The Clitoris - The Female pleasure tool
By Miranda Christophers
Stimulation of the visible part of the clitoris (the pea-sized hooded lump at the top of the vulva) is the most common female self-pleasure technique. For most women it is the area that is the most sensitive/pleasure inducing/arousing of the female genitalia. Rhythmic stimulation, such as circular motion, rubbing up and down, or tapping by hand, a sex toy, another body part or object is the most common way for females to achieve orgasm. There is no one specific way to do it – each female is unique so what matters is that she uses the technique that she finds enjoyable. Unlike men, women do not have a refractory (recovery) period so they have the potential to have to experience multiple orgasms.
The clitoris and female organs and orgasms are still relatively misunderstood and still a lot of confusion by the general public around this.
"The Vagina is the canal (hole) that runs from the vulva, just below the urethra, right up to the cervix (which is the part that separates the vagina from the fallopian tubes, ovaries and the uterus). Despite commonly heard, incorrect referencing, the vagina does not describe the vulval area, clitoris or vulval lips - these areas of the female genitals are known as the vulva"
- Vaginal sex involves penetration of the vagina. Some women experience orgasms during vaginal penetration alone, without stimulation of the clitoris. This is likely to be a result of the clitoris being stimulated internally. Part of the clitoris known as the ‘vestibular bulbs’ sit within the walls alongside the vagina, while the 2 ‘cruca’ sit in the vulva adjacent to the bulbs.
- It is important to understand that all female orgasms are related to the clitoris whether external or internal. Some women feel pressure from partners to have ‘vaginal or G-spot’ orgasms but for the majority of women, no matter how hard they may try these may just not be physically possible as factors such as exact positioning of anatomical parts may vary from person to person – such as the distance between the clitoris and vagina. There are many resources to help with techniques on female arousal and orgasms such as on the OMG YES website.
- The clitoris sits within the body with the tip being the only part that is visible – it sits at the top of the vulva. It is in fact part of the vulva, the external part of the female sexual anatomy. Also, while many people think that the Clitoris is the small, pea sized hood at the very top of the inner labia it is in fact much bigger and resembles a wishbone.
The Structure of the Clitoris
The clitoris itself is a piece of erectile tissue, rich in nerve endings and blood vessels explaining its high degree of sensitivity and hence why so many women enjoy clitoral stimulation. There are 3 main parts to the Clitoris:
1. The ‘Glans Clitoris’
The tip called the ‘glans clitoris’ is the pea sized hooded lump that sits at the top of the vulva, above the vagina and urethra. It has the most nerve endings present hence giving the most sensation, around it. The ‘clitoral glans’ is about generally between 0.5cm – 2cm in size but will vary from female to female.
2. The ‘Two Crura’
Beneath the prepuce, the gland give way to the corpus or body of the clitoris. The corpus then splits into two legs known as the ‘two crura’ (crus clitoris) which extend from the clitoral glans down through each side of the vulva. They vary in length and resemble an upside-down V.
3. The ‘Vestibular Bulbs’
The ‘vestibular bulbs’ of the clitoris are two elongated masses of erectile tissue that sit within the side walls of vagina adjacent to each of the two Crura.
The Clitoris is surprisingly similar to a penis
The clitoris and the penis are in-fact closely related and if you were to view the full clitoris outside of the body it wouldn’t actually look very different to a penis. That’s not where the similarities end as when sexually aroused the clit has its own form of erection with the crura and vestibular bulbs becoming engorged, comparable to the penis becoming erect. The clitoris actually expands by between 50-300% when aroused and also has a protective hood, not unlike the male foreskin, to protect the clitoral head (the visible part of the clitoris).
Is the Clitoris only purpose to give pleasure?
Science is currently unsure as to whether it serves any other purpose than to bring pleasure, however some researches suggest it may play a part in reproduction by encouraging a female to want to experience sexual pleasure as it feels good. It is often noted that many females feel a greater sense of sexual desire around the time of ovulation.
While in humans, orgasm does not trigger ovulation such as in some other mammals, it is believed this may have once been the case, and it has changed through evolution. Neverthelss, some research has suggested that the female orgasm may speed up ovulation, but only if ovulation was likely to happen within the hour.
Do Females need to Orgasm in order to Reproduce?
While orgasm in males is necessary in order to reproduce via the production of sperm, female orgasm is not necessary in order to reproduce. There are, however, theories around the contractions during the orgasms causing the cervix to dip, which may make it easier for sperm to head towards the fallopian tubes.
The Arousal Circuit - Maintaining arousal and building up orgasms
Sexual arousal involves the mind, body and emotions positively connecting in what we can understand as an arousal circuit (like an electrical circuit). These three parts are key to achieving and maintaining arousal in order for an orgasm to build up. Each of these 3 components has break points whereby they can create a break in the flow of the circuit. This concept can help to remind us of how to maintain arousal to be able to enjoy sexual activity and to achieve orgasm. It can be helpful for people experiencing arousal difficulties to understand where issues lie and work to eradicate the break.
While arousal can be maintained without physical stimulation, the body facilitates the physical feeling of pleasure. When it comes to touch and feeling the physical body requires appropriate stimulation. There may be certain areas that trigger or intensify arousal (in addition to the genitals) and there may be preferences in stimulation/sensation. In order to maintain arousal, the feeling has to feel arousing so if something does not feel pleasure-inducing then it is likely to cause an interference/break in the arousal circuit. It is important to note that the clitoris may change in sensitivity as a female gets older so it’s worth varying the stimulation if you notice changes.
We can understand that a break in the arousal circuit relating to the body may be a result of not having the right or enough stimulation or experiencing discomfort or pain. If you experience cramp in your leg mid-arousal it’s likely to interfere with it. Similarly, not being stimulated in a way that feels pleasurable – too fast, off point etc. It can be helpful to experiment with different pressure and rhythm when stimulating the clitoris or touching the vulval/vaginal area. Stimulating the clitoris during vaginal penetration is extremely common and the dual approach can intensify the feelings of pleasure.
The mind is significant as it does all the processing and regulating, in addition to controlling focus. Therefore, the mind needs to be positively connected – present and processing the pleasurable sensations and feelings of arousal. It can be positively connected with the feeling of physical sensations while being stimulated by other senses that heighten arousal such as visual, fantasies, scents, sound etc. It is helpful to consciously remove distractions and bring your mind back to the feelings and arousing thoughts if you notice your mind is not fully connected.
Anything that takes the mind away from engaging with the physical sensation is likely to cause a break. This can include being distracted with other things: work; focusing on pleasing a partner to the extent you are wondering if they are enjoying it, or thinking what to do next; if the doorbell rings or you can hear someone in another room etc. ‘Spectatoring’ is a term used in sex therapy which describes focusing on the performance such as being preoccupied with what to do next or focussing on pleasing your partner. It is helpful to consciously remove distractions and bring your mind back to the feelings and arousing thoughts if you notice your mind is not fully connected.
Emotions are powerful in the arousal circuit as they affect how we feel. If you are feeling relaxed, happy or excited you are likely to feel a positive connection with arousal. Conversely, if you are feeling upset, stressed, anxious or even if you are just tired it is likely to have some impact on it.
Feeling upset, anxious, stressed, angry. Other common causes may include: performance anxiety; feeling unsafe/not able to trust/relax with a partner; fear of being caught/seen/overheard.
For those suffering from performance anxiety, it’s important to be aware of how it may affect arousal. Think about relaxing prior to sex if you are stressed or anxious – perhaps use mindfulness techniques and try to notice the physical sensations and clear your mind. Always remember that sex is about pleasure, not the performance, and as much about your pleasure as your partner’s!
Enjoy the pleasure it can give
While we don’t know everything about female orgasms and the clitoris – what we do know is that it is an amazing source of pleasure and can be stimulated in whatever way feels good, either alone or with others.
Miranda Christophers: Sex & Relationship Therapist / Contributing Editor
Miranda is a COSRT Accredited Sex and Relationship Therapist and a regular media contributor who promotes a sex positive attitude with a philosophy that sex is the most natural source of pleasure which should be enjoyed healthily by all no matter gender, age, ethnicity or relationship status. Her views are embedded in social and sexual equality and the liberation of people to have choice.