Everything you ever needed to know about the clitoris

The bean. Naamah's pearl. The bald man in the boat. Rosebud. Call it what you will, the clitoris reigns supreme. It’s an undeniable force to be reckoned with that is the underlying pulse of pleasure for everyone who’s got one – and it’s high time you learned a thing or two about it.

This sweet button packs a powerful zing that jolts its way from our temples to our toes – so much so, you’d think we would all be the skilled masters of clitoral pleasure by now. Unfortunately, despite all our best efforts to show lovers how vital it is, not everyone’s prowess is up to par. Some people downplay how important it is, while others don’t really know how to find it. It’s not just (entirely) our lovers’ faults. Anatomy books barely recognized it as an important part of the body until very recently, and even now, there are more questions than answers circulating around online about how exactly this sweet spot works.

The misinformation is so widely spread that many people are unfamiliar with how to titillate even their own clit. Likewise, partners find themselves in the dark about whether they’re touching their lover the right way at all. With straight sex overly focused on a man’s orgasm, many guys don't even know whether they’ve made their partner cum, and potentially barely even tried to get them there.

Thankfully, the times are a’changin’. And instead of getting embarrassed, closing the tab, and giving up on learning how to touch that gem, don’t worry. I’m not here to shame anyone who isn’t (yet) well versed in clitoral pleasure. We all have to start somewhere – and reading an article about the magic of the clit is a great place to begin. I’m here not to make you feel bad about your clit history (clitstory?) but to shine a little light on the clit and clue you in, from top to bottom, on why the clitoris deserves a little extra love tonight and every night.

For starters, it helps to know what the clitoris is.

Although our understanding of the clitoris has long been skewed, its power has always been hinted at. Some linguists think that “clitoris” originates from the root of a Greek word meaning “key.” Personally, I’d believe it, since the clit arguably holds the key to all pleasure. Some also think the word comes from the Greek verb kleiein, meaning to “shut” or “close.” Regardless of which one is true, we can all agree that these are good key words to abide by when you talk about the clit – because if you don’t lavish it with attention in the sack, you can expect your partner to shut the door on any future chances with them. 

We’ve long loved the clitoris as a culture, with the first European hint of it coming from a scientist who dubbed it "the love of Venus” and believed stimulating it to pleasure a woman was essential to reproduction.

Although I appreciate how pushy this man was about partners giving some clitoral love, we now know the truth – and it’s even better than we thought. The clitoris has nothing to do with making babies. Instead, this powerful organ has one purpose, and one purpose alone: providing pleasure.

Unlike cisgender men, people with vaginas have a superpower that other folks don’t have: we have an organ designed exclusively to get us off. While a penis is a multitasker, providing pleasure, making babies, and peeing, the clitoris’s only function is to feel real dang good. Most of us love and crave that touch. If you have a clitoris, you know it’s the seat of sensory receptors and pleasure. 

Unfortunately, this power center is still written off as an afterthought, a tacked-on part of our anatomy, or some strange organ whose main purpose is promoting attachment.

What does it look like?

I keep saying “organ,” and I know what you’re thinking: isn’t it just a little nub down there? Until recently, many people believed that was the case. Now, we’re just starting to learn how wrong we were. The clitoris is actually a complex organ – and it’s a heck of a lot bigger than you probably think.

The average clitoris is up to four inches long. You know, the average size of another common sex organ when it’s not erect. Unlike a penis though, three-fourths of the clitoris is internal.

Picture the part of the clit you can see when you’re down there. That nub is actually just the tip of the whole complex structure. That visible bit is just called the glans. The whole organ’s shape is often compared to a wishbone, but if you ask me, I think it’s shaped a bit more like the Mind Flayer from Stranger Things, or a dragonfly.

Potato, potahto. Regardless of what you think it looks like, the part of the clitori we’re all the most familiar with turns out to be only the beginning – and there’s a lot of pleasure left largely unexplored. The whole clitoral structure rests along the vulva, making the entire area more sensitive when touched right. Try exploring yours or your lover’s body with a massage around the labia majora, to discover the most sensitive places that set their nerves ablaze. 

Let’s run with the idea of the clit being as strong as The Mind Flayer – but let’s flip the script. Your power to save the world  (or at least your sex life) depends on your ability to master the organ you didn’t know you had. 

Okay, but where is it?

If you’re reading this and panicking that you have no idea how to find a clitoris, you’re in luck. I love clitoral pleasure so much that it’s my joy to share with you how to find it. You may have never realized it was the seat of all pleasure for your partners, or you may not even know where to find yours yet. Whatever it is, the time has come for you to know where this little pearl is.

To find your own clitoris, start with your fingers at the vaginal opening, and move your fingers up, slowly. You should find a small nub, about the size of a pea, near the top of all your pink goodness. Touch it. It should feel more sensitive than the rest. It might help to have a mirror.

Looking for your partner’s? You can always ask to see how they pleasure themselves – it’s a super sexy way to see what gets them going best. However, to find it yourself, start at the opening, and move your way upward. You should see a little protrusion. It might be hooded, or it might be exposed. If it’s hooded, look for the point where the folds meet. There should be a little pea-sized button there. If it’s not hooded, just find the point that’s about the size of a sequin or shirt button.

To go by feel, run your finger from the opening of the vagina and run up until you find a bump that is in the top center. When aroused, you or your partner’s clitoris may even enlarge and be a bit easier to find.

How important is it, really?

I can’t stress the power of the clit enough. If you don’t have one, then picture the idea of having sex without anyone touching your penis, and you’ll get the gist of how it feels to have your clitoris ignored. Think I’m exaggerating? 

How about this fact: only one in four people with vaginas can cum through penetration alone. That means three out of four of your partners need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. Are there lightbulbs exploding above your head? Good.

If you’re still not convinced, think about your penis again. It feels exquisite when it’s touched, mind-bogglingly so. That’s because your member has four thousand nerve endings all standing on end, begging to be teased. Surely, a clitoris can’t stack up to that sensation, right?

That tiny little bead to run your fingers over actually boasts a whopping eight thousand nerve endings, all on that one tiny head, making it twice as mind-blowing as anything you’ve encountered sexually. And that’s not considering the fact that the organ actually encircles the whole vulva, meaning giving some extra love to the whole body can deepen those already explosive orgasms.

Whether you’ve been ignoring your own clitoris or your partners’, you should be feeling like it’s a whole new world out there.

Wait, if it’s so big and so important, why doesn’t anyone know about it?

If you’ve clicked any of the links above, or this one from Wikipedia, you’ll see a lot of hypothetical answers. The words “maybe,” “might,” and “could” pop up more often than you’d expect on medical texts. The truth about our ignorance is ugly. The sexual capacity of women and people assigned female at birth didn’t fit nicely into the sexist narrative that women have no sex drives and were vessels for carrying babies alone. 

The potential of our sexuality horrified people in power when they realized that a penis was basically inessential for orgasms. Because of that, the myth of pleasure only coming from penetration is still going strong. I know I’m not the only person with a friend who’s never orgasmed during penetrative sex with a partner.

Our powerful orgasms weren’t historically seen as a boon. In the 1800s, it was seen as dangerous. Women’s pleasure was so frowned upon that a clitoridectomy (exactly what you think it is) was considered the “solution” to women being too emotional or having sex drives.

Further back in history, men weren’t any kinder to the clitoris. In 1486, the Malleus Maleficarum was a book that supposedly helped people root out witches to burn. Their recommendation? To look for a clitoris. Called “the devil’s teat,” this body part was supposedly a sure sign of witchcraft. Negativity around women’s sexuality has persisted over the centuries, and as the dominating cultures of the world continued to bury its importance, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the clitoris was all but erased from popular culture.

In recent years, things have begun to change. An anatomically correct model of the clitoris was finally available to the public in 1981. 

We’ve been collectively duped. When both partners are more satisfied in the sack, everyone wins. Instead of believing the idea that men only want physical connections and women only want emotional ones – and hey, instead of believing that there are only two genders in the first place – let’s expand our ways of thinking. 

As we all reclaim the power of our bodies, we’ll find pleasure in new things – from selling panties to choosing partners who give our clit the love it deserves.

OK, but what about the G-Spot?

I’m about to blow your mind a little more here. As people study the anatomy of pleasure more, scientists are realizing something wild: the G-Spot may actually be part of the clitoris. Some people have taken that to mean the G-Spot “isn’t real,” but anyone who’s had an orgasm there will tell you you’re completely wrong.

Instead, think of this knowledge as a little icing on the cookie. The G-Spot is another way of accessing clitoral pleasure. Don’t just use that though. The sensation is completely different, and it’s much harder for some people to orgasm that way. 

So give both the G-Spot and the clit attention, and listen to yourself and your partner about what works best. Don’t be afraid to ask – the more you know about pleasing your partner, the happier they’ll be in bed.

Explore the clitoris solo

Is your interest piqued? It should be. If you’re sitting here wondering how you’ve never known all this about your own body, don’t worry. The clitoris isn’t exactly something teachers tell you about in sex ed. 

Take sex ed into your own hands (literally) and explore what kinds of playtime work best for you. You may just have a week of exploration, to find the right things that get you going externally, no penetration required.

Use your fingers

Fingers are a beautiful thing. It may be tempting to just head on down and start rubbing as hard as you can, but start slow and build pressure for max pleasure. Find the clitoris with your fingers, then either rub up and down or back and forth. You may enjoy it going over your clitoral hood, or you may want to pull it back a little to expose more of the clit.

Don’t stop with a basic rub, though. Use morse code. Those little taps can spell out “I love you” to your bod, each and every time. Start slow, then speed up until the pressure builds and you burst. 

But you don’t have to rub one out as fast as possible just because you’re flying solo. Honor your time, and move in slow circles around your clit. Tease yourself, working inward, and take the time to explore your labia in the process. Remember – your whole clitoral organ is inside, so massage and explore the places that feel shiveringly good.

Sometimes, direct stimulation isn’t what you’re looking for. Instead, try placing your two peace sign fingers along each side of the clitoral hood, and stroke it up and down. Alternatively, using that same position, move your fingers back and forth.

Grind it out

Often, we think masturbation has to look a certain way – and often, we’re too worried about it looking good as we do it. Loosen up and play like nobody’s watching, and try grinding. You can stay fully clothed (sometimes that friction really helps). Grind on anything – a pillow, your duvet, or even something hard like your jar of coconut oil, and see if that takes you to the big O.

Tag in some help

Going solo doesn’t mean you have to play only with your hands. Whip out the vibrator, and instead of focusing on penetration, try different vibrations and intensities over the clit. Don’t have a vibrator? Try anything else you have that buzzes and beeps. A shower head is a classic choice, and you may have just as much fun with an electric toothbrush as you would with a $200 luxury vibe.

Playing partnered – here’s how

Once, I kicked a man named Gary out of my bed mid-boink because he was so inattentive in bed. No foreplay, no attempt to touch the clit – just hands above his head, like he was taking a nap in a field on a nice day. 

Friends, don’t be Gary. Focus on the clitoris. Treat it like a genie’s lamp that’ll grant you three wishes if you rub it the right way.

Focus on oral

This is mostly a piece of advice for my straight guy readers out there: if you’re not prepared to give oral, don’t expect to receive it. End of story. 

When you know what you’re doing, eating someone out is a blast and deeply rewarding. I wish there were blanket statements I could give you about how to make someone orgasm from oral, but everybody’s clit is a little different. Some are sensitive, and some can take a real lashing. For the first time with someone new, you’ll need to start slow, ask questions about pressure, and be down to experiment. Listen to your partner’s body, and tune into their cues. What makes them gasp, writhe, or moan? When you find that, keep going.. 

Don’t be afraid to watch videos on how to up your game. One of my favorites is this one of a lesbian giving tips to a straight dude on how to eat someone out – and she hits the nail on the head time and again. Explore your partner’s body. Try switching between an up-and-down motion with your tongue, side-to-side, and circles. When one works, stick to it – the more consistent sensation you provide, the easier it’ll be for your partner to see stars. 

You may also want to try sucking gently on it as well, especially partnered with digital stimulation. Harder isn’t necessarily better – those nerve endings can get overstimulated – so when you suck, start lightly. 

If you’re nervous about being too rough, make sure it isn’t dry down there. You don’t want to cause so much friction that it goes from “wow” to “ow.” If you can, lube it up, or use their natural wetness to help you keep going.

Not sure if you’re doing it right? Speak up with confidence. Asking how someone likes it is bold, and opens the door to a new kind of dirty talk. Your partner will be thrilled that you’re lavishing attention on their body. 

Don’t worry if you’re not a pro yet. Anyone will tell you that OK oral is better than no oral, and the more you practice, the more quickly you’ll master this essential sexy art.

Don’t stop at the foreplay

One common mistake people make when having sex with a partner who has a clitoris is that they think their job is done once foreplay is over. That, my friends, is far from reality. The best positions for penetrative sex actually involve a free hand for one of you to stimulate the clit with, or at least give some grinding action.

Keep in mind that grinding and friction don’t quite cut it for all people (that’s why some queer folks – myself included – have never fully gotten into scissoring). It could be because of clitoral position or being hooded, but some people need more direct contact to awaken peak pleasure.

To have your partner coming back for more, make sure you have one hand free for their clit. If you need it, put a few drops of lube on your fingers to keep things nice and slippery. When your partner orgasms, you’ll know it, and feeling those muscles contract all around you will bring new heights of pleasure all their own.

Some of the best positions that give you both space to keep going at the clitoris during penetration are seated positions, facing each other.  

Any variation of doggy style (like one of my faves, the leap frog) also gives one or both of you free hands to play with. The doggy angle also helps stimulate your G Spot, giving you and your partner double the fun.

Pleasure’s in your hands – what’s your move?

It’s very literally in your hands to give pleasure like you never have before. Ask anyone with a clitoris who has had the gift of an orgasm and they’ll tell you this body part deserves center stage. 

When you devote yourself to exploring the depths of clitoral pleasure, you’ll change your sex game for good. We may not actually be witches for having them, but this little center of joy does work a little magic. So let its power unfold – and reap the rewards in your bedroom over and over again.

You can thank me later.