Biology is hard, but finding the clitoris doesn’t have to be. The thing is, lots of people don’t know where the clitoris is, and many of us are too embarrassed to ask. Rest assured, we’ve got you covered: sit back and enjoy Clitoris 101.
We know that the clitoris is an erogenous organ that plays an important role in sexual response, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. So, why is it so hard for people to locate? “Because people are ignorant,” says Patti Britton, Ph.D., clinical sexologist. To clarify, you’re not ignorant if you can’t find the clitoris, but rather, “the ignorance is not understanding that it is a complex structure made of many parts,” she says. (And the less-than-stellar sex ed in the U.S. generally doesn’t equip people with that knowledge.) If you’re confused, you’re on the right track, because the clit is complex.
When a person goes looking for the clitoris, usually they’re trying to see or feel for a protrusion shaped like a pearl or a pea at the top of the vulva, Dr. Britton says. That’s the glans clitoris, which is really just the tip of the iceberg, she says. The glans clitoris is the only external manifestation of the clitoris, but it isn’t always visible to the naked eye. “Unless a person is stimulated to a high state of arousal, that little pearl may be retracted, not noticeable, or hard to feel with a finger or tongue,” she says. So, depending on a specific person’s anatomy, someone can end up “going on a hunt for the pearl,” and then get discouraged when they can’t find it.
The clitoris is really a “huge internal structure,” Dr. Britton says. Under the vulva lie the “legs” of the clitoris, or the “crus clitoris,” which form a wishbone shape, she says. And then at the tip of that wishbone is the glans clitoris, which is the tiny part people can sometimes see. Dr. Britton says the easiest way to understand what the clit looks like on the inside is to look at a 3-D model. Some artists have actually created 3-D printed models of the clit (because, art), and they’re actually pretty chic.
In addition to all these internal parts, there’s also an external structure that could be in the way of the glans clit, the clitoral hood, Dr. Britton says. The clitoral hood is basically like the “foreskin” of the clitoris and covers up the glans clitoris, she says. When a person with a vagina is aroused, usually the clitoral hood will fully retract, but that’s not always the case, because everyone’s anatomy is slightly different, she says. You might have to physically move aside your clitoral hood in order to stimulate your glans clitoris, or you might require more pressure to feel aroused, she says.
Want to find your clit? Dr. Britton suggests trying a genital self-viewing exercise, which isn’t as clinical as it sounds. Sit in front of a mirror, or hold up a mirror to your vagina, so that you can relax and still see what’s going on down under, she says. You might even want to get a light, or use the LED light on your phone to shine on your vaginal area for better viewing, she suggests.
To orient yourself, the glans clitoris should be at 12 o’clock, and your vaginal opening will be at 6 o’clock, Dr. Britton says. If you want to stimulate your clit, gently stroke the top, where your glans clitoris is, in a circular motion. “Your clit, as well as the other aroused parts, will swell, making it much more noticeable,” she says. If you’re still not seeing anything, Dr. Britton suggests experimenting using a vibrator and watching what happens as you get aroused. And even if you can’t actually see your clitoris, but you can feel pleasurable sensations around that area, you probably have found it, she says.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether or not your clitoris is visible, and it’s definitely not worth it to get frustrated if you can’t find it. “Sometimes, people have big clits, or sometimes there’s only a tiny part peeking out, no bigger than a lentil,” Dr. Britton says. The point is that if you’re curious or even confused, you shouldn’t be afraid to get up in there and figure out what’s going on — it’s worth it.
The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we’re learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we’re helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it’s done to how to make sure it’s consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once. Check out more here.