By Heather Edwards, PT, CSC, Pelvic Guru LLC Course & Content Manager
The clitoris is an amazing structure! Often when we see pictures or look in the mirror, it might just look like a small bump. But in truth, that’s just a small portion of the clitoris.
As we develop from an embryo, we all start off with the same parts and then they change depending on our chromosomes. These parts turn into a penis or a clitoris (or in less frequent cases, an intersex variation). See the color coding on the image to see which parts started from the same embryonic tissue.
The penis and the clitoris continue to have similarities throughout the lifespan. Here you can see the similarity in the cross sections at the shaft, with nerves, arteries, and veins in each!
The clitoris is a complicated structure. It has its own nerves, veins, and arteries as well as erectile tissue that fills with arousal.
It’s innervated by the dorsal nerve to the clitoris (a branch of the pudendal nerve).
When the vulva is aroused, there are some changes to notice:
- The glans of the clitoris becomes more erect and more visible from under the clitoral hood.
- Increased blood-flow makes the tissue pinker in color.
- In addition to the lubrication produced at the Skene’s gland, the increased blood-flow also causes moisture to seep through the walls of the vagina creating wetness/lubrication.
- The clitoris does not create its own lubrication, which is important to note because adding lubrication (natural or store-bought) to the clitoris for stimulation can feel better and be less irritating to the tissue.
At rest, the internal structure of the clitoris and the vulva are not engorged. The head of the clitoris is generally more hidden beneath the hood.
With arousal, the vulva and the clitoris are engorged and the clitoris might be more prominent. The entire vulva may feel more full/swollen.
The clitoris is the primary source of orgasm for people who have them. The myth that penetration of a vagina without clitoral stimulation should be enough for orgasm is not true for the vast majority (at least 70% and some figures are much higher than that!). Learning about how your body can experience pleasure can be a huge source of joy on a personal level, and can create connection with your intimate partners.
Would you like to learn more about sexual pleasure and the clitoris from Heather Edwards and Pelvic Global?
Heather has a Trans-Inclusive, Trauma-Informed, Kink-Aware Care: Optimizing Sexual Health Course available for clinicians (co-instructed with Tuesday Feral).
She also has two courses that teach about sex toys, lube, and ways to play with them (co-instructed with Alex Papale).
Find their courses by clicking on the button below:
Like this content? Wish you had it in PDF form for a handout? That’s the sort of thing that our Global Pelvic Health Alliance members have access to! In addition to a library of handouts they can print or email as needed, they also have illustrations, webinars, a podcast, and an incredible group of experts to ask questions and discuss whenever needed. It’s pretty great. Learn more at gpham.pelvicglobal.com.