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The Beginner's Guide to the Clitoris by Victoria Fleming

Oh, the Clitoris, where to start with this controversial, misunderstood, and frequently disregarded organ. With the help of Caitlin K Roberts, a sex educator and somatic educator based in Toronto, Shelly, the Pleasure Diva, a sex and relationship expert, and my trusty and reliable sidekick, the internet, here’s everything you need to know about the clitoris.

Let’s get started with the basics – what is the clit, where can you find it, and why is it important?

First, what is it?

For people with vaginas, the clitoris is an organ located in the genitals.

And it’s located where?

Located “at the top of the Vaginal area, [the clitoris] is safely tucked under the lips of the Vulva and enclosed by the clitoral hood,” says Shelly, the Pleasure Diva.

However, there’s more to the clitoris than meets the eye, and I don’t just mean this figuratively. Unbeknownst to me (and maybe you!), that description only leads us to the location of the external part of the clitoris. There’s an internal part too. “The internal portion is shaped like a wishbone. It goes down the outer labia with two legs coming down. Both legs have a clitoral bulb attached to them that wraps behind the legs. When aroused, the bulbs become engorged - just like when a penis becomes erect when turned on, the clitoris acts the same,” Caitlin tells us.

Ok, so why is this internal/external organ so important?

What makes the clit unique is that it’s primary function in our body is for sexual pleasure. Yes, you read that correctly. There isn’t another part of our bodies like this.

With around 8,000 nerve endings –double the amount a penis has – the clit can be a very sensitive spot for a woman. “8,000 nerve endings in one place is a lot – sometimes it can be painful if you give direct touch there,” says Caitlin.Yet, “most women need direct clitoral stimulation in order to achieve orgasm,” says Shelly. And she’s right, approximately 70% of women need some sort of clitoral stimulation in order to reach climax. 

For those who find direct touch too sensitive or stimulating, there are other ways to trigger clitoral sensation. “Because it exists on the inside as well, internal stimulation inside the vagina can stimulate portions of the clitoris’s structure. So if you don’t like external touch, there are a lot of things inside that can stimulate the clitoris in the same way,” says Caitlin.As both an internal and external source of pleasure, it’s easy to see why the clitoris is so important for female sexual pleasure.

But, the important question is, how can you give either yourself or your partner clitoral pleasure?

Well, it’s all about touch – what type of motion you’re using, what speed you’re moving at, how much pressure you’re using – and, most importantly, what you or your partner enjoys. “Every single person likes to be touched differently. Exploring this touch on yourself as well as other partners is important. The way I touch myself may not be the same way as a partner touches me,” says Caitlin. “The type of touch needed for the clitoris can be hard to find especially if you don’t know where it is on yourself, which can make it difficult for you to tell your partner or even for yourself when you’re masturbating. Knowing where you feel pleasure on your body can help you show your partner where you like to be touched.”

“One of the most common mistakes when engaging the clitoris is applying "heavy pressure," when you’re stimulating it. Slow down honey! This can have an adverse effect and cause over-stimulation and desensitization if you do this before the clitoris has had the opportunity to engorge,” Shelly cautions.

There are three essential takeaways here: first, you have to figure out what you like so exploring your body on your own is imperative; second, it’s important to create a supportive space with your romantic partner(s) where you both feel comfortable communicating what you like and dislike; third, experiment! On yourself and your partner!

Since we now know clitoral pleasure varies from person-to-person, here is a quick list of ways you can engage or touch the clitoris to help jumpstart your experimentation. With your index and middle finger held together, try the following and move your fingers:

  • Up and down
  • Side to side
  • In Circular motions
  • Tap your Clitoris
  • Vibrations (you’ll need a toy for this one)
  • Slapping
  • Apply deep pressure and hold it
  • Give your vulva a massage – try different types of pressure to find out what works best!
  • And finally, since the clitoris goes down the side of the labia, try touching the inside and outside of your labia

And if you’re wondering how you can start including your clitoris while engaging in penetrative sex, here are a few options.

First, depending on the position, ask your partner to place his/her two fingers together and try one of the above strokes or, if you can, try doing it yourself!

Second, there are a ton of toys you can use, and some of them are even hands free (technology can really be a wonderful thing sometimes). I asked Kate Sloan, a sex toy connoisseur and operator of Girly Juice, for a couple recommendations. She suggested the following:

If these toys don’t tickle your fancy, look for small and lightweight toys, they work best for clitoral stimulation.

Now that you know the what, where, why, and how about the clitoris… it’s time for you to experiment!