What is the clitoris?

Let’s find out exactly what the clit is 

What is the clitoris? In fact, this is a fairly common question. A recent study conducted by YouGov revealed that 29% of women and 31% of men did not know what the clitoris is. This needs to change because the clitoris is wonderful and a key part of pleasurable sex for people who have one.

In a nutshell: The clitoris is the pleasure centre of the vulva and vagina, and is the only part of the human body designed purely for pleasure.

A breakdown of the anatomy

clitoris anatomy

The visible part of the clitoris – often called the clit – is right under the point where the inner labia meet and form the clitoral hood. It is just above the two holes of the vagina and the urethra (the hole you pee out of), and looks like a small pea-shaped bump, with a hood of skin covering it.

Although the outside of the clitoris might appear small, like a little nub of flesh under the top of the folds of your vulva, the bit you can see is only the tip of the iceberg.

Fun Fact:

Only ¼ of the clitoris is outside the body. Most of the clitoris is internal and isn’t visible – inside your body, the clitoris can be as long as 5 inches (12cm long)!

Clitoris size

The glans clitoris – the bit you can see and feel – varies greatly from person to person. In fact, the clitoris grows throughout your lifetime.

When puberty begins, the clitoris starts to increase in size (usually increasing by 1.8x by the time puberty ends). However, it can grow to as much as 7x its original size after menopause!

The clitoris also grows when aroused. Yes, just like the penis, when aroused, blood rushes to the clitoris, causing it to swell and become erect. The increase in blood flow also causes the vulva to deepen in colour.

Fun Question: Is the clitoris a small penis—or the penis a giant clitoris?

Although this may seem like a strange question, the penis and the clitoris actually have a very similar structure. They even originate from the same development tissue when a foetus is growing in the womb. 

Clitoral stimulation and pleasure

The clitoris is the pleasure centre of the vagina and is the only part of the human body designed purely for pleasure. It is also far larger than you might think. 

50-70% of people with a clitoris need clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm. We’ll say that again: nearly everyone who has a clit need it to be touched, stroked and stimulated to have an orgasm!

Fun Fact:

The clitoris has over 8000 nerve endings, more than double the nerve endings in a penis!

Image credit: Alli Sebastian Wolf from Instagram

Yet despite how fundamental it is to a lot of people’s pleasure, historically, the clit’s anatomy and its function have been a hotly debated topic.

Taboos discussing women’s sexuality and pleasure have contributed to a lack of research in these areas. A recent study found that only 18% of people with vaginas can reach orgasm through penetrative vaginal sex – yet it wasn’t until the 1990s that Professor O’Connell confirmed the full anatomical structure of the clitoris.

Research and awareness in this area has been rubbish, and it’s only very recently that this has started to change.

Not So Fun Fact:

In 2018, 1,954 clinical studies explored erectile dysfunction v.s. 393 studies for women who experienced painful sex. 

We’re excited for a future where everyone knows how important the clit is to many people’s pleasure!

What can we do to change this?

We need to embrace sexual health! Negative attitudes towards female sexuality come, in part, from a society that views sexual health as “shameful”.

So instead, we think it will make a huge difference to people’s health and happiness to create a society comfortable with sex, pleasure, our bodies and our sexual health.

Outside of medicine, there has been a recent shift in understanding female pleasure and sexuality. The “Cliteracy” movement is one example of people celebrating and normalising the clitoris.

Sexual health is a vital part of health – and as part of this, it’s really important to understand what feels good! Getting to know your body better is the first step to achieving this. 

“Get Clitorite” resources:

For more information on the clitoris, please see the links below:

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Last Reviewed 2 November 2021

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