“It’s really interesting to me just how few people know about how the clitoris works, or what it looks like. I personally didn’t know until I was in my mid-20s, which seems like just such a shame.”
Here are 10 facts that you need to know about your “clit.”
- A clitoris is like an iceberg
Mostly invisible below the surface, wrapping around the vaginal tunnel and extending out towards the thighs. “The part that we’re seeing and feeling is just this tiny little glans that creates the head of the clitoris,” says Wolf. “From there, all this fabulous magical stuff is happening beneath the surface.”
2. There are more than 8,000 nerve endings in the tip of the clitoris alone – double the number of those in a penis
A clitoris is made up of 18 distinct parts – a mixture of erectile tissue, muscle and nerves. “All those little pieces are working together to create the amazing sensations that anyone with a clitoris feels when they’re having orgasms.”
The actual vaginal tunnel has almost no sensation at all – giving birth through something as sensitive as a clitoris would be “excruciating”, says Wolf.
3. They can swell as much as 300% when engorged
Clitorises range from 7-12 cm in length and swell by 50 to 300% when engorged when aroused. It’s not “a zero to 100 situation”, says Wolf, but as you draw closer to orgasm, it increases in size.
When at rest, the “arms”, or corpora cavernosa, of the clitoris’ body extend straight out towards your thighs. When you’re aroused, they curl around “and give your internal body a little bit of a hug”.
4. G-spot and penetrative orgasms are clitoral
Both stimulate internal parts of the clitoris. “You can come from these different places that are all using the clitoris but using it in different ways,” says Wolf.
Understanding has been frustrated by historical heteronormative studies of the female anatomy that assumed stimulation by a penis was necessary to orgasm; Wolf blames Freud.
It was only in 2009 that a small team of French researchers carried out the first sonographic mapping of an erect clitoris, even though the technology to do so had existed for years.
5. ‘Clit’ is relatively recent terminology
The first recorded use of the word “clit” was in America in the 1950s.
“Clitoris” dates back to the 17th century and could derive from words for “sheath”, “key” or “latch”, or “to touch or tickle”, says Wolf.
6. It is the only known body part with the sole purpose of pleasure …
But one in 10 women has never had an orgasm – and most, at some point, will have “a hard time” reaching orgasm with a partner, says Wolf.
She blames a “culture of shame” surrounding female sexuality that suppresses scientific research and personal exploration.
7. … But it has not always been just a good time
Throughout history, doctors have advocated for the removal of the clitoris to cure mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia, or “this pesky problem of women ‘unnaturally’ desiring sex”, says Wolf.
In ancient Greece, lesbians or women who actively desired sex were often considered witches, “despite the fact that your husband could have 16 lovers, and be off at the bath houses with young men”.
And in medieval times, it was referred to as “the devil’s teat”, through which the devil could suck your soul. “The witch trials are a great example of the war against women, which hasn’t really stopped.”
8. The clitoris can form a penis – and vice versa
In some forms of gender confirmation surgery, the clitoris can be enlarged with hormones to form a penis. In other cases, the penile glans can be reduced in size and relocated to create a clitoris.
The first MRI scan out in 2009 was carried out by Dr Odile Buisson and Dr Pierre Foldès partly to aid in understanding of how to treat female genital mutilation.
9. It is the only part of the human body that never ages
An 80-year-old clit looks and works the same as a 20-year-old one. But it does keep growing – it could be 2.5 times as big in your 90s as it was in your teen years.
“They’re weird, fabulous little creatures,” says Wolf happily. (Your nose also continues to grow past the point you reach your maximum height.)
10. Every clit is unique
They come in different shapes and colors, from pale pink to black. “As varied as your face,” she says. “If you look at a picture of a swath of vaginas – I’ve never seen two that look similar.”
Article Written By: Elle Hunt