Home / SEX & RELATIONSHIPS / Sensual Wellbeing / Clit Literate: Learning the Truth Behind an Anatomical Wonder

Clit Literate: Learning the Truth Behind an Anatomical Wonder

Fun fact: the word clitoris takes its name from the Ancient Greek for ‘key.’ That’s pleasingly fitting on a number of levels – not least because for most women, the not-so-humble clit unlocks a world of pleasure! But what about the biology behind the love button? For a very sexy science class, read on…

Cliteracy: A brief history

Our understanding of the clitoris’ centrality to female sexuality has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years. Although recognized as anatomically similar to the male penis as long ago as Ancient Greece, for much of history women’s pleasure took a backseat to more ‘important’ things like baby-making and so on. But the clit, as we’ll discover, has zero role in fertility, and is made solely for enjoyment.

In fact, it’s only relatively recently that the clitoris has become more thoroughly understood. Incredibly, its full anatomy was only properly investigated in 1998 by groundbreaking Australian urologist (and surely a hero among women), Helen O’Connell. A decade later, French researchers published the first complete 3D sonography showing the clitoris’ physical function and make up.

Since then, discussions surrounding this most magical of buds have gone pleasingly mainstream. With that in mind, get cliterate with these eight naked truths…

1.What lies beneath…

The clitoris is a lot like an iceberg, in so much that most of it lies hidden inside the body with only the glans and hood visible on the outside. That external part represents roughly just one quarter of its total size which could be anywhere between 3.5 to 5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide.

2.Parallels with penises

In terms of physical makeup, the clitoris and penis actually have a lot in common. That’s because in utero, they start off as one in the same. The anatomy only develops into one or t’other later in pregnancy, thought to be anywhere between nine and 12 weeks. Even then, they have more in common than meets the eye. For example, both have a foreskin (the clit’s hood, that is), erectile tissue and a shaft (albeit a small one in clits).

3.Lady boners

Clitorises and penises don’t just share physical and structural similarities; they also behave in a similar way. During arousal, blood rushes to the clitoris’ spongy tissue, kind of like a female hard on. But while a guy loses his erection almost immediately on ejaculating, the clitoris takes a while to recover its composure…

4.Pleasure is its sole raison d’être

The clitoris contains a whopping 8,000 super-sensitive nerve endings, which is double the number found in the glans of a penis. More impressive still, its sole purpose is pleasure. In other words, clits just wanna have fun!- and thankfully, we have a wealth of massagers made expressly for doing exactly that

5.The magic bean that just keeps growing

Girls may generally stop growing around the end of puberty… but her clitoris has other ideas! Although its size has absolutely zero impact on pleasure potential, it actually grows as the woman gets older. Case in point: by the time a woman reaches the age of 32, her clit will be almost four times the size it was at puberty. What’s more, post-menopause it will be an impressive seven times bigger than at birth. Amazing!

6.The key to an orgasm

Here’s the thing: very few women are able to climax through vaginal intercourse alone. Instead, for a majority of women – an estimated 50 – 70 percent – clitoral stimulation is essential for orgasm. That could come courtesy of fingers, tongues, or perhaps a more than fit-for-purpose vibe like Siri 2, Lily 2, or for the last word in petite discretion, Mia 2.

7.It just keeps coming… 


From vaginal to G-spot, you’ve probably heard about – and hopefully enjoyed! – the various kinds of orgasm a woman might experience. But a clitoral number takes things to new heights of pleasure, by clocking in anywhere between three and 16 muscular contractions in the vagina, uterus and thereabouts. What’s more, a clitoral climax can last from between 10 to 30 satisfying seconds.

8.What’s in a name?

Fittingly for such a stupendous sex organ, the clitoris goes by a veritable register of names. ‘Bean,’ ’rosebud’ and ‘love button’ are all pretty self-explanatory, as is its shortened form, ‘clit.’ We rather like ‘hooded lady’ for its aura of mystique, and visually minded folk might lean toward ‘man in a canoe.’ We’re always looking to expand our pleasure lexicon – share your preferred nickname in the comments!

Final thoughts

Aimed solely at pleasure, the clitoris is totally unique when it comes to human anatomy. What’s more and as you’d expect, they differ from woman to woman in terms of everything from size and sensitivity, to just how she likes to touch it alone or with a partner. With that in mind, isn’t it time you got to know the clitoris in your life?

About Lea Marsden

Lea hails from Colorado, but has packed up her bags to travel around Europe and dispense sex advice and relationship wisdom from her laptop in any cafe she can find.

Check Also

Where Has Your Sex Drive Gone?

The sex gremlins. At one time, they’ve visited us all. Those little voices that pipe ...

One comment

  1. All mammals have clits. No kidding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.