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The clitoris ( or ) is a female
sex organ A sex organ (or reproductive organ) is any part of an animal or plant that is involved in sexual reproduction. The reproductive organs together constitute the reproductive system. In animals, the testis in the male, and the ovary in the female, a ...
present in
mammal Mammals (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
s,
ostrich ''Struthio'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circums ...

ostrich
es and a limited number of
other animals Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' (Tryon novel), a 1971 horror novel by Tom Tryon * The Other (short story ...
. In humans, the visible portion – the glans – is at the front junction of the
labia minora The labia minora (Latin for ''smaller lips,'' singular: ''labium minus'' "smaller lip"), also known as the inner labia, inner lips, vaginal lips or nymphae, are two flaps of skin on either side of the human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are th ...

labia minora
(inner lips), above the opening of the
urethra The urethra (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...

urethra
. Unlike the
penis A penis (plural ''penises'' or ''penes'' () is the primary sexual organ that male animals use to inseminate females (or hermaphrodites) during Copulation (zoology), copulation. Such organs occur in many animals, both #Vertebrates, vertebrate ...

penis
, the male homologue (equivalent) to the clitoris, it usually does not contain the
distal Standard anatomical terms of location deal unambiguously with the anatomy of animals, including humans. Terms used generally derive from Latin or Greek language, Greek roots and used to describe something in its standard anatomical position. This ...
portion (or opening) of the urethra and is therefore not used for urination. In most species, the clitoris lacks any
reproductive Reproduction (or procreation or breeding) is the biological process by which new individual organisms – "offspring" – are produced from their "parent" or parents. Reproduction is a fundamental feature of all known life; each individual orga ...
function. While few animals urinate through the clitoris or use it reproductively, the
spotted hyena The spotted hyena (''Crocuta crocuta''), also known as the laughing hyena, is a hyena Hyenas, or hyaenas (from Ancient Greek , ), are feliformia, feliform carnivoran mammals of the family Hyaenidae . With only four extant species (each in t ...

spotted hyena
, which has an especially large clitoris, urinates, mates, and gives birth via the organ. Some other mammals, such as
lemur Lemurs ( ) (from Latin ''lemures'' – ghosts or spirits) are wet-nosed primates of the superfamily SUPERFAMILY is a database and search platform of structural and functional annotation for all proteins and genomes. It classifies amino acid s ...

lemur
s and
spider monkey Spider monkeys are New World monkey New World monkeys are the five families of primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutheria Eutheria (; from Greek , 'good, right' and , 'beast'; ) is the clade A cl ...
s, also have a large clitoris. The clitoris is the human female's most sensitive
erogenous zone#REDIRECT Erogenous zone An erogenous zone (from Greek , ''érōs'' "love"; and English ''-genous'' "producing", from Greek , ''-genḗs'' "born") is an area of the human body The human body is the structure of a human being. It is composed of ...
and generally the primary
anatomical Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, mo ...
source of human female sexual pleasure. In humans and other mammals, it develops from an outgrowth in the
embryo An embryo is the early stage of development of a multicellular organism A multicellular organism is an organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms ar ...

embryo
called the
genital tubercle A genital tubercle or phallic tubercle is a body of tissue present in the development of the reproductive system. It forms in the ventral, caudal region of mammalian embryos of both sexes, and eventually develops into a primordial phallus. In the ...
. Initially undifferentiated, the tubercle develops into either a penis or a clitoris during the
development of the reproductive system The development of the reproductive system is a part of prenatal development, and concerns the sex organs A sex organ (or reproductive organ) is any part of an animal or plant that is involved in sexual reproduction Sexual reproduction is a t ...
depending on exposure to
androgen An androgen (from Greek ''andr-'', the stem of the word meaning "man") is any natural or synthetic steroid hormone A steroid hormone is a steroid , hypothetical a steroid with 32 carbon atoms. Its core ring system (ABCD), composed of 17 c ...
s (which are primarily male hormones). The clitoris is a complex structure, and its size and sensitivity can vary. The glans (head) of the human clitoris is roughly the size and shape of a pea and is estimated to have about 8,000 sensory
nerve endings A nerve is an enclosed, cable-like bundle of nerve fibers called axon An axon (from Greek ἄξων ''áxōn'', axis), or nerve fiber (or nerve fibre: see American and British English spelling differences#-re, -er, spelling differences), is a ...

nerve endings
. Sexological, medical, and psychological debate have focused on the clitoris, and it has been subject to
social constructionist Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge in sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social scien ...
analyses and studies. Such discussions range from anatomical accuracy,
gender inequality Gender inequality is the social process by which men and women are not treated as equals. The treatment may arise from distinctions regarding biology, psychology, or cultural norms. Some of these distinctions are empirically-grounded while othe ...

gender inequality
,
female genital mutilation Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the . The practice is found in some countries of Afric ...
, and
orgasm Orgasm (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxim ...

orgasm
ic factors and their physiological explanation for the
G-spot The G-spot, also called the Gräfenberg spot (for German gynecologist Ernst Gräfenberg), is characterized as an Erogenous zone, erogenous area of the vagina that, when stimulated, may lead to strong sexual arousal, powerful orgasms and potenti ...
. Although, in humans, the only known purpose of the clitoris is to provide sexual pleasure, whether the clitoris is
vestigial Vestigiality is the retention, during the process of evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their off ...
, an
adaptation In , adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits s to their environment, enhancing their . Secondly, it is a state reached by the population during that process. Thirdly, it is a or adapti ...

adaptation
, or serves a reproductive function has been debated. Social perceptions of the clitoris include the significance of its role in female sexual pleasure, assumptions about its true size and depth, and varying beliefs regarding genital modification such as
clitoris enlargementClitoral enlargement methods are forms of body modification that have the potential to enhance the size of the clitoris and increase sexual pleasure. Clitoral enlargement can be accomplished through a variety of means, each potentially having certain ...
, clitoris piercing and
clitoridectomy Clitoridectomy or clitorectomy is the surgical Surgery ''cheirourgikē'' (composed of χείρ, "hand", and ἔργον, "work"), via la, chirurgiae, meaning "hand work". is a medical or dental specialty that uses operative manual and instrumen ...
. Genital modification may be for
aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of m ...

aesthetic
, medical or cultural reasons. Knowledge of the clitoris is significantly impacted by cultural perceptions of the organ. Studies suggest that knowledge of its existence and anatomy is scant in comparison with that of other sexual organs and that more education about it could help alleviate
social stigma Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People ma ...
s associated with the female body and female sexual pleasure, for example, that the clitoris and
vulva The vulva (plural: vulvas or vulvae; derived from Latin for wrapper or covering) consists of the external female sex organs. The vulva includes the mons pubis In human anatomy The human body is the structure of a human being. It is com ...

vulva
in general are visually unappealing, that female
masturbation Masturbation ( ) is the sexual stimulation Sexual stimulation is any stimulus (including bodily contact) that leads to, enhances and maintains sexual arousal, and may lead to orgasm Orgasm (from Ancient Greek, Greek ὀργασμός ' ...

masturbation
is
taboo A taboo is an implicit prohibition on something (usually against an utterance or behavior) based on a cultural sense that it is excessively repulsive or, perhaps, too sacred for ordinary people.''Encyclopædia Britannica Online''.Taboo. Encyclop ...

taboo
, or that men should be expected to master and control women's orgasms.


Etymology

The ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not only with the latterday meanings of words but also the historica ...
'' states that the word ''clitoris'' likely has its origin in the
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
, , perhaps derived from the verb , , "to shut". ''Clitoris'' is also Greek for the word ''key'', "indicating that the ancient anatomists considered it the key" to female sexuality. In addition to ''key,'' the ''
Online Etymology Dictionary The ''Online Etymology Dictionary'' is a free online dictionary In computer technology and , online indicates a state of connectivity and offline indicates a disconnected state. In modern terminology, this usually refers to an , but (especia ...
'' suggests other Greek candidates for the word's etymology include a noun meaning "latch" or "hook"; a verb meaning "to touch or titillate lasciviously", "to tickle" (one German synonym for the clitoris is ''der Kitzler'', "the tickler"), although this verb is more likely derived from "clitoris"; and a word meaning "side of a hill", from the same root as "climax". The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' also states that the shortened form "clit", the first occurrence of which was noted in the United States, has been used in print since 1958: until then, the common abbreviation was "clitty". The plural forms are ''clitorises'' in English and ''clitorides'' in Latin. The Latin
genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
is ''clitoridis'', as in "
glans clitoridis The glans (, plural "glandes" ; from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Thro ...
". In medical and sexological literature, the clitoris is sometimes referred to as "the female penis" or
pseudo-penisA pseudo-penis is any structure found on an animal that, while superficially appearing to be a penis, is derived from a different developmental path. Mammals In mammals, all intact developmentally typical males have a penis, but the clitoris in ...
, and the term ''clitoris'' is commonly used to refer to the glans alone; partially because of this, there have been various terms for the organ that have historically confused its anatomy.


Structure


Development

In mammals,
sexual differentiation Sexual differentiation is the process of development of the sex Sex is either of two divisions, typically male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete ...
is determined by the
sperm Sperm is the male reproductive Cell (biology), cell, or gamete, in anisogamous forms of sexual reproduction (forms in which there is a larger, female reproductive cell and a smaller, male one). Animals produce motile sperm with a tail known as ...

sperm
that carries either an or a Y (male) chromosome. The Y chromosome contains a sex-determining gene (
SRY Testis-determining factor (TDF), also known as sex-determining region Y (SRY) protein, is a DNA-binding protein protein complex with DNA s (blue). These proteins' basic amino acids bind to the acidic phosphate groups on DNA. repressor heli ...
) that encodes a
transcription factor In molecular biology Molecular biology is the branch of biology that seeks to understand the molecule, molecular basis of biological activity in and between Cell (biology), cells, including biomolecule, molecular synthesis, modification, m ...
for the protein TDF (testis determining factor) and triggers the creation of
testosterone Testosterone is the primary sex hormone and anabolic steroid in males. In humans, testosterone plays a key role in the development of Male reproductive system, male reproductive tissues such as testes and prostate, as well as promoting secondar ...
and
anti-Müllerian hormone Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), also known as Müllerian-inhibiting hormone (MIH), is a glycoprotein hormone structurally related to Activin and inhibin, inhibin and activin from the transforming growth factor beta superfamily, whose key roles are ...
for the
embryo An embryo is the early stage of development of a multicellular organism A multicellular organism is an organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms ar ...

embryo
's development into a male. This differentiation begins about eight or nine weeks after conception. Some sources state that it continues until the twelfth week, while others state that it is clearly evident by the thirteenth week and that the sex organs are fully developed by the sixteenth week. The clitoris develops from a
phallic File:The Hindu God Shiva LACMA M.69.15.1 (2 of 3).jpg, Ithyphallic Shiva, 3rd century AD A phallus is a penis (especially when Erection, erect), an object that resembles a penis, or a mimesis, mimetic image of an erect penis. In art history a ...
outgrowth in the embryo called the
genital tubercle A genital tubercle or phallic tubercle is a body of tissue present in the development of the reproductive system. It forms in the ventral, caudal region of mammalian embryos of both sexes, and eventually develops into a primordial phallus. In the ...
. Initially undifferentiated, the tubercle develops into either a clitoris or penis during the
development of the reproductive system The development of the reproductive system is a part of prenatal development, and concerns the sex organs A sex organ (or reproductive organ) is any part of an animal or plant that is involved in sexual reproduction Sexual reproduction is a t ...
depending on exposure to
androgen An androgen (from Greek ''andr-'', the stem of the word meaning "man") is any natural or synthetic steroid hormone A steroid hormone is a steroid , hypothetical a steroid with 32 carbon atoms. Its core ring system (ABCD), composed of 17 c ...
s (which are primarily male hormones). The clitoris forms from the same tissues that become the glans and shaft of the penis, and this shared embryonic origin makes these two organs homologous (different versions of the same structure). If exposed to testosterone, the genital tubercle elongates to form the penis. By fusion of the urogenital folds – elongated spindle-shaped structures that contribute to the formation of the urethral groove on the of the genital tubercle – the
urogenital sinus The urogenital sinus is a part of the human body only present in the development of the urinary and reproductive organs. It is the ventral part of the cloaca, formed after the cloaca (embryology), cloaca separates from the anal canal during the f ...
closes completely and forms the
spongy urethra The spongy urethra (cavernous portion of urethra, penile urethra) is the longest part of the male urethra, and is contained in the corpus spongiosum The corpus spongiosum is the mass of spongy tissue Tissue may refer to: Biology * Tissue (bio ...
, and the labioscrotal swellings unite to form the
scrotum The scrotum or scrotal sac is an Anatomy, anatomical male reproductive structure located at the base of the penis that consists of a suspended dual-chambered sac of skin and smooth muscle. It is present in most terrestrial male mammals. The scr ...

scrotum
. In the absence of testosterone, the genital tubercle allows for formation of the clitoris; the initially rapid growth of the phallus gradually slows and the clitoris is formed. The urogenital sinus persists as of the
vagina In mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in Female#Mammalian female, femal ...

vagina
, the two urogenital folds form the labia minora, and the labioscrotal swellings enlarge to form the labia majora, completing the female genitalia. A rare condition that can develop from higher than average androgen exposure is
clitoromegaly Clitoromegaly (or macroclitoris) is an abnormal enlargement of the clitoris that is mostly congenital anomaly of the genitalia, congenital or acquired, though Clitoral enlargement methods, deliberately induced clitoris enlargement as a form of fema ...

clitoromegaly
.


Gross anatomy and histology


General

The clitoris contains external and internal components. It consists of the
glans The glans (, plural "glandes" ; from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Thro ...
, the body (which is composed of two
erectileErectile tissue is tissue in the body with numerous vascular spaces, or cavernous tissue, that may become engorged with blood. However, tissue that is devoid of or otherwise lacking erectile tissue (such as the labia minora, the vestibule/vagina and ...
structures known as the corpora cavernosa), and two crura ("legs"). It has a
hood Hood may refer to: Covering Apparel * Hood (headgear) An infant wearing a hood. A hood is a kind of headgear that covers most of the human head, head and neck, and sometimes the face. Hoods that cover mainly the sides and top of the head, an ...

hood
formed by the
labia minora The labia minora (Latin for ''smaller lips,'' singular: ''labium minus'' "smaller lip"), also known as the inner labia, inner lips, vaginal lips or nymphae, are two flaps of skin on either side of the human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are th ...

labia minora
(inner lips). It also has vestibular or clitoral bulbs. The frenulum of clitoris is a
frenulum A frenulum (or frenum, plural: frenula or frena, from the Latin ''frēnulum'', "little bridle", the diminutive A diminutive is a root word A root (or root word) is the core of a word that is irreducible into more meaningful elements. In morph ...

frenulum
on the undersurface of the glans and is created by the two medial parts of the labia minora. The clitoral body may be referred to as the shaft (or internal shaft), while the length of the clitoris between the glans and the body may also be referred to as the shaft. The shaft supports the glans, and its shape can be seen and felt through the clitoral hood. Research indicates that clitoral tissue extends into the vagina's anterior wall. Şenaylı et al. said that the
histological Histology, also known as microscopic anatomy or microanatomy, is the branch of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Mol ...

histological
evaluation of the clitoris, "especially of the corpora cavernosa, is incomplete because for many years the clitoris was considered a rudimentary and nonfunctional organ." They added that Baskin and colleagues examined the clitoris's masculinization after dissection and using imaging software after Masson chrome staining, put the serial dissected specimens together; this revealed that the nerves of the clitoris surround the whole clitoral body (corpus). The clitoris, vestibular bulbs, labia minora, and urethra involve two histologically distinct types of vascular tissue (tissue related to
blood vessel The blood vessels are the components of the circulatory system The circulatory system, also called the cardiovascular system or the vascular system, is an organ system An organ system is a biological system A biological system is a comp ...
s), the first of which is
trabecula A trabecula (plural trabeculae, from Latin for "small beam") is a small, often microscopic, tissue Tissue may refer to: Biology * Tissue (biology), an ensemble of similar cells that together carry out a specific function * ''Triphosa haesitata'', ...
ted, erectile tissue innervated by the cavernous nerves. The trabeculated tissue has a spongy appearance; along with blood, it fills the large, dilated vascular spaces of the clitoris and the bulbs. Beneath the
epithelium Epithelium is one of the four basic types of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular A multicellular organism is an organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as ...
of the vascular areas is
smooth muscle Smooth muscle is an involuntary non-striated muscle Striated muscle tissue is a muscle tissue Muscle tissue is a soft tissue that composes muscles in animal bodies, and gives rise to muscles' ability to contract. It is also referred to as myo ...

smooth muscle
. As indicated by Yang et al.'s research, it may also be that the urethral lumen (the inner open space or cavity of the urethra), which is surrounded by spongy tissue, has tissue that "is grossly distinct from the vascular tissue of the clitoris and bulbs, and on macroscopic observation, is paler than the dark tissue" of the clitoris and bulbs. The second type of vascular tissue is non-erectile, which may consist of blood vessels that are dispersed within a fibrous matrix and have only a minimal amount of smooth muscle.


Glans and body

Highly
innervated A nerve is an enclosed, cable-like bundle of nerve fibers called axon An axon (from Greek ἄξων ''áxōn'', axis), or nerve fiber (or nerve fibre: see American and British English spelling differences#-re, -er, spelling differences), is a ...

innervated
, the glans exists at the tip of the clitoral body as a
fibro Asbestos cement, genericized as fibro or fibrolite - short for "fibrous (or fibre) cement Cement block construction examples from the Multiplex Manufacturing Company of Toledo, Ohio, in 1905 A cement is a binder, a substance used for constr ...

fibro
-vascular cap and is usually the size and shape of a pea, although it is sometimes much larger or smaller. The clitoral glans, or the entire clitoris, is estimated to have about 8,000
sensory nerve A sensory nerve, or afferent nerve, is a general anatomic term for a nerve A nerve is an enclosed, cable-like bundle of fibers (called axon An axon (from Greek ἄξων ''áxōn'', axis), or nerve fiber (or nerve fibre: see spelling diffe ...
endings. Research conflicts on whether or not the glans is composed of erectile or non-erectile tissue. Although the clitoral body becomes engorged with blood upon
sexual arousal Sexual arousal (also sexual excitement) describes the physiological Physiology (; ) is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone ...
, erecting the clitoral glans, some sources describe the clitoral glans and labia minora as composed of non-erectile tissue; this is especially the case for the glans. They state that the clitoral glans and labia minora have blood vessels that are dispersed within a fibrous matrix and have only a minimal amount of smooth muscle, or that the clitoral glans is "a midline, densely neural, non-erectile structure". Other descriptions of the glans assert that it is composed of erectile tissue and that erectile tissue is present within the labia minora. The glans may be noted as having glandular vascular spaces that are not as prominent as those in the clitoral body, with the spaces being separated more by smooth muscle than in the body and crura.
Adipose tissue Adipose tissue, body fat, or simply fat is a loose connective tissue Connective tissue is one of the many basic types of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biolo ...

Adipose tissue
is absent in the labia minora, but the organ may be described as being made up of
dense connective tissue Dense connective tissue, also called dense fibrous tissue, is a type of connective tissue Connective tissue is one of the four basic types of animal tissue (biology), tissue, along with epithelial tissue, muscle tissue, and nervous tissue. It deve ...
, erectile tissue and elastic fibers. The clitoral body forms a
wishbone Wishbone commonly refers to: * Furcula, a fork-shaped bone in birds and some dinosaurs Wishbone may also refer to: * Wish-Bone, an American salad dressing and condiment company * Wishbone formation, a type of offense in American football * Wishbo ...

wishbone
-shaped structure containing the corpora cavernosa – a pair of sponge-like regions of erectile tissue that contain most of the blood in the clitoris during clitoral erection. The two corpora forming the clitoral body are surrounded by thick fibro-elastic tunica albuginea, literally meaning "white covering", connective tissue. These corpora are separated incompletely from each other in the midline by a fibrous pectiniform septum – a comblike band of connective tissue extending between the corpora cavernosa. The clitoral body extends up to several centimeters before reversing direction and branching, resulting in an inverted "V" shape that extends as a pair of crura ("legs"). The crura are the
proximal Standard anatomical terms of location deal unambiguously with the anatomy of animals, including humans. Terms used generally derive from Latin or Greek language, Greek roots and used to describe something in its standard anatomical position. This ...
portions of the arms of the wishbone. Ending at the glans of the clitoris, the tip of the body bends anteriorly away from the pubis. Each crus (singular form of crura) is attached to the corresponding ischial ramus – extensions of the copora beneath the descending pubic rami. Concealed behind the labia minora, the crura end with attachment at or just below the middle of the pubic arch. Associated are the
urethral sponge The urethral sponge is a spongy cushion of tissue, found in the lower genital area of females, that sits against both the pubic bone and vaginal wall, and surrounds the urethra. Functions The urethral sponge is composed of erectile tissue; du ...
,
perineal spongeThe perineal sponge is a spongy cushion of biological tissue, tissue and blood vessels found in the lower genitals, genital area of women. It sits between the vaginal opening and rectum and is internal to the perineum and perineal body. Functions Th ...
, a network of nerves and blood vessels, the
suspensory ligament of the clitoris The suspensory ligament of the clitoris is a fibrous band at the deep fascial level that extends from the pubic symphysis The pubic symphysis is a secondary cartilaginous joint between the left and right superior rami of the pubis of the hip bo ...
, muscles and the
pelvic floor The pelvic floor or pelvic diaphragm is composed of muscle fibers of the levator ani The levator ani is a broad, thin muscle Muscle is a soft tissue found in most animals. Muscle cells contain protein Proteins are large biomolecules ...
. There is no identified correlation between the size of the clitoral glans, or clitoris as a whole, and a woman's age, height, weight, use of
hormonal contraception Hormonal contraception refers to birth control methods that act on the endocrine system. Almost all methods are composed of steroid hormones, although in India one selective estrogen receptor modulator is marketed as a contraceptive. The original h ...
, or being
post-menopausal Menopause, also known as the climacteric, is the time in women's lives when menstrual periods The menstrual cycle is a series of natural changes in hormone A hormone (from the Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or rel ...
, although women who have given birth may have significantly larger clitoral measurements.
Centimeter A centimetre (international spelling) or centimeter (American spelling) (SI symbol cm) is a Units of measurement, unit of length in the metric system, equal to one hundredth of a metre, ''centi'' being the SI prefix for a factor of . The centim ...
(cm) and
millimeter 330px, Different lengths as in respect to the Electromagnetic spectrum, measured by the Metre and its deriveds scales. The Microwave are in-between 1 meter to 1 millimeter. The millimetre (American and British English spelling differences#-re, ...
(mm) measurements of the clitoris show variations in its size. The clitoral glans has been cited as typically varying from 2 mm to 1 cm and usually being estimated at 4 to 5 mm in both the transverse and longitudinal planes. A 1992 study concluded that the total clitoral length, including glans and body, is , where is the mean and is the standard deviation. Concerning other studies, researchers from the
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Obstetric Hospital The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Obstetric Hospital and its predecessor organisations provided health care to women in central London from the mid-Victorian era. It was named after Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, one of Britain's first female physic ...
in London measured the
labia The labia are part of the female genitalia; they are the major externally visible portions of the vulva. In humans, there are two pairs of labia: the ''labia majora'' (or the outer labia) are larger and thicker, while the ''labia minora'' are fold ...

labia
and other genital structures of 50 women from the age of 18 to 50, with a
mean There are several kinds of mean in mathematics, especially in statistics. For a data set, the ''arithmetic mean'', also known as arithmetic average, is a central value of a finite set of numbers: specifically, the sum of the values divided by ...
age of 35.6., from 2003 to 2004, and the results given for the clitoral glans were 3–10 mm for the range and 5.5 .7mm for the mean. Other research indicates that the clitoral body can measure in length, while the clitoral body and crura together can be or more in length.


Hood

The clitoral hood projects at the front of the labia commissure, where the edges of the
labia majora The labia majora (singular: ''labium majus'') are two prominent Anatomical terms of location, longitudinal Skin, cutaneous folds that extend downward and backward from the mons pubis to the perineum. Together with the labia minora they form the l ...

labia majora
(outer lips) meet at the base of the pubic mound; it is partially formed by fusion of the upper part of the external folds of the labia minora (inner lips) and covers the glans and external shaft. There is considerable variation in how much of the glans protrudes from the hood and how much is covered by it, ranging from completely covered to fully exposed, and tissue of the labia minora also encircles the base of the glans.


Bulbs

The vestibular bulbs are more closely related to the clitoris than the vestibule because of the similarity of the trabecular and erectile tissue within the clitoris and bulbs, and the absence of trabecular tissue in other genital organs, with the erectile tissue's trabecular nature allowing engorgement and expansion during sexual arousal. The vestibular bulbs are typically described as lying close to the crura on either side of the vaginal opening; internally, they are beneath the labia majora. When engorged with blood, they cuff the vaginal opening and cause the vulva to expand outward. Although a number of texts state that they surround the vaginal opening, Ginger et al. state that this does not appear to be the case and tunica albuginea does not envelop the erectile tissue of the bulbs. In Yang et al.'s assessment of the bulbs' anatomy, they conclude that the bulbs "arch over the distal urethra, outlining what might be appropriately called the 'bulbar urethra' in women."


Homology

The clitoris and penis are generally the same anatomical structure, although the
distal Standard anatomical terms of location deal unambiguously with the anatomy of animals, including humans. Terms used generally derive from Latin or Greek language, Greek roots and used to describe something in its standard anatomical position. This ...
portion (or opening) of the urethra is absent in the clitoris of humans and most other animals. The idea that males have clitorises was suggested in 1987 by researcher Josephine Lowndes Sevely, who theorized that the male corpora cavernosa (a pair of sponge-like regions of erectile tissue which contain most of the blood in the penis during penile
erection An erection (clinically: penile erection or penile tumescence) is a physiological phenomenon in which the penis A penis (plural ''penises'' or ''penes'' () is the primary sexual organ that male animals use to inseminate females (or h ...

erection
) are the true counterpart of the clitoris. She argued that "the male clitoris" is directly beneath the rim of the
glans penis The glans penis, commonly referred to as the glans, is a structure at the Anatomical terms of location#Proximal and distal, distal end of the penis in male mammals. It is the sensitive bulbous structure at the end of the human penis, and is ana ...

glans penis
, where the (a fold of the prepuce) is located, and proposed that this area be called the "Lownde's crown". Her theory and proposal, though acknowledged in anatomical literature, did not materialize in anatomy books. Modern anatomical texts show that the clitoris displays a hood that is the equivalent of the penis's
foreskin The foreskin is the double-layered fold of smooth muscle tissue Smooth muscle is an involuntary non-striated muscle Striated muscle tissue is a muscle tissue that features repeating functional units called sarcomeres. The presence of sarcom ...
, which covers the glans. It also has a shaft that is attached to the glans. The male corpora cavernosa are homologous to the corpus cavernosum clitoridis (the female cavernosa), the
bulb of penis Just before each crus of the penis A penis (plural ''penises'' or ''penes'' () is the primary sexual organ that male animals use to inseminate females (or hermaphrodites) during Copulation (zoology), copulation. Such organs occur in many an ...
is homologous to the vestibular bulbs beneath the labia minora, the
scrotum The scrotum or scrotal sac is an Anatomy, anatomical male reproductive structure located at the base of the penis that consists of a suspended dual-chambered sac of skin and smooth muscle. It is present in most terrestrial male mammals. The scr ...

scrotum
is homologous to the labia majora, and the penile urethra and part of the skin of the penis is homologous to the labia minora. Upon anatomical study, the penis can be described as a clitoris that has been mostly pulled out of the body and grafted on top of a significantly smaller piece of spongiosum containing the urethra. With regard to nerve endings, the human clitoris's estimated 8,000 or more (for its glans or clitoral body as a whole) is commonly cited as being twice as many as the nerve endings found in the
human penis The human penis is an external male intromittent organ that additionally serves as the urination, urinal duct. The main parts are the root (radix); the body (corpus); and the epithelium of the penis including the shaft skin and the foreskin (pre ...

human penis
(for its glans or body as a whole) and as more than any other part of the human body. These reports sometimes conflict with other sources on clitoral anatomy or those concerning the nerve endings in the human penis. For example, while some sources estimate that the human penis has 4,000 nerve endings, other sources state that the glans or the entire penile structure have the same amount of nerve endings as the clitoral glans or discuss whether the penis has thousands more than the circumcised penis or is generally more sensitive. Some sources state that in contrast to the glans penis, the clitoral glans lacks smooth muscle within its fibrovascular cap and is thus differentiated from the erectile tissues of the clitoris and bulbs; additionally, bulb size varies and may be dependent on age and
estrogen Estrogens or oestrogens, are a class of natural or synthetic s responsible for the development and regulation of the female and s. There are three major estrogens that have estrogenic hormonal activity: (E1), (E2), and (E3). Estradiol, an ...

estrogen
ization. While the bulbs are considered the equivalent of the male spongiosum, they do not completely encircle the urethra. The thin corpus spongiosum of the penis runs along the underside of the penile shaft, enveloping the urethra, and expands at the end to form the glans. It partially contributes to erection, which are primarily caused by the two corpora cavernosa that comprise the bulk of the shaft; like the female cavernosa, the male cavernosa soak up blood and become erect when sexually excited. The male corpora cavernosa taper off internally on reaching the spongiosum head. With regard to the Y-shape of the cavernosa – crown, body, and legs – the body accounts for much more of the structure in men, and the legs are stubbier; typically, the cavernosa are longer and thicker in males than in females.


Function


Sexual activity


General

The clitoris has an abundance of nerve endings, and is the human female's most sensitive
erogenous zone#REDIRECT Erogenous zone An erogenous zone (from Greek , ''érōs'' "love"; and English ''-genous'' "producing", from Greek , ''-genḗs'' "born") is an area of the human body The human body is the structure of a human being. It is composed of ...
and generally the primary anatomical source of human female sexual pleasure. When
sexually stimulated Sexual stimulation is any stimulation, stimulus (including bodily contact) that leads to, enhances and maintains sexual arousal, and may lead to orgasm. Although sexual arousal may arise without physical stimulation, achieving orgasm usually requi ...
, it may incite female
sexual arousal Sexual arousal (also sexual excitement) describes the physiological Physiology (; ) is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone ...
. Sexual stimulation, including arousal, may result from mental stimulation,
foreplay Foreplay is a set of emotionally and physically intimate acts between two or more people meant to create sexual arousal Sexual arousal (also sexual excitement) is typically the arousal Arousal is the physiological and psychological ...
with a
sexual partner Sexual partners are people who engage in sexual activity Human sexual activity, human sexual practice or human sexual behaviour is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality Human sexuality is the way people ...
, or
masturbation Masturbation ( ) is the sexual stimulation Sexual stimulation is any stimulus (including bodily contact) that leads to, enhances and maintains sexual arousal, and may lead to orgasm Orgasm (from Ancient Greek, Greek ὀργασμός ' ...

masturbation
, and can lead to
orgasm Orgasm (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxim ...

orgasm
. The most effective sexual stimulation of the organ is usually manually or orally (
cunnilingus Cunnilingus is an oral sex act performed by a person on the vulva or vagina of another person. The clitoris is the most sexually sensitive part of the human female genitalia, and its stimulation may result in a woman becoming sexually aroused or ...

cunnilingus
), which is often referred to as direct clitoral stimulation; in cases involving
sexual penetration Image:Édouard-Henri Avril (13).jpg, 250px, Sexual penetration occurring in the missionary position, depicted by Édouard-Henri Avril Sexual penetration is the insertion of a body part or other object into a body orifice, such as the vagina, anus ...
, these activities may also be referred to as additional or assisted clitoral stimulation. Direct clitoral stimulation involves physical stimulation to the external anatomy of the clitoris – glans, hood, and the external shaft. Stimulation of the labia minora (inner lips), due to its external connection with the glans and hood, may have the same effect as direct clitoral stimulation. Though these areas may also receive indirect physical stimulation during sexual activity, such as when in friction with the labia majora (outer lips), indirect clitoral stimulation is more commonly attributed to . Penile-anal penetration may also indirectly stimulate the clitoris by the shared
sensory nerve A sensory nerve, or afferent nerve, is a general anatomic term for a nerve A nerve is an enclosed, cable-like bundle of fibers (called axon An axon (from Greek ἄξων ''áxōn'', axis), or nerve fiber (or nerve fibre: see spelling diffe ...
s (especially the
pudendal nerve The pudendal nerve is the main nerve A nerve is an enclosed, cable-like bundle of fibers (called axon An axon (from Greek ἄξων ''áxōn'', axis), or nerve fiber (or nerve fibre: see American and British English spelling differences# ...

pudendal nerve
, which gives off the inferior anal nerves and divides into two terminal branches: the
perineal nerve Perineal may refer to: * The perineum, the region of the body between the pubic arch and the tail bone * Perineal artery, an artery supplying the perineal region * Perineal nerve, a nerve innervating the perineal region See also *Peroneal (disamb ...
and the dorsal nerve of the clitoris). Due to the glans's high sensitivity, direct stimulation to it is not always pleasurable; instead, direct stimulation to the hood or the areas near the glans is often more pleasurable, with the majority of women preferring to use the hood to stimulate the glans, or to have the glans rolled between the lips of the labia, for indirect touch. It is also common for women to enjoy the shaft of the clitoris being softly caressed in concert with occasional circling of the clitoral glans. This might be with or without manual penetration of the vagina, while other women enjoy having the entire area of the vulva caressed. As opposed to use of dry fingers, stimulation from fingers that have been well-lubricated, either by
vaginal lubrication Vaginal lubrication is a naturally produced fluid that a . Vaginal lubrication is always present, but production increases significantly near and during in anticipation of . Vaginal dryness is the condition in which this lubrication is insuff ...

vaginal lubrication
or a
personal lubricant Personal lubricants (colloquially termed lube) are specialized lubricants used during sexual acts, such as intercourse and masturbation, to reduce friction Friction is the force In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐ ...
, is usually more pleasurable for the external anatomy of the clitoris. As the clitoris's external location does not allow for direct stimulation by sexual penetration, any external clitoral stimulation while in the
missionary position The missionary position or man-on-top position is a sex position A sex position is a position of the body that people use for sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. Sexual acts are generally described by the positions the particip ...
usually results from the pubic bone area, the movement of the groins when in contact. As such, some couples may engage in the woman-on-top position or the coital alignment technique, a
sex position A sex position is a position of the body that people use for sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. Sexual acts are generally described by the positions the participants adopt in order to perform those acts. Though sexual intercourse g ...
combining the "riding high" variation of the missionary position with pressure-counterpressure movements performed by each partner in rhythm with sexual penetration, to maximize clitoral stimulation.
Lesbian A lesbian is a homosexual Homosexuality is Romance (love), romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or Human sexual activity, sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality is "an end ...

Lesbian
couples may engage in
tribadism Tribadism ( ) or tribbing, commonly known by its scissoring position, is a lesbian sexual practice in which a woman rubs her vulva The vulva (plural: vulvas or vulvae; derived from Latin for wrapper or covering) consists of the external sex ...
for ample clitoral stimulation or for mutual clitoral stimulation during whole-body contact. Pressing the penis in a gliding or circular motion against the clitoris (
intercrural sex Intercrural sex, also known as coitus interfemoris, thigh sex and interfemoral sex, is a type of non-penetrative sex, where the penis is placed between the receiving partner's thighs and thrusted to create friction. It was a common practice in anc ...
), or stimulating it by movement against another body part, may also be practiced. A vibrator (such as a
clitoral vibrator Clitoral vibrators are Vibrator (sensual), vibrators designed to externally stimulate a woman's clitoris for her sexual pleasure and orgasm. They are sex toys created for massaging the clitoris, and are not penetrating sex toys, although the shap ...
),
dildo A dildo is a sex toy, often explicitly phallic in appearance, intended for sexual penetration or other sexual activity during masturbation Masturbation is the sexual stimulation of one's own genitals for sexual arousal or other sexua ...

dildo
or other
sex toy selling a range of sex toys, England, 2005 A sex toy is an object or device that is primarily used to facilitate Human sexual activity, human sexual pleasure, such as a dildo or Vibrator (sex toy), vibrator. Many popular sex toys are designed ...
may be used. Other women stimulate the clitoris by use of a pillow or other inanimate object, by a jet of water from the faucet of a bathtub or shower, or by closing their legs and rocking. During sexual arousal, the clitoris and the whole of the genitalia engorge and change color as the
erectile tissueErectile tissue is tissue in the body with numerous vascular spaces, or cavernous tissue, that may become engorged with blood Blood is a body fluid in humans and other animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrient A nutrient is ...
s fill with blood (
vasocongestion Vasocongestion is the swelling of bodily tissues caused by increased vascular blood flow and a localized increase in blood pressure. Typical causes of vasocongestion in humans includes menstruation, sexual arousal Sexual arousal (also sexua ...
), and the individual experiences vaginal contractions. The ischiocavernosus and bulbocavernosus muscles, which insert into the corpora cavernosa, contract and compress the dorsal vein of the clitoris (the only vein that drains the blood from the spaces in the corpora cavernosa), and the arterial blood continues a steady flow and having no way to drain out, fills the venous spaces until they become turgid and engorged with blood. This is what leads to clitoral erection. The clitoral glans doubles in diameter upon arousal and upon further stimulation, becomes less visible as it is covered by the swelling of tissues of the clitoral hood. The swelling protects the glans from direct contact, as direct contact at this stage can be more irritating than pleasurable. Vasocongestion eventually triggers a muscular reflex, which expels the blood that was trapped in surrounding tissues, and leads to an orgasm. A short time after stimulation has stopped, especially if orgasm has been achieved, the glans becomes visible again and returns to its normal state, with a few seconds (usually 5–10) to return to its normal position and 5–10 minutes to return to its original size. If orgasm is not achieved, the clitoris may remain engorged for a few hours, which women often find uncomfortable. Additionally, the clitoris is very sensitive after orgasm, making further stimulation initially painful for some women.


Clitoral and vaginal orgasmic factors

General statistics indicate that 70–80 percent of women require direct clitoral stimulation (consistent manual, oral or other concentrated friction against the external parts of the clitoris) to reach orgasm. Indirect clitoral stimulation (for example, via vaginal penetration) may also be sufficient for female orgasm. The area near the entrance of the vagina (the lower third) contains nearly 90 percent of the vaginal nerve endings, and there are areas in the anterior vaginal wall and between the top junction of the labia minora and the urethra that are especially sensitive, but intense sexual pleasure, including orgasm, solely from vaginal stimulation is occasional or otherwise absent because the vagina has significantly fewer nerve endings than the clitoris. Prominent debate over the quantity of vaginal nerve endings began with
Alfred Kinsey Alfred Charles Kinsey (; June 23, 1894 – August 25, 1956) was an American biologist Francesco Redi, the founder of biology, is recognized to be one of the greatest biologists of all time A biologist is a professional who has specialized kno ...
. Although
Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud ( , ; born Sigismund Schlomo Freud; 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist Neurology (from el, νεῦρον (neûron), "string, nerve" and the suffix -logia, "study of") is a branch of medicine M ...

Sigmund Freud
's theory that clitoral orgasms are a prepubertal or adolescent phenomenon and that vaginal (or
G-spot The G-spot, also called the Gräfenberg spot (for German gynecologist Ernst Gräfenberg), is characterized as an Erogenous zone, erogenous area of the vagina that, when stimulated, may lead to strong sexual arousal, powerful orgasms and potenti ...
) orgasms are something that only physically mature females experience had been criticized before, Kinsey was the first researcher to harshly criticize the theory. Through his observations of female masturbation and interviews with thousands of women, Kinsey found that most of the women he observed and surveyed could not have vaginal orgasms, a finding that was also supported by his knowledge of sex organ anatomy. Scholar Janice M. Irvine stated that he "criticized Freud and other theorists for projecting male constructs of sexuality onto women" and "viewed the clitoris as the main center of sexual response". He considered the vagina to be "relatively unimportant" for sexual satisfaction, relaying that "few women inserted fingers or objects into their vaginas when they masturbated". Believing that vaginal orgasms are "a physiological impossibility" because the vagina has insufficient nerve endings for sexual pleasure or climax, he "concluded that satisfaction from penile penetration mainly psychological or perhaps the result of referred sensation".
Masters and JohnsonThe Masters and Johnson research team, composed of William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, pioneered research into the nature of human sexual response and the diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders and dysfunctions from 1957 until the 19 ...
's research, as well as
Shere Hite Shere Hite (; November 2, 1942 – September 9, 2020) was an American and later German sex educator Sex education is the instruction of issues relating to human sexuality, including emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatom ...

Shere Hite
's, generally supported Kinsey's findings about the female orgasm. Masters and Johnson were the first researchers to determine that the clitoral structures surround and extend along and within the labia. They observed that both clitoral and vaginal orgasms have the same stages of physical response, and found that the majority of their subjects could only achieve clitoral orgasms, while a minority achieved vaginal orgasms. On that basis, they argued that clitoral stimulation is the source of both kinds of orgasms, reasoning that the clitoris is stimulated during penetration by friction against its hood. The research came at the time of the second-wave feminist movement, which inspired feminists to reject the distinction made between clitoral and vaginal orgasms. Feminist
Anne Koedt Anne Koedt (born 1941) is an American radical feminist and New York-based author of '' The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm'', a classic feminist work on women's sexuality. She was connected to the group New York Radical Women and was a founding member ...
argued that because men "have orgasms essentially by friction with the vagina" and not the clitoral area, this is why women's biology had not been properly analyzed. "Today, with extensive knowledge of anatomy, with . Lombard Kelly Kinsey, and Masters and Johnson, to mention just a few sources, there is no ignorance on the subject f the female orgasm" she stated in her 1970 article '' The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm.'' She added, "There are, however, social reasons why this knowledge has not been popularized. We are living in a male society which has not sought change in women's role." Supporting an anatomical relationship between the clitoris and vagina is a study published in 2005, which investigated the size of the clitoris; Australian
urologist Urology (from Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:οὖρον, οὖρον ''ouron'' "urine" and ''wiktionary:-logia, -logia'' "study of"), also known as genitourinary surgery, is the branch of medicine that focuses on surgical and medical diseases of the ...
Helen O'Connell Helen O'Connell (May 23, 1920 – September 9, 1993) was an American singer, actress, and hostess, described as "the quintessential big band singer of the 1940s". Early life Born in Lima, Ohio Lima ( ) is a city in and the county seat o ...
, described as having initiated discourse among mainstream medical professionals to refocus on and redefine the clitoris, noted a direct relationship between the legs or roots of the clitoris and the erectile tissue of the clitoral bulbs and corpora, and the distal urethra and vagina while using
magnetic resonance imaging Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging Medical imaging is the technique and process of imaging Imaging is the representation or reproduction of an object's form; especially a visual representation (i.e., the formation of a ...
(MRI) technology. While some studies, using
ultrasound Ultrasound is sound wave In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, ...

ultrasound
, have found physiological evidence of the G-spot in women who report having orgasms during vaginal intercourse, O'Connell argues that this interconnected relationship is the physiological explanation for the conjectured G-Spot and experience of vaginal orgasms, taking into account the stimulation of the internal parts of the clitoris during vaginal penetration. "The vaginal wall is, in fact, the clitoris," she said. "If you lift the skin off the vagina on the side walls, you get the bulbs of the clitoris – triangular, crescental masses of erectile tissue." O'Connell et al., having performed dissections on the female genitals of
cadaver A cadaver or corpse is a dead human body that is used by medical students A medical school is a tertiary educational institution, or part of such an institution, that teaches medicine, and awards a professional degree for physicians and surg ...

cadaver
s and used photography to map the structure of nerves in the clitoris, made the assertion in 1998 that there is more erectile tissue associated with the clitoris than is generally described in anatomical textbooks and were thus already aware that the clitoris is more than just its glans. They concluded that some females have more extensive clitoral tissues and nerves than others, especially having observed this in young cadavers compared to elderly ones, and therefore whereas the majority of females can only achieve orgasm by direct stimulation of the external parts of the clitoris, the stimulation of the more generalized tissues of the clitoris via vaginal intercourse may be sufficient for others. French researchers Odile Buisson and Pierre Foldès reported similar findings to that of O'Connell's. In 2008, they published the first complete 3D
sonography Medical ultrasound (also known as diagnostic sonography or ultrasonography) is a diagnostic imaging technique, or therapeutic application of ultrasound Ultrasound is sound waves with frequency, frequencies higher than the upper audible ...
of the stimulated clitoris and republished it in 2009 with new research, demonstrating the ways in which erectile tissue of the clitoris engorges and surrounds the vagina. On the basis of their findings, they argued that women may be able to achieve vaginal orgasm via stimulation of the G-spot, because the highly innervated clitoris is pulled closely to the anterior wall of the vagina when the woman is sexually aroused and during vaginal penetration. They assert that since the front wall of the vagina is inextricably linked with the internal parts of the clitoris, stimulating the vagina without activating the clitoris may be next to impossible. In their 2009 published study, the "coronal planes during perineal contraction and finger penetration demonstrated a close relationship between the root of the clitoris and the anterior vaginal wall". Buisson and Foldès suggested "that the special sensitivity of the lower anterior vaginal wall could be explained by pressure and movement of clitoris's root during a vaginal penetration and subsequent perineal contraction". Researcher Vincenzo Puppo, who, while agreeing that the clitoris is the center of female sexual pleasure and believing that there is no anatomical evidence of the vaginal orgasm, disagrees with O'Connell and other researchers' terminological and anatomical descriptions of the clitoris (such as referring to the vestibular bulbs as the "clitoral bulbs") and states that "the inner clitoris" does not exist because the penis cannot come in contact with the congregation of multiple nerves/veins situated until the angle of the clitoris, detailed by Kobelt, or with the roots of the clitoris, which do not have sensory receptors or erogenous sensitivity, during vaginal intercourse. Puppo's belief contrasts the general belief among researchers that vaginal orgasms are the result of clitoral stimulation; they reaffirm that clitoral tissue extends, or is at least stimulated by its bulbs, even in the area most commonly reported to be the G-spot. The G-spot being analogous to the base of the male penis has additionally been theorized, with sentiment from researcher Amichai Kilchevsky that because female fetal development is the "default" state in the absence of substantial exposure to male hormones and therefore the penis is essentially a clitoris enlarged by such hormones, there is no evolutionary reason why females would have an entity in addition to the clitoris that can produce orgasms. The general difficulty of achieving orgasms vaginally, which is a predicament that is likely due to nature easing the process of child bearing by drastically reducing the number of vaginal nerve endings, challenge arguments that vaginal orgasms help encourage sexual intercourse in order to facilitate reproduction. Supporting a distinct G-spot, however, is a study by
Rutgers University Rutgers University (RU; ), officially known as Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an orga ...
, published in 2011, which was the first to map the female genitals onto the sensory portion of the brain; the scans indicated that the brain registered distinct feelings between stimulating the clitoris, the cervix and the vaginal wall – where the G-spot is reported to be – when several women stimulated themselves in a (fMRI) machine. Barry Komisaruk, head of the research findings, stated that he feels that "the bulk of the evidence shows that the G-spot is not a particular thing" and that it is "a region, it's a convergence of many different structures".


Vestigiality, adaptionist and reproductive views

Whether the clitoris is
vestigial Vestigiality is the retention, during the process of evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their off ...
, an
adaptation In , adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits s to their environment, enhancing their . Secondly, it is a state reached by the population during that process. Thirdly, it is a or adapti ...

adaptation
, or serves a
reproductive Reproduction (or procreation or breeding) is the biological process by which new individual organisms – "offspring" – are produced from their "parent" or parents. Reproduction is a fundamental feature of all known life; each individual orga ...
function has also been debated. Geoffrey Miller stated that Helen Fisher,
Meredith Small Meredith Francesca Small (born 20 November 1950) is a Professor Emerita of Anthropology Anthropology is the Science, scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, and society, societies, in both the pres ...
and
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy Sarah Hrdy (née __NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name 300px, Firs ...
"have viewed the clitoral orgasm as a legitimate adaptation in its own right, with major implications for female sexual behavior and sexual evolution". Like
Lynn Margulis Lynn Margulis (born Lynn Petra Alexander; March 5, 1938 – November 22, 2011) was an American evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic ...

Lynn Margulis
and
Natalie Angier Natalie Angier /ænˈdʒɪər/ (born February 16, 1958 in the The Bronx, Bronx, New York City) is an American nonfiction writer and a science journalist for ''The New York Times''. Her awards include the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting in 1991 a ...
, Miller believes, "The human clitoris shows no apparent signs of having evolved directly through male
mate choice Mate choice is one of the primary mechanisms under which evolution can occur. It is characterized by a "selective response by animals to particular stimuli" which can be observed as behavior.Bateson, Paul Patrick Gordon. "Mate Choice." Mate Choic ...
. It is not especially large, brightly colored, specifically shaped or selectively displayed during courtship." He contrasts this with other female species such as
spider monkey Spider monkeys are New World monkey New World monkeys are the five families of primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutheria Eutheria (; from Greek , 'good, right' and , 'beast'; ) is the clade A cl ...
s and
spotted hyena The spotted hyena (''Crocuta crocuta''), also known as the laughing hyena, is a hyena Hyenas, or hyaenas (from Ancient Greek , ), are feliformia, feliform carnivoran mammals of the family Hyaenidae . With only four extant species (each in t ...

spotted hyena
s that have clitorises as long as their male counterparts. He said the human clitoris "could have evolved to be much more conspicuous if males had preferred sexual partners with larger brighter clitorises" and that "its inconspicuous design combined with its exquisite sensitivity suggests that the clitoris is important not as an object of male mate choice, but as a mechanism of female choice." While Miller stated that male scientists such as
Stephen Jay Gould Stephen Jay Gould (; September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) was an American Paleontology, paleontologist, Evolutionary biology, evolutionary biologist, and History of science, historian of science. He was one of the most influential and widely read ...
and
Donald SymonsDonald Symons (born 1942) is an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the Uni ...
"have viewed the female clitoral orgasm as an evolutionary side-effect of the male capacity for penile orgasm" and that they "suggested that clitoral orgasm cannot be an adaptation because it is too hard to achieve", Gould acknowledged that "most female orgasms emanate from a clitoral, rather than vaginal (or some other), site" and that his nonadaptive belief "has been widely misunderstood as a denial of either the adaptive value of female orgasm in general, or even as a claim that female orgasms lack significance in some broader sense". He said that although he accepts that "clitoral orgasm plays a pleasurable and central role in female sexuality and its joys," " l these favorable attributes, however, emerge just as clearly and just as easily, whether the clitoral site of orgasm arose as a
spandrel A spandrel is a roughly triangular space, usually found in pairs, between the top of an arch and a rectangular frame; between the tops of two adjacent arches or one of the four spaces between a circle within a square. They are frequently fill ...
or an adaptation". He added that the "male biologists who fretted over he adaptionist questionssimply assumed that a deeply vaginal site, nearer the region of fertilization, would offer greater selective benefit" due to their
Darwinian Darwinism is a theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with such processes as obser ...
, ''
summum bonum ''Summum bonum'' is a Latin expression meaning the highest or ultimate good, which was introduced by the Roman philosopher Ancient Roman philosophy was heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks and the schools of Hellenistic philosophyHellenistic ...
'' beliefs about enhanced reproductive success. Similar to Gould's beliefs about adaptionist views and that "females grow nipples as adaptations for suckling, and males grow smaller unused nipples as a spandrel based upon the value of single development channels", Elisabeth Lloyd suggested that there is little evidence to support an adaptionist account of female orgasm. Meredith L. Chivers stated that "Lloyd views female orgasm as an
ontogenetic Ontogeny (also ontogenesis) is the origination and development of an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology, ...
leftover; women have orgasms because the urogenital neurophysiology for orgasm is so strongly selected for in males that this developmental blueprint gets expressed in females without affecting fitness" and this is similar to "males havnipples that serve no fitness-related function." At the 2002 conference for Canadian Society of Women in Philosophy, argued that the clitoris is unnecessary in reproduction; she stated that it has been ignored because of "a fear of pleasure. It is pleasure separated from reproduction. That's the fear." She reasoned that this fear causes ignorance, which veils female sexuality. O'Connell stated, "It boils down to rivalry between the sexes: the idea that one sex is sexual and the other reproductive. The truth is that both are sexual and both are reproductive." She reiterated that the vestibular bulbs appear to be part of the clitoris and that the distal urethra and vagina are intimately related structures, although they are not erectile in character, forming a tissue cluster with the clitoris that appears to be the location of female sexual function and orgasm.


Clinical significance


Modification

Modifications to the clitoris can be intentional or unintentional. They include female genital mutilation (FGM),
sex reassignment surgery Sex reassignment surgery (SRS), also known as gender reassignment surgery (GRS) and several other names, is a surgical Surgery ''cheirourgikē'' (composed of χείρ, "hand", and ἔργον, "work"), via la, chirurgiae, meaning "hand work" ...
(for
trans men A trans man is a man who was assigned female at birth. The label of transgender man is not always interchangeable with that of transsexual man, although the two labels are often used in this way. ''Transgender'' is an umbrella term that inclu ...
as part transitioning, which may also include
clitoris enlargementClitoral enlargement methods are forms of body modification that have the potential to enhance the size of the clitoris and increase sexual pleasure. Clitoral enlargement can be accomplished through a variety of means, each potentially having certain ...
), intersex surgery, and genital piercings. Use of
anabolic steroid Anabolic steroids, also known more properly as anabolic–androgenic steroids (AAS), are steroid A steroid is a biologically active organic compound In , organic compounds are generally any s that contain - . Due to carbon's ability t ...
s by bodybuilders and other athletes can result in significant enlargement of the clitoris in concert with other masculinizing effects on their bodies. Abnormal enlargement of the clitoris may also be referred to as ''clitoromegaly'', but clitoromegaly is more commonly seen as a
congenital anomaly of the genitalia Intersex people are individuals born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones or genitals that, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not ...
. Those taking hormones or other medications as part of a transgender transition usually experience dramatic clitoral growth; individual desires and the difficulties of
phalloplasty Phalloplasty is the construction or reconstruction of a Human penis, penis, or the artificial modification of the penis by surgery. The term 'phalloplasty' is also occasionally used to refer to penis enlargement. The first phalloplasty done for ...
(construction of a penis) often result in the retention of the original genitalia with the enlarged clitoris as a penis analogue (
metoidioplasty Metoidioplasty, metaoidioplasty, or metaidoioplasty (informally called a meto or meta) is a female-to-male sex reassignment surgery. Testosterone replacement therapy gradually enlarges the clitoris The clitoris ( or ) is a female sex organ ...
). However, the clitoris cannot reach the size of the penis through hormones. A surgery to add function to the clitoris, such as metoidioplasty, is an alternative to phalloplasty that permits retention of sexual sensation in the clitoris. In
clitoridectomy Clitoridectomy or clitorectomy is the surgical Surgery ''cheirourgikē'' (composed of χείρ, "hand", and ἔργον, "work"), via la, chirurgiae, meaning "hand work". is a medical or dental specialty that uses operative manual and instrumen ...
, the clitoris may be removed as part of a radical vulvectomy to treat cancer such as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia; however, modern treatments favor more conservative approaches, as invasive surgery can have psychosexual consequences. Clitoridectomy more often involves parts of the clitoris being partially or completely removed during FGM, which may be additionally known as female circumcision or female genital cutting (FGC). Removing the glans of the clitoris does not mean that the whole structure is lost, since the clitoris reaches deep into the genitals. In reduction clitoroplasty, a common intersex surgery, the glans is preserved and parts of the erectile bodies are excised. Problems with this technique include loss of sensation, loss of sexual function, and sloughing of the glans. One way to preserve the clitoris with its innervations and function is to imbricate and bury the clitoral glans; however, Şenaylı et al. state that "pain during stimulus because of trapped tissue under the scarring is nearly routine. In another method, 50 percent of the ventral clitoris is removed through the level base of the clitoral shaft, and it is reported that good sensation and clitoral function are observed in follow up"; additionally, it has "been reported that the complications are from the same as those in the older procedures for this method". With regard to females who have the condition
congenital adrenal hyperplasia Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a group of Genetic disorder#Autosomal recessive, autosomal recessive disorders characterized by impaired cortisol synthesis. It results from the deficiency of one of the five enzymes required for the Biosynthe ...

congenital adrenal hyperplasia
, the largest group requiring surgical genital correction, researcher Atilla Şenaylı stated, "The main expectations for the operations are to create a normal female anatomy, with minimal complications and improvement of life quality." Şenaylı added that " smesis, structural integrity, and coital capacity of the vagina, and absence of pain during sexual activity are the parameters to be judged by the surgeon." (
CosmesisCosmesis is the preservation, restoration, or bestowing of bodily beauty.'' Dorland's Medical Dictionary''. 25th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co.; 1995 In the medical context, it usually refers to the surgical correction of a disfiguring defect, o ...
usually refers to the surgical correction of a disfiguring defect.) He stated that although "expectations can be standardized within these few parameters, operative techniques have not yet become homogeneous. Investigators have preferred different operations for different ages of patients". Gender assessment and surgical treatment are the two main steps in intersex operations. "The first treatments for clitoromegaly were simply resection of the clitoris. Later, it was understood that the clitoris glans and sensory input are important to facilitate orgasm," stated Atilla. The clitoral glans's epithelium "has high cutaneous sensitivity, which is important in sexual responses", and it is because of this that "recession clitoroplasty was later devised as an alternative, but reduction clitoroplasty is the method currently performed." What is often referred to as " clit piercing" is the more common (and significantly less complicated)
clitoral hood piercing A clitoral hood piercing is a female genital piercing through the clitoral hood surrounding the clitoris. There are two main types of hood piercing: the vertical clitoral hood piercing and the horizontal clitoral hood piercing. As the name indicat ...
. Since clitoral piercing is difficult and very painful, piercing of the clitoral hood is more common than piercing the clitoral shaft, owing to the small percentage of people who are anatomically suited for it. Clitoral hood piercings are usually channeled in the form of vertical piercings, and, to a lesser extent, horizontal piercings. The triangle piercing is a very deep horizontal hood piercing, and is done behind the clitoris as opposed to in front of it. For styles such as the Isabella, which pass through the clitoral shaft but are placed deep at the base, they provide unique stimulation and still require the proper genital build. The Isabella starts between the clitoral glans and the urethra, exiting at the top of the clitoral hood; this piercing is highly risky with regard to the damage that may occur because of intersecting nerves.


Sexual disorders

Persistent genital arousal disorder Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD), previously called persistent sexual arousal syndrome, is spontaneous, persistent, unwanted and uncontrollable genital arousal in the absence of sexual stimulation Sexual stimulation is any stimulus (i ...
(PGAD) results in a spontaneous, persistent, and uncontrollable genital arousal in women, unrelated to any feelings of sexual desire. Clitoral
priapism Priapism is a condition in which a penis A penis (plural ''penises'' or ''penes'' ) is the primary sexual organ that male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger ...
, also known as clitorism, is a rare, potentially painful medical condition and is sometimes described as an aspect of PGAD. With PGAD, arousal lasts for an unusually extended period of time (ranging from hours to days); it can also be associated with
morphometric Morphometrics (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appr ...
and vascular modifications of the clitoris. Drugs may cause or affect clitoral priapism. The drug
trazodone Trazodone, sold under many brand names, is an antidepressant Antidepressants are medications used to treat major depressive disorder, some anxiety disorders, some chronic pain conditions, and to help manage some addictions. Common Side e ...

trazodone
is known to cause male priapism as a side effect, but there is only one documented report that it may have caused clitoral priapism, in which case discontinuing the medication may be a remedy. Additionally,
nefazodone Nefazodone, sold formerly under the brand names Serzone, Dutonin, and Nefadar among others, is an atypical antidepressant which was first marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) in 1994 but has since largely been discontinued. BMS withdrew it from ...

nefazodone
is documented to have caused clitoral engorgement, as distinct from clitoral priapism, in one case, and clitoral priapism can sometimes start as a result of, or only after, the discontinuation of
antipsychotic Antipsychotics, also known as neuroleptics, are a class of medication primarily used to manage psychosis Psychosis is an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is Reality, real and what is not real. Sy ...
s or
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of drugs that are typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and other psychological conditions. SSRIs increase the extracellula ...
s (SSRIs). Because PGAD is relatively rare and, as its own concept apart from clitoral priapism, has only been researched since 2001, there is little research into what may cure or remedy the disorder. In some recorded cases, PGAD was caused by, or caused, a pelvic arterial-venous malformation with
arterial An artery (plural arteries) () is a blood vessel that takes blood away from the heart to one or more parts of the body (tissues, lungs, brain etc.). Most arteries carry oxygenated blood; the two exceptions are the pulmonary arteries, pulmonary ...

arterial
branches to the clitoris; surgical treatment was effective in these cases.


Society and culture


Ancient Greek–16th century knowledge and vernacular

With regard to historical and modern perceptions of the clitoris, the clitoris and the penis were considered equivalent by scholars for more than 2,500 years in all respects except their arrangement. Due to it being frequently omitted from, or misrepresented, in historical and contemporary anatomical texts, it was also subject to a continual cycle of male scholars claiming to have discovered it. The
ancient Greeks Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era was ...
,
ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who studi ...
, and Greek and Roman generations up to and throughout the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
, were aware that male and female sex organs are anatomically similar, but prominent anatomists such as
Galen Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus ( el, Κλαύδιος Γαληνός; September 129 – c. AD 216), often Anglicized Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modi ...
(129 – c. 200 AD) and
Vesalius Andreas Vesalius (; 31 December 1514 – 15 October 1564) was a 16th-century Flemish Flemish (''Vlaams'') is a Low Franconian Low Franconian, Low Frankish, NetherlandicSarah Grey Thomason, Terrence Kaufman: ''Language Contact, Creolizatio ...

Vesalius
(1514–1564) regarded the vagina as the structural equivalent of the penis, except for being inverted; Vesalius argued against the existence of the clitoris in normal women, and his anatomical model described how the penis corresponds with the vagina, without a role for the clitoris. Ancient Greek and
Roman sexuality File:Clarke Ars Erotica 18.jpg, Male–female couple on the back of a bronze mirror (''ca.'' 70–90 AD) Sexual attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome are indicated by Roman art, art, Latin literature, literature and Corpus Inscriptionum Lat ...
additionally designated penetration as "male-defined" sexuality. The term '' tribas'', or ''tribade'', was used to refer to a woman or intersex individual who actively penetrated another person (male or female) through use of the clitoris or a
dildo A dildo is a sex toy, often explicitly phallic in appearance, intended for sexual penetration or other sexual activity during masturbation Masturbation is the sexual stimulation of one's own genitals for sexual arousal or other sexua ...

dildo
. As any sexual act was believed to require that one of the partners be "
phallic File:The Hindu God Shiva LACMA M.69.15.1 (2 of 3).jpg, Ithyphallic Shiva, 3rd century AD A phallus is a penis (especially when Erection, erect), an object that resembles a penis, or a mimesis, mimetic image of an erect penis. In art history a ...

phallic
" and that therefore sexual activity between women was impossible without this feature, mythology popularly associated lesbians with either having enlarged clitorises or as incapable of enjoying sexual activity without the substitution of a phallus. In 1545,
Charles Estienne Charles Estienne (; 1504–1564), known as Carolus Stephanus in Latin and Charles Stephens in English, was an early exponent of the science of anatomy in France. Charles was a younger brother of Robert Estienne, Robert Estienne I, the famous print ...
was the first writer to identify the clitoris in a work based on dissection, but he concluded that it had a urinary function. Following this study,
Realdo Colombo Matteo Realdo Colombo (c. 1515 – 1559) was an Italian professor of anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancie ...
(also known as Matteo Renaldo Colombo), a lecturer in surgery at the
University of Padua The University of Padua ( it, Università degli Studi di Padova, UNIPD) is an Italian university located in the city of Padua, region of Veneto it, Veneto (man) it, Veneta (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , p ...
, Italy, published a book called ''De re anatomica'' in 1559, in which he describes the "seat of woman's delight". In his role as researcher, Colombo concluded, "Since no one has discerned these projections and their workings, if it is permissible to give names to things discovered by me, it should be called the love or sweetness of Venus.", in reference to the mythological
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Venus (mythology), Roman goddess of love and beauty. As List of brightest natural objects in the sky, the brightest natural object in Earth's night sky after the Moon, Venus can ...
, goddess of erotic love. Colombo's claim was disputed by his successor at Padua,
Gabriele Falloppio Gabriele Falloppio (1523 – 9 October 1562) was an Italian Catholic priest The priesthood is one of the three holy orders of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christi ...

Gabriele Falloppio
(discoverer of the
fallopian tube The Fallopian tubes, also known as uterine tubes, salpinges (singular salpinx), or oviducts, are tubes that stretch from the ovaries The ovary is an organ found in the female reproductive system 400px, 1. Labia_majora.html"_;"title="V ...

fallopian tube
), who claimed that he was the first to discover the clitoris. In 1561, Falloppio stated, "Modern anatomists have entirely neglected it ... and do not say a word about it ... and if others have spoken of it, know that they have taken it from me or my students." This caused an upset in the European medical community, and, having read Colombo's and Falloppio's detailed descriptions of the clitoris, Vesalius stated, "It is unreasonable to blame others for incompetence on the basis of some sport of nature you have observed in some women and you can hardly ascribe this new and useless part, as if it were an organ, to healthy women." He concluded, "I think that such a structure appears in
hermaphrodite In reproductive biology Reproductive biology includes both sexual and asexual reproduction. Reproductive biology includes a wide number of fields: * Reproductive systems * Endocrinology Endocrinology (from '' endocrine'' + '' -ology'') is a ...

hermaphrodite
s who otherwise have well formed genitals, as
Paul of Aegina Paul of Aegina or Paulus Aegineta ( el, Παῦλος Αἰγινήτης; Aegina, ) was a 7th-century Greeks, Byzantine Greek physician best known for writing the encyclopedia, medical encyclopedia ''Medical Compendium in Seven Books. "He is the f ...
describes, but I have never once seen in any woman a penis (which
Avicenna Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (), Pur Sina (), and often known in the West as Avicenna (;  – June 1037), was a Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia' ...

Avicenna
called albaratha and the Greeks called an enlarged nympha and classed as an illness) or even the rudiments of a tiny phallus." The average anatomist had difficulty challenging Galen's or Vesalius's research; Galen was the most famous physician of the Greek era and his works were considered the standard of medical understanding up to and throughout the Renaissance (i.e. for almost two thousand years), and various terms being used to describe the clitoris seemed to have further confused the issue of its structure. In addition to Avicenna's naming it the ''albaratha'' or ''virga'' ("rod") and Colombo's calling it sweetness of Venus,
Hippocrates Hippocrates of Kos (; grc-gre, Ἱπποκράτης ὁ Κῷος, Hippokrátēs ho Kôios; ), also known as Hippocrates II, was a Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ε ...

Hippocrates
used the term ''columella'' ("little pillar'"), and
Albucasis Abū al-Qāsim Khalaf ibn al-'Abbās al-Zahrāwī al-Ansari ( ar, أبو القاسم خلف بن العباس الزهراوي;‎ 936–1013), popularly known as Al-Zahrawi (), Latinisation of names, Latinised as Abulcasis (from Arabic ''Abū ...
, an Arabic medical authority, named it ''tentigo'' ("tension"). The names indicated that each description of the structures was about the body and glans of the clitoris but usually the glans. It was additionally known to the Romans, who named it (vulgar slang) '' landica''. However,
Albertus Magnus Albertus Magnus (c. 1200 – November 15, 1280), also known as Saint Albert the Great or Albert of Cologne, was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany ...

Albertus Magnus
, one of the most prolific writers of the Middle Ages, felt that it was important to highlight "homologies between male and female structures and function" by adding "a psychology of sexual arousal" that
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
had not used to detail the clitoris. While in
Constantine Constantine most often refers to: * Constantine the Great Constantine I ( la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was a Roman emperor from 306 to 337. Born in Naissus, Dacia Mediterra ...
's treatise ''Liber de coitu'', the clitoris is referred to a few times, Magnus gave an equal amount of attention to male and female organs. Like Avicenna, Magnus also used the word ''virga'' for the clitoris, but employed it for the male and female genitals; despite his efforts to give equal ground to the clitoris, the cycle of suppression and rediscovery of the organ continued, and a 16th-century justification for
clitoridectomy Clitoridectomy or clitorectomy is the surgical Surgery ''cheirourgikē'' (composed of χείρ, "hand", and ἔργον, "work"), via la, chirurgiae, meaning "hand work". is a medical or dental specialty that uses operative manual and instrumen ...
appears to have been confused by hermaphroditism and the imprecision created by the word ''nymphae'' substituted for the word ''clitoris''. Nymphotomia was a medical operation to excise an unusually large clitoris, but what was considered "unusually large" was often a matter of perception. The procedure was routinely performed on Egyptian women, due to physicians such as
Jacques Daléchamps Jacques Daléchamps (1513, Caen – 1588) was a France, French botanist and physician. When the scholar Isaac Casaubon first established the Greek text of the recently rediscovered ''Deipnosophistae'', it was printed alongside a Latin translation ...
who believed that this version of the clitoris was "an unusual feature that occurred in almost all Egyptian women some of ours, so that when they find themselves in the company of other women, or their clothes rub them while they walk or their husbands wish to approach them, it erects like a male penis and indeed they use it to play with other women, as their husbands would do ... Thus the parts are cut".


17th century–present day knowledge and vernacular

Caspar Bartholin, a 17th-century Danish anatomist, dismissed Colombo's and Falloppio's claims that they discovered the clitoris, arguing that the clitoris had been widely known to medical science since the second century. Although 17th-century midwives recommended to men and women that women should aspire to achieve orgasms to help them get pregnant for general health and well-being and to keep their relationships healthy, debate about the importance of the clitoris persisted, notably in the work of
Regnier de Graaf Regnier de Graaf (English spelling), original Dutch spelling Reinier de Graaf, or Latinized Reijnerus de Graeff (30 July 164117 August 1673) was a Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people ...
in the 17th century and Georg Ludwig Kobelt in the 19th. Like Falloppio and Bartholin, De Graaf criticized Colombo's claim of having discovered the clitoris; his work appears to have provided the first comprehensive account of clitoral anatomy. "We are extremely surprised that some anatomists make no more mention of this part than if it did not exist at all in the universe of nature," he stated. "In every cadaver we have so far dissected we have found it quite perceptible to sight and touch." De Graaf stressed the need to distinguish ''nympha'' from ''clitoris'', choosing to "always give he clitoristhe name clitoris" to avoid confusion; this resulted in frequent use of the correct name for the organ among anatomists, but considering that ''nympha'' was also varied in its use and eventually became the term specific to the labia minora, more confusion ensued. Debate about whether orgasm was even necessary for women began in the
Victorian era In the history of the United Kingdom The history of the United Kingdom began in the early eighteenth century with the Treaty of Union A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international l ...
, and Freud's 1905 theory about the immaturity of clitoral orgasms ( see above) negatively affected women's sexuality throughout most of the 20th century. Toward the end of World War I, a maverick British MP named
Noel Pemberton Billing Noel Pemberton Billing (31 January 1881 – 11 November 1948), sometimes known as Noel Pemberton-Billing, was a British aviator, inventor, publisher, and Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people w ...
published an article entitled "The Cult of the Clitoris", furthering his conspiracy theories and attacking the actress
Maud Allan :''For the American film actor see Maude Allen.'' Maud Allan (born as either Beulah Maude Durrant or Ulah Maud Alma Durrant;Birthname given as Ulah Maud Alma DurrantMcConnell, Virginia A. ''Sympathy for the Devil: The Emmanuel Baptist Murders ...

Maud Allan
and
Margot Asquith Emma Margaret Asquith, Countess of Oxford and Asquith (; 2 February 1864 – 28 July 1945), known as Margot Asquith, was a British socialite, author, and wit. She was married to H. H. Asquith, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The ...

Margot Asquith
, wife of the prime minister. The accusations led to a sensational libel trial, which Billing eventually won;
Philip Hoare Philip Hoare (born Patrick Moore, 1958) is an English writer, especially of history and biography. He instigated the Moby Dick Big Read project. He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Southampton and Leverhulme artist-in-reside ...
reports that Billing argued that "as a medical term, 'clitoris' would only be known to the 'initiated', and was incapable of corrupting moral minds". Jodie Medd argues in regard to "The Cult of the Clitoris" that "the female nonreproductive but desiring body ..simultaneously demands and refuses interpretative attention, inciting scandal through its very resistance to representation." From the 18th – 20th century, especially during the 20th, details of the clitoris from various genital diagrams presented in earlier centuries were omitted from later texts. The full extent of the clitoris was alluded to by Masters and Johnson in 1966, but in such a muddled fashion that the significance of their description became obscured; in 1981, the Federation of Feminist Women's Health Clinics (FFWHC) continued this process with anatomically precise illustrations identifying 18 structures of the clitoris. Despite the FFWHC's illustrations, Josephine Lowndes Sevely, in 1987, described the vagina as more of the counterpart of the penis. Concerning other beliefs about the clitoris, Hite (1976 and 1981) found that, during sexual intimacy with a partner, clitoral stimulation was more often described by women as
foreplay Foreplay is a set of emotionally and physically intimate acts between two or more people meant to create sexual arousal Sexual arousal (also sexual excitement) is typically the arousal Arousal is the physiological and psychological ...
than as a primary method of sexual activity, including orgasm. Further, although the FFWHC's work significantly propelled feminist reformation of anatomical texts, it did not have a general impact. Helen O'Connell's late 1990s research motivated the medical community to start changing the way the clitoris is anatomically defined. O'Connell describes typical textbook descriptions of the clitoris as lacking detail and including inaccuracies, such as older and modern anatomical descriptions of the female human urethral and genital anatomy having been based on dissections performed on elderly cadavers whose erectile (clitoral) tissue had shrunk. She instead credits the work of Georg Ludwig Kobelt as the most comprehensive and accurate description of clitoral anatomy.
MRI Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging Medical imaging is the technique and process of imaging Imaging is the representation or reproduction of an object's form; especially a visual representation (i.e., the formation of a ...
measurements, which provide a live and multi-planar method of examination, now complement the FFWHC's, as well as O'Connell's, research efforts concerning the clitoris, showing that the volume of clitoral erectile tissue is ten times that which is shown in doctors' offices and in anatomy text books. In
Bruce BagemihlBruce Bagemihl is a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of these connections exist and are ...
's survey of ''
The Zoological Record ''The Zoological Record'' (''ZR'') is an electronic index of zoological literature that also serves as the unofficial register of scientific names in zoology Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is typically regarded as nonstandard, tho ...
'' (1978–1997) – which contains over a million documents from over 6,000 scientific journals – 539 articles focusing on the penis were found, while 7 were found focusing on the clitoris. In 2000, researchers Shirley Ogletree and Harvey Ginsberg concluded that there is a general neglect of the word ''clitoris'' in common vernacular. They looked at the terms used to describe genitalia in the
PsycINFO PsycINFO is a database A database is an organized collection of data Data are units of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both i ...
database from 1887 to 2000 and found that ''penis'' was used in 1,482 sources, ''vagina'' in 409, while ''clitoris'' was only mentioned in 83. They additionally analyzed 57 books listed in a computer database for sex instruction. In the majority of the books, ''penis'' was the most commonly discussed body part – mentioned more than ''clitoris'', ''vagina'', and ''uterus'' put together. They last investigated terminology used by college students, ranging from Euro-American (76%/76%), Hispanic (18%/14%), and African American (4%/7%), regarding the students' beliefs about sexuality and knowledge on the subject. The students were overwhelmingly educated to believe that the vagina is the female counterpart of the penis. The authors found that the students' belief that the inner portion of the vagina is the most sexually sensitive part of the female body correlated with negative attitudes toward masturbation and strong support for sexual myths. A 2005 study reported that, among a sample of undergraduate students, the most frequently cited sources for knowledge about the clitoris were school and friends, and that this was associated with the least tested knowledge. Knowledge of the clitoris by self-exploration was the least cited, but "respondents correctly answered, on average, three of the five clitoral knowledge measures". The authors stated that " owledge correlated significantly with the frequency of women's orgasm in masturbation but not partnered sex" and that their "results are discussed in light of gender inequality and a social construction of sexuality, endorsed by both men and women, that privileges men's sexual pleasure over women's, such that orgasm for women is pleasing, but ultimately incidental." They concluded that part of the solution to remedying "this problem" requires that males and females are taught more about the clitoris than is currently practiced. In May 2013,
humanitarian Humanitarianism is an active belief in the value of human life, whereby human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence ...
group
Clitoraid Clitoraid is a non-profit project started by the Raëlism, Raelian movement to combat female genital mutilation. The project was started in 2005 or 2006. The Raelian movement sees sexual gratification as a positive thing and Clitoraid has sponsored ...
launched the first annual International Clitoris Awareness Week, from 6 to 12 May. Clitoraid spokesperson Nadine Gary stated that the group's mission is to raise public awareness about the clitoris because it has "been ignored, vilified, made taboo, and considered sinful and shameful for centuries". In 2016, Odile Fillod created a 3D printable, open source, full-size model of the clitoris, for use in a set of anti-sexist videos she had been commissioned to produce. Fillod was interviewed by Stephanie Theobald, whose article in ''The Guardian'' stated that the 3D model would be used for sex education in French schools, from primary to secondary level, from September 2016 onwards; this was not the case, but the story went viral across the world. In a 2019 study, a questionnaire was administered to a sample of educational sciences postgraduate students to trace the level of their knowledge concerning the organs of the female and male reproductive system. The authors reported that about two-thirds of the students failed to name external female genitals, such as the clitoris and labia, even after detailed pictures were provided to them.


Contemporary art

In 2012, New York artist Sophia Wallace started work on a multimedia project to challenge misconceptions about the clitoris. Based on O'Connell's 1998 research, Wallace's work emphasizes the sheer scope and size of the human clitoris. She says that ignorance of this still seems to be pervasive in modern society. "It is a curious dilemma to observe the paradox that on the one hand the female body is the primary metaphor for sexuality, its use saturates advertising, art and the mainstream erotic imaginary," she said. "Yet, the clitoris, the true female sexual organ, is virtually invisible." The project is called ''Cliteracy'' and it includes a "clit rodeo", which is an interactive, Mechanical bull, climb-on model of a giant golden clitoris, including its inner parts, produced with the help of sculptor Kenneth Thomas. "It's been a showstopper wherever it's been shown. People are hungry to be able to talk about this," Wallace said. "I love seeing men standing up for the clit ..Cliteracy is about not having one's body controlled or legislated ..Not having access to the pleasure that is your birthright is a deeply political act." In 2016, another project started in New York, street art that has since spread to almost 100 cities: Clitorosity, a "community-driven effort to celebrate the full structure of the clitoris", combining chalk drawings and words to spark interaction and conversation with passers-by, which the team documents on social media. In 2016, Lori-Malépart Traversy made an animated documentary about the unrecognized anatomy of the clitoris. In 2017, Alli Sebastian Wolf created a golden 100:1 scale model anatomical of a clitoris, called the ''Glitoris'' and said, she hopes knowledge of the clitoris will soon become so uncontroversial that making art about them would be as irrelevant as making art about penises. Other projects listed by the BBC include Clito Clito, body-positive jewellery made in Berlin; ''Clitorissima'', a documentary intended to normalize mother-daughter conversations about the clitoris; and a ClitArt festival in London, encompassing spoken word performances as well as visual art. French art collective Les Infemmes (a pun on "infamous" and "women") published a fanzine whose title can be translated as "The Clit Cheatsheet".


Influence on female genital mutilation

Significant controversy surrounds female genital mutilation (FGM), with the World Health Organization (WHO) being one of many health organizations that have campaigned against the procedures on behalf of human rights, stating that "FGM has no health benefits" and that it is "a violation of the human rights of girls and women" and "reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes". The practice has existed at one point or another in almost all human civilizations, most commonly to exert control over the sexual behavior, including masturbation, of girls and women, but also to change the clitoris's appearance. Custom and tradition are the most frequently cited reasons for FGM, with some cultures believing that not performing it has the possibility of disrupting the cohesiveness of their social and political systems, such as FGM also being a part of a girl's initiation into adulthood. Often, a girl is not considered an adult in an FGM-practicing society unless she has undergone FGM, and the "removal of the clitoris and labia – viewed by some as the ''male parts'' of a woman's body – is thought to enhance the girl's femininity, often synonymous with docility and obedience". Female genital mutilation is carried out in several societies, especially in Africa, with 85 percent of genital mutilations performed in Africa consisting of clitoridectomy or excision, and to a lesser extent in other parts of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, on girls from a few days old to mid-adolescent, often to reduce sexual desire in an effort to preserve vaginal virginity. The practice of FGM has spread globally, as immigrants from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East bring the custom with them. In the United States, it is sometimes practiced on girls born with a clitoris that is larger than usual. Comfort Momoh, who specializes in the topic of FGM, states that FGM might have been "practiced in ancient Egypt as a sign of distinction among the aristocracy"; there are reports that traces of infibulation are on Egyptian mummies. FGM is still routinely practiced in Egypt. Greenberg et al. report that "one study found that 97% of married women in Egypt had had some form of genital mutilation performed." Amnesty International estimated in 1997 that more than two million FGM procedures are performed every year.


Other animals


General

Although the clitoris exists in all mammal species, few detailed studies of the anatomy of the clitoris in non-humans exist. The clitoris is especially developed in fossa (animal), fossas, apes,
lemur Lemurs ( ) (from Latin ''lemures'' – ghosts or spirits) are wet-nosed primates of the superfamily SUPERFAMILY is a database and search platform of structural and functional annotation for all proteins and genomes. It classifies amino acid s ...

lemur
s, Mole (animal), moles, and, like the penis in many non-human placental mammals, often contains a small bone. In females, this bone is known as the Baculum, os clitoridis. The clitoris exists in turtles,
ostrich ''Struthio'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circums ...

ostrich
es, crocodiles, and in species of birds in which the male counterpart has a penis. Some Intersex#Hermaphrodite, intersex female bears mate and give birth through the tip of the clitoris; these species are grizzly bears, brown bears, American black bears and polar bears. Although the bears have been described as having "a birth canal that runs through the clitoris rather than forming a separate vagina" (a feature that is estimated to make up 10 to 20 percent of the bears' population), scientists state that female
spotted hyena The spotted hyena (''Crocuta crocuta''), also known as the laughing hyena, is a hyena Hyenas, or hyaenas (from Ancient Greek , ), are feliformia, feliform carnivoran mammals of the family Hyaenidae . With only four extant species (each in t ...

spotted hyena
s are the only non-hermaphroditic female mammals devoid of an external vaginal opening, and whose sexual anatomy is distinct from usual intersex cases.


Non-human primates

In
spider monkey Spider monkeys are New World monkey New World monkeys are the five families of primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutheria Eutheria (; from Greek , 'good, right' and , 'beast'; ) is the clade A cl ...
s, the clitoris is especially developed and has an interior passage, or urethra, that makes it almost identical to the penis, and it retains and distributes urine droplets as the female spider monkey moves around. Scholar Alan F. Dixson stated that this urine "is voided at the bases of the clitoris, flows down the shallow groove on its perineal surface, and is held by the skin folds on each side of the groove". Because spider monkeys of South America have pendulous and erectile clitorises long enough to be mistaken for a penis, researchers and observers of the species look for a scrotum to determine the animal's sex; a similar approach is to identify Scent marking, scent-marking glands that may also be present on the clitoris. The clitoris erects in Common squirrel monkey, squirrel monkeys during dominance displays, which indirectly influences the squirrel monkeys' reproductive success. The clitoris of bonobos is larger and more externalized than in most mammals; Natalie Angier said that a young adolescent "female bonobo is maybe half the weight of a human teenager, but her clitoris is three times bigger than the human equivalent, and visible enough to waggle unmistakably as she walks". Female bonobos often engage in the practice of genital-genital (GG) rubbing, which is the non-human form of
tribadism Tribadism ( ) or tribbing, commonly known by its scissoring position, is a lesbian sexual practice in which a woman rubs her vulva The vulva (plural: vulvas or vulvae; derived from Latin for wrapper or covering) consists of the external sex ...
that human females engage in. Ethology, Ethologist Jonathan Balcombe stated that female bonobos rub their clitorises together rapidly for ten to twenty seconds, and this behavior, "which may be repeated in rapid succession, is usually accompanied by grinding, shrieking, and clitoral engorgement"; he added that, on average, they engage in this practice "about once every two hours", and as bonobos sometimes mate face-to-face, "evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk has suggested that the position of the clitoris in bonobos and some other primates has evolved to maximize stimulation during sexual intercourse". Many strepsirrhine species exhibit elongated clitorises that are either fully or partially tunneled by the urethra, including mouse lemurs, dwarf lemurs, all ''True lemur, Eulemur'' species, lorises and Galago, galagos.  Some of these species also exhibit a membrane seal across the vagina that closes the vaginal opening during the non-mating seasons, most notably mouse and dwarf lemurs. The clitoral morphology of the ring-tailed lemur is the most well-studied. They are described as having "elongated, pendulous clitorises that are [fully] tunneled by a urethra". The urethra is surrounded by erectile tissue, which allows for significant swelling during breeding seasons, but this erectile tissue differs from the typical male Corpus spongiosum penis, corpus spongiosum. Non-pregnant adult ring-tailed females do not show higher testosterone levels than males, but they do exhibit higher Androstenedione, A4 and estrogen levels during seasonal aggression. During pregnancy, estrogen, A4, and testosterone levels are raised, but female fetuses are still "protected" from excess testosterone. These "masculinized" genitalia are often found alongside other traits, such as female-dominated social groups, reduced sexual dimorphism that makes females the same size as males, and even ratios of sexes in adult populations. This phenomenon that has been dubbed the "lemur syndrome". A 2014 study of ''Eulemur'' masculinization proposed that behavioral and morphological masculinization in female lemuriformes is an ancestral trait that likely emerged after their split from Lorisoidea, lorisiformes.


Spotted hyenas

While female
spotted hyena The spotted hyena (''Crocuta crocuta''), also known as the laughing hyena, is a hyena Hyenas, or hyaenas (from Ancient Greek , ), are feliformia, feliform carnivoran mammals of the family Hyaenidae . With only four extant species (each in t ...

spotted hyena
s are sometimes referred to as
hermaphrodite In reproductive biology Reproductive biology includes both sexual and asexual reproduction. Reproductive biology includes a wide number of fields: * Reproductive systems * Endocrinology Endocrinology (from '' endocrine'' + '' -ology'') is a ...

hermaphrodite
s or as Intersex#Hermaphrodite, intersex, and scientists of ancient and later historical times believed that they were hermaphrodites, modern scientists do not refer to them as such. That designation is typically reserved for those who simultaneously exhibit features of both sexes; the genetic makeup of female spotted hyenas "are clearly distinct" from male spotted hyenas. Female spotted hyenas have a clitoris 90 percent as long and the same diameter as a male penis (171 millimeters long and 22 millimeters in diameter), and this
pseudo-penisA pseudo-penis is any structure found on an animal that, while superficially appearing to be a penis, is derived from a different developmental path. Mammals In mammals, all intact developmentally typical males have a penis, but the clitoris in ...
's formation seems largely
androgen An androgen (from Greek ''andr-'', the stem of the word meaning "man") is any natural or synthetic steroid hormone A steroid hormone is a steroid , hypothetical a steroid with 32 carbon atoms. Its core ring system (ABCD), composed of 17 c ...
-independent because it appears in the female fetus before differentiation of the fetal ovary and adrenal gland. The spotted hyenas have a highly erectile clitoris, complete with a false scrotum; author John C. Wingfield stated that "the resemblance to male genitalia is so close that sex can be determined with confidence only by palpation of the scrotum". The pseudo-penis can also be distinguished from the males' genitalia by its greater thickness and more rounded glans. The female possesses no external vagina, as the labia are fused to form a pseudo-scrotum. In the females, this scrotum consists of soft adipose tissue. Like male spotted hyenas with regard to their penises, the female spotted hyenas have small penile spines on the head of their clitorises, which scholar Catherine Blackledge said makes "the clitoris tip feel like soft sandpaper". She added that the clitoris "extends away from the body in a sleek and slender arc, measuring, on average, over 17 cm from root to tip. Just like a penis, [it] is fully erectile, raising its head in hyena greeting ceremonies, social displays, games of rough and tumble or when sniffing out peers". Due to their higher levels of androgen exposure during fetal development, the female hyenas are significantly more muscular and aggressive than their male counterparts; social-wise, they are of higher rank than the males, being Dominance (ethology), dominant or dominant and Alpha (ethology), alpha, and the females who have been exposed to higher levels of androgen than average become higher-ranking than their female peers. Subordinate females lick the clitorises of higher-ranked females as a sign of submission and obedience, but females also lick each other's clitorises as a greeting or to strengthen social bonds; in contrast, while all males lick the clitorises of dominant females, the females will not lick the penises of males because males are considered to be of lowest rank. The urethra and vagina of the female spotted hyena exit through the clitoris, allowing the females to urinate, copulate and give birth through this organ. This trait makes mating more laborious for the male than in other mammals, and also makes attempts to Sexual coercion, sexually coerce (physically force sexual activity on) females futile. Joan Roughgarden, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, said that because the hyena's clitoris is higher on the belly than the vagina in most mammals, the male hyena "must slide his rear under the female when mating so that his penis lines up with [her clitoris]". In an action similar to pushing up a shirtsleeve, the "female retracts the [pseudo-penis] on itself, and creates an opening into which the male inserts his own penis". The male must practice this act, which can take a couple of months to successfully perform. Female spotted hyenas exposed to larger doses of androgen have significantly damaged ovaries, making it difficult to conceive. After giving birth, the pseudo-penis is stretched and loses much of its original aspects; it becomes a slack-walled and reduced prepuce with an enlarged orifice with split lips. Approximately 15% of the females die during their first time giving birth, and over 60% of their species' firstborn young die. A 2006 Baskin et al. study concluded, "The basic anatomical structures of the corporeal bodies in both sexes of humans and spotted hyenas were similar. As in humans, the dorsal nerve distribution was unique in being devoid of nerves at the 12 o'clock position in the penis and clitoris of the spotted hyena" and that "[d]orsal nerves of the penis/clitoris in humans and male spotted hyenas tracked along both sides of the corporeal body to the corpus spongiosum at the 5 and 7 o'clock positions. The dorsal nerves penetrated the corporeal body and distally the glans in the hyena", and in female hyenas, "the dorsal nerves fanned out laterally on the clitoral body. Glans morphology was different in appearance in both sexes, being wide and blunt in the female and tapered in the male".


Moles

Many species of Talpidae, Talpid moles exhibit peniform clitorises that are tunneled by the urethra and are found to have erectile tissue, most notably species from the ''Talpa (genus), Talpa'' genus found in Europe. Unique to this clade are the presence of ovotestes, wherein the female ovary also is mostly made up of sterile testicular tissue that secretes testosterone with only a small portion of the gonad containing ovarian tissue. Genetic studies have revealed that females have an XX genotype and do not have any translocated Y-linked genes. Detailed developmental studies of ''Spanish mole, Talpa occidentalis'' have revealed that the female gonads develop in a "testis-like pattern". DMRT1, a gene that regulates development of Sertoli cells, was found to be expressed in female germ cells before meiosis, however no Sertoli cells were present in the fully-developed ovotestes. Additionally, the female germ cells only enter meiosis postnatally, a phenomenon that has not been found in any other Eutheria, eutherian mammal.  Phylogenetic analyses have suggested that, like in lemuroids, this trait must have evolved in a common ancestor of the clade, and has been "turned off and on" in different Talpid lineages. Female European moles are highly territorial and will not allow males in to their territory outside of breeding season, the probable cause of this behavior being the high levels of testosterone secreted by the female ovotestes. During the non-breeding season, their vaginal opening is covered by skin, akin to the condition seen in mouse and dwarf lemurs.


Cats, sheep and mice

Researchers studying the peripheral and central afferent pathways from the feline clitoris concluded that "afferent neurons projecting to the clitoris of the cat were identified by WGA-HRP tracing in the S1 and S2 dorsal root ganglia. An average of 433 cells were identified on each side of the animal. 85 percent and 15 percent of the labeled cells were located in the S1 and S2 dorsal root ganglia, respectively. The average cross sectional area of clitoral afferent neuron profiles was 1.479±627 μm2." They also stated that light "constant pressure on the clitoris produced an initial burst of single unit firing (maximum frequencies 170–255 Hz) followed by rapid adaptation and a sustained firing (maximum 40 Hz), which was maintained during the stimulation" and that further examination of tonic firing "indicate that the clitoris is innervated by mechano-sensitive myelinated afferent fibers in the pudental nerve which project centrally to the region of the dorsal commissure in the L7-S1 spinal cord". The external phenotype and reproductive behavior of 21 freemartin sheep and two male pseudohermaphrodite sheep were recorded with the aim of identifying any characteristics that could predict a failure to breed. The vagina's length and the size and shape of the vulva and clitoris were among the aspects analyzed. While the study reported that "a number of physical and behavioural abnormalities were detected," it also concluded that "the only consistent finding in all 23 animals was a short vagina which varied in length from 3.1 to 7.0 cm, compared with 10 to 14 cm in normal animals." In a study concerning the clitoral structure of mice, the mouse perineal urethra was documented as being surrounded by erectile tissue forming the bulbs of the clitoris. The researchers stated, "In the mouse, as in human females, tissue organization in the corpora cavernosa of the clitoris is essentially similar to that of the penis except for the absence of a subalbugineal layer interposed between the tunica albuginea and the erectile tissue."


See also

* Clitoral pump * Clitoria, a type of tropical plant *
Clitoraid Clitoraid is a non-profit project started by the Raëlism, Raelian movement to combat female genital mutilation. The project was started in 2005 or 2006. The Raelian movement sees sexual gratification as a positive thing and Clitoraid has sponsored ...
, a non-profit organization working against female genital mutilation * ''The Evolution of Human Sexuality''


Notes


References

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{{cite news, last=Mosbergen, first=Dominique, title=Cliteracy 101: Artist Sophia Wallace Wants You To Know The Truth About The Clitoris, department=Women, work=The Huffington Post, date=29 August 2013, access-date=2 September 2013, url=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/28/cliteracy_n_3823983.html {{cite web , last=Moye , first=David , title= 'International Clitoris Awareness Week' Takes Place May 6–12 (NSFW), website=The Huffington Post, url=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/02/international-clitoris-we_n_3202780.html, date=2 May 2013, access-date=19 June 2013 {{harvnb, Neil, Sigal, Chuchiak, IV, 2007,
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Journals

{{Refbegin, 30em *{{cite journal , last1=Baskin , first1=Laurence S. , last2=Yucel , first2=Selcuk , last3=Cunha , first3=Gerald R. , last4=Glickman , first4=Stephen E. , last5=Place , first5=Ned J. , title=A Neuroanatomical Comparison of Humans and Spotted Hyena, a Natural Animal Model for Common Urogenital Sinus: Clinical Reflections on Feminizing Genitoplasty , journal=Journal of Urology , volume=175 , issue=1 , pages=276–83 , date=January 2006 , doi=10.1016/S0022-5347(05)00014-5 , pmid=16406926 *{{cite journal , last1=Battaglia , first1=Cesare , last2=Venturoli , first2=Stefano , title=Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder and Trazodone. Morphometric and Vascular Modifications of the Clitoris. 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E. , last2=Dallas , first2=J. F. , last3=Fowler , first3=P. A. , last4=Woodroffe , first4=R. , last5=Racey , first5=P. A. , title=Transient Masculinization in the Fossa, ''Cryptoprocta ferox'' (Carnivora, Viverridae) , doi=10.1095/biolreprod66.3.610 , doi-access=free , journal=Biology of Reproduction , volume=66 , issue=3 , pages=610–615 , date=1 March 2002 , pmid=11870065 *{{cite journal , last1=Jocelyn , first1=Henry David , last2=Setchell , first2=Brian Peter , title=Regnier de Graaf on the human reproductive organs. An annotated translation of 'Tractatus de Virorum Organis Generationi Inservientibus' (1668) and 'De Mulierub Organis Generationi Inservientibus Tractatus Novus' (1672) , year=1972 , volume=17 , journal=Journal of Reproduction and Fertility. 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External links


''The Clitoris - Animated Documentary''
by Lori-Malépart Traversy (Video), 2016. *{{Wiktionary-inline, clitoris *{{commons category-inline, Clitoris {{Female reproductive system {{Human regional anatomy {{Sex {{Good article {{Authority control Clitoris, Mammal female reproductive system Vulva, * Women's health