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All About the Clitoris

Dr. Jess     
What do you actually know about the clitoris? Dr. Jess gives you the lowdown on the female body's most talked-about hotspot.

Excerpted from The New Sex Bible by Dr. Jessica O'Reilly (2014) 

You’ve probably heard a great deal about the clitoris and you likely already know that it exists solely for the purpose of pleasure.

But did you know that the clitoris has legs? And that the complex structure of the clitoris may explain why most women orgasm from rubbing, grinding and pressing on the vulva?


Welcome to The Clitoris


Foreplay Sexual Health Vaginal Health All About The Clitoris Dr. Jessica O'ReillyThe clitoris is more than just a tiny nodule at the top of where the labia meet. That shiny pearl-like structure, which is often referred to as the clitoris, is actually only the head of the clitoris. It also has two legs, two bulbs, foreskin, glands, nerves, blood vessels, a shaft and the capacity to become erect.

Once you study the full anatomy of the clitoral complex, you may conclude that the clitoris is much like a penis... only smaller. But when you further examine the deep roots and multiple parts of the inner clitoris, it becomes more obvious that the clitoris isn’t a smaller version of the penis, but simply a variant model.

The clitoris is not only homologous to the penis in its comparable origin and structure, but both the clitoris and the penis are derived from the same tissue in utero. An examination of the many parts of the clitoris and their functions reveals further shared attributes between the male and female sex organs.


The Anatomy of the Clitoris


[caption id="attachment_2964" align="alignright" width="260"]Sexual Health Physical Health The Art of Kissing Dr. Jessica O'Reilly Source: The Truth About the Clit, 2015[/caption]

The glans is the head of the clitoris which protrudes from beneath the hood to varying degrees, depending on a woman’s unique make-up and her arousal levels. As previously mentioned, we often mistake this pea-sized bump for the entire clitoris and because it can be highly sensitive to touch, it is protected by the clitoral hood (or foreskin).

The shaft is attached to the clitoral glans and composed of erectile tissue and cavernous bodies that fill with blood just like the penis. That’s right. Women get boners too!

The clitoral legs and bulbs are part of the inner clitoris and the legs can extend several inches. They point toward the thighs when relaxed and then stretch backward during arousal, allowing the clitoris to double in size as it becomes engorged with blood. The bulbs or vestibules of the clitoris underlie the labia and also swell with excitement. As they expand, they cause the vulva to expand outward and create a tight sensation around the outer third of the vagina, which Masters and Johnson named the orgasmic platform.


Finding the Clit


[caption id="attachment_2963" align="alignleft" width="300"]Sexual Health Physical Health The Art of Kissing Dr. Jessica O'Reilly Source: The New Sex Bible (2014) by Dr. Jessica O'Reilly[/caption]

It is not uncommon for a woman to have trouble visually locating her clitoris, as it is not a body part that most of us learn about from a young age. In fact, you may have discovered its pleasure capacity by accident.

If you haven’t had a chance to look at your clitoris, there is no time like the present! After a relaxing shower or bath, sit on your bum with your knees bent, legs spread and feet flat on the bed.

Use a hand mirror as you pull up gently on the skin at the top of your inner labia (just below your pubic mound) to reveal your sensitive clitoral head. It is usually round and a bit shiny and protrudes from beneath the hood. Every woman’s body is different, so yours may poke out conspicuously or only extend slightly from beneath its hood. Either way, know that you’re beautiful!


True Stories About Finding the Clit


From the book of Kimberly (Age 55)

“I didn’t know what it was called until I hit 28! And I never actually looked at it until a few years later. I knew that it felt good to wrap my legs around the ceiling ropes in high school gym class, but I didn’t know why it felt so nice.” 

From the book of Tammy (Age 24)

“My hunt for the clitoris was purposeful. I was always taught to keep my hands away from down there and honestly, touching it really grossed me out. I think this relates to my general body image issues and it took months to get used to just looking at it. When I finally saw the little “ball” (head) of my clit, I was relieved. I always knew it was there, because I had rubbed it with my dildo plenty of times, but seeing it was kind of reaffirming. There is something about knowing and understanding your own body that puts you at ease.”

From the book of Zara (Age 23)

“I discovered mine when I crashed my bike into a stop sign. The seat and bar hit my pubic bone and the seat rubbed against my clit. It hurt but felt good at the same time!”


Dr. Jess Says...


Women often complain that their lovers treat the clitoris like an elevator button. Press and release. Press and release.

Now that you are familiar with the anatomy of the entire clitoral complex, you likely understand why this approach might be less than thrilling. Poking against the glans of the clitoris is comparable to pressing on the head of the penis: it’s not the worst move ever, since someone is touching your dick, but those hands could certainly be put to better use.


FAQ: If my wife has a small clitoris, can she still have orgasms?


Absolutely. There is no evidence that suggests that the size of our sexual organs impacts our experience of pleasure. And since you cannot see most of her clitoris, as most of its parts are buried beneath her skin, she may actually have a larger clitoris than you think. Moreover, if you notice that the glans of her clitoris retracts beneath her hood making it appear smaller, this may be attributable to high levels of arousal.




Enjoy learning all about the clitoris and remember to always practice safer sex! Excerpt from The New Sex Bible by Dr. Jessica O'Reilly, 2014 Source: The Truth About the Clit, 2015 Image source: Sex Yourself by Carlyle Jansen, 2015

Dr. Jess

"An award-winning speaker, Jess has worked with thousands of couples from all corners of the globe to transform their relationships via her wildly successful Marriage As A Business program. From Prague and Istanbul to Albuquerque and New York City, her relationship retreats receive rave reviews from some of the most powerful couples in the world who are drawn to her enthusiastic, practical and no-nonsense approach to happily ever after. Jess's doctoral research focused on sexual health and relationship education and she is passionate about accessible, classroom-based education. When she isn't globetrotting for speaking engagements, she volunteers with students, teachers and social service organizations to empower young people to embrace healthy, happy relationships. As a global ambassador for several brands, Jess contributes regularly to the biggest names in international media. You'll find her advice weekly in the likes of Women's Health, Men's Fitness, Cosmopolitan, SELF, Showtime and The Movie Network. Her insights into couple' issues reaches millions of homes across America as the host of the hit reality series Swing, which just capped its fifth season on PlayboyTV. Canadian-born and Chinese-Jamaican and Irish by descent, Dr. Jess loves ultimate frisbee, crab, airplane turbulence, cheese and red wine. Makes perfect sense, right?"
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