s it – the location of the clitoris is that simple! No need for a ‘quest’ when we have the knowledge on how to find the clit, right?

What does the clit look like?

Clitorises come in all different shapes and sizes. When it comes to what is actually visible, the same applies. Some clitoral glans are large and highly visible; some are smaller and more tucked away under the hood. They can even be positioned differently on the vulva, closer or further away from the vaginal opening. This bean-like nub rises up from the labia, and as clitoral pioneer Helen O’Connell suggests ‘is more like a mountain than a hill’.

The clitoris is an ever-changing organ, especially when you realize that it never stops growing! From the womb and onwards for the rest of a vulva owner’s life, the clitoris only gets bigger. When a person is 32 years old, their clitoris is double the size it was when they first started puberty. This is probably why many older people with vulvas claim to have better sex and easier orgasms, because their clitorises are bigger and therefore easier to stimulate with less effort.

Let’s forget asking what does a clit look like, and instead celebrate just how unique they are.

5 things to know about clit stimulation

Now we know physiologically what happens when the clitoris is stimulated, what type of stimulation is going to be super pleasurable, and perhaps orgasmic? Remember, sexual pleasure isn’t all about orgasms! Though, it can be argued that all orgasms are about the clit. Before we go off on a clitoral tangent, here’s how to stimulate the clit.

1. Clit masturbation

Just like most things to do with sexuality, it’s better to focus on yourself at first. External clitoral pleasure may be the first kind of sensation that made you go ‘oh, that feels good’ and comes with touching our vulvas to explore ourselves. This type of masturbation is a go-to for ease, comfort, and often speed. When speaking with our community, solo quickies are a remedy for sleep and stress – clitoral pleasure can provide a quick fix of feel-good hormones!

2. Clit rubbing

Rubbing the clitoris is very effective form of clitoral stimulation. Sound too… meh? Well, there are a lot of ways to rub your clit. Techniques include orbiting round and round, long strokes in both directions, tracing a figure-8 over the hood and glans, up-and-down motion. All of these can be done with fingers or a vibrator, our expert advice is to start with a classic bullet vibrator to find your favorite direct approach.

As the clitoris becomes aroused, natural lubrication often occurs. Don’t worry if not, it’s completely normal and doesn’t mean your clit stim isn’t working. There are many reasons why we might need extra wetness, and in our humble opinion there’s no such thing as too much water-based lube! Why are we talking about lube? Because it can reduce friction of clit rubbing and heighten sensations.

3. Clit licking

Lube can also help replicate the sensation of cunnilingus. Unlike a finger, a tongue-like touch feels gentler and lighter. For those of us that find the intensity of direct clitoral rubbing too much, licking dials it down a little for a much softer sensation. This clitoral tickle can be much more tantalizing, and build arousal slowly but surely.

Now, we’re aware that licking requires a tongue… which is often attached to another being. BUT do not fear, you can recreate licking sensations without a partner too – why leave all the funnilingus to partnered sex, when you can get a tongue vibrator.

4. Indirect clit stimulation

For some of us, stimulating the clitoral glans can be uncomfortable, painful, or too intense. All those nerve endings mean we can feel a lot there, and it isn’t always good. Furthermore, the sensitivity of your clitoris can change throughout your life, and even from day-to-day, especially if you’re a menstruator. With that in mind, consider other ways to play with your clitoris.

  • Try layering on top of your vulva to mute the sensation. Unlike the princess and the pea, adding layer-upon-layer should decrease the impact of stimulation. Use a vibe through your underwear, over a bed sheet or with a silky material that feels good against your skin; trial what brings you pleasurable comfort.
  • Most vibrators are designed for direct touch or penetration of erogenous zones, relying on…er… vibrations to create motion. However, suction toys use air-pulsation technology for clitoral pleasure. The mouth of a clit sucker sits over the glans without touching it, and ‘sucks’.
  • More a fan of penetration than external stim? Remember that the clitoris can still be stimulated via the vaginal walls, aim for the G-zone for optimum feels.

5. Clit during partnered sex

Clitoral stimulation isn’t just for solo sex! In fact, most of us need it during partnered sex to reach orgasm. If you haven’t already, communicate with your partner the type of clitoral touch you enjoy – and, if your partner has a penis, remind them that your pleasure (and theirs!) goes waaaaay beyond penetration.

Most techniques you use during masturbation can also be applied when with (a) partner(s), by them or yourself. If you feel an orgasm coming, and you want to climax clitorally, there are some positions that make it easier to get a helping hand: military, spoon or doggy. Plus, don’t be afraid to give yourself a helping hand during partnered sex. If you’re with a penis haver or having sex with someone with a strap-on, rubbing your clitoris during penetration could be exactly what you need to climax.

Loved learning about the clitoris? Why not take our free sex ed course, Vulva Talks! It’s vulva-centric, pleasure-positive and you can put your clit knowledge to the test.

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