Clitoris: Why is it called the gateway to toe-curling female orgasms?


Last Updated November 18th, 2019

What is a clitoris?

The external female genital organ contains a pea-sized structure which is located at the top of the vulva and called the clitoris. The word clitoris comes from the Greek word kleitoris which means “little hill.” Many compare the female clitoris to the male penis since both structures evolve from the same origin although the penis is involved in reproduction whereas the clitoris is not.

It is one of the most sensitive parts of the female genitalia and is stimulated for sexual pleasure. Vulva which is the single word used to describe the external genitalia contains several organs namely the vagina, clitoris, labia majora, labia minora, vestibule of the vagina, Bartholin glands, and the bulb of the vestibule. Numerous nerves connect the clitoris and make it the most sensitive part of the vulva and is therefore, sometimes referred to as the external G-spot.

Stimulation of the clitoris helps a woman attain an orgasm.  Though the size of the clitoris is small and it’s only as big as a pea, it gets engorged when stimulated and can double in size.

Anatomy of the clitoris

The clitoris is situated below the mons pubis.  It contains two erectile vascular tissues called the corpora cavernosa. These tissues are situated on either side and are surrounded by a sheath. A thin epidermis covers the clitoris. It is covered with numerous sensory nerves and receptors.

The size of the clitoris remains small before puberty and drastically enlarges after puberty. It has three important components namely the glans clitoris, two crura, and two bulbs of the vestibule. Glans clitoris is the only part that is visible to the naked eye.

The two crura extend from the glans clitoris in the shape of brackets and extend deep into the tissue of the vulva. Finally, the two bulbs of the vestibules extend on either side of the vaginal orifice.

Disorders of the clitoris

Disorders associated with the clitoris are quite common and are generally treatable except than some serious conditions. Some of the common disorders include soreness due to extensive and vigorous masturbation, pain due to an injury to the clitoris, inflammation, and redness due to infections ranging from yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases, as well as persistent engorgement of the clitoris. Majority of the problems associated with the clitoris are treatable with creams and antibiotics.

Soreness and itching are the two main problems associated with the clitoris due to its tender and delicate anatomy. The majority of women tend to hide this and avoid speaking about them with their doctor to avoid embarrassment.

As a matter of fact, around one-third of university-aged women are unable to find the clitoris on a diagram. On the other hand, they avoid using medical terms such as the vagina and vulva and instead prefer the female reproductive organs. It is this mindset that leads to several disorders of the clitoris. Some of the major disorders are discussed here in detail.

Enlarged clitoris or clitoromegaly

Macroclitoris or clitoromegaly is a condition where the clitoris is abnormally enlarged. This can be caused due to various factors (though normal enlargement caused by sexual arousal is not considered clitoromegaly).

The size of the clitoris increases when it is stimulated but otherwise remains small. Several health conditions such as hormonal imbalances, inflammation of the vulva, polycystic ovarian disease, tumors, as well as steroids can cause the clitoris to enlarge.  Some of the common causes are discussed below.

  • Sexual excitementThis is a valid reason why the clitoris should be enlarged and hence is not considered to be an issue. The enlargement would subside once orgasm is achieved. If orgasm has not been achieved after arousal, it may remain enlarged for several hours and can cause an injury or irritation when it gets rubbed against the cloth.
  • Inflammation of the vulvaThis condition is medically termed as vulvitis where the vulva becomes inflamed. Some common causes of vulvitis include yeast infections, allergic reactions caused by certain soaps and body lotions, as well as an extensive amount of friction after masturbation.
  • Hormone imbalances – Excess secretion of androgen can lead to swelling of the clitoris. Some of the causes of hormonal imbalance include polycystic ovary syndrome which produces increased amounts of androgen. PCOS can be determined with changes in the human body such as acne, extra face and body hair, irregular periods, and weight gain. Use of anabolic steroids for athletic endurance can cause excess of male hormones which could lead to irreversible enlargement of clitoris, though some studies contest this. Finally, tumors can cause abnormal functioning of the adrenal glands and lead to hormonal imbalances.
  • Congenital disabilities – This condition can cause the clitoris to become enlarged at birth. It can also lead to other developmental complications.

Clitoral priapism or clitorism

Clitoral priapism is considered to be rare but can be quite uncomfortable if not treated adequately.  When the clitoris is stimulated, there is an excess amount of blood flow due to the presence of numerous nerve fibers. The clitoris remains enlarged until an orgasm is achieved. It then returns to its original size as the blood slowly drains out.

In certain cases, venous or lymphatic drainage does not occur and this ca lead to extended periods of clitoral enlargement.  This can cause swelling and edema resulting in pain and discomfort. One of the main causes of this condition is due to the use of medications producing alpha blockade.

As a matter of fact, there is no specific treatment that can be precisely rendered to treat this condition. Cause-specific treatments can help reverse the symptoms. Ice packs and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve the symptoms of pain and discomfort. Urologic and gynecological consultations would be required to treat persistent symptoms.

Clitoral itching

Clitoral itching can occur due to various reasons such as contact dermatitis, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections, and Lichen sclerosus. These are discussed below.

  • Contact dermatitis – As the name suggests, this type of dermatitis occurs when there is a direct contact with irritants such as soaps, lotions, detergents, latex, etc. Symptoms associated with this condition include itchy red rash, which can be followed by blisters. These blisters may even ooze out fluid and later form a crust.
  • Yeast infections – The human body generally has fungus on the skin. When there is abnormal growth in the numbers, it can lead to an infection.  Some of the symptoms include persistent itching, redness, swelling, rash, as well as secretion of discharge resembling cottage cheese.
  • Bacterial vaginosis – This is again caused when the bacteria present on the skin grow excessively leading to infection. This may be caused due to various factors such sexually transmitted infection, multiple sex partners, as well as poor hygiene. Some of the symptoms associated with this condition include burning while urinating and redness of the vaginal area. Antibiotics are generally prescribed to treat these bacterial infections.
  • Sexually transmitted infections – An infection that is transmitted from one person to another during a sexual encounter is called a sexually transmitted disease. Some of the common sexually transmitted diseases include genital herpes, chlamydia, Trichomoniasis, scabies, and genital warts. Some of the symptoms associated with this infection include vaginal discharge, painful urination, and blister formation.
  • Lichen sclerosus – This is a condition where white patches are formed on the genital area. An overactive immune system as well as hormonal imbalances can cause this condition.  ome of the symptoms include redness, itching, blisters, as well as bleeding.

Orgasm wars

It has been a long debate as to which provides the ultimate pleasure, the vaginal or G-spot orgasm or the clitoral orgasm.  As a matter of fact, it has been concluded that only 30% of women ever experience a vaginal orgasm whereas clitoral orgasm can be achieved by all women.

Studies have claimed that female orgasm for most women with the help of penetration alone is not sufficient and definitely needs the stimulation of the clitoris.

Taboo surrounding the clitoris

Frigidity and failure

Sigmund Freud who was a neurologist had come to the conclusion that a woman could claim sexual maturity only when she experiences vaginal orgasm. He considered the clitoral orgasm to be immature. According to his theory, a woman who could not achieve vaginal orgasm was frigid or an unreal woman.

He backed his theory claiming that failure to achieve vaginal orgasm was due to deep-rooted neurotic problems. This lead to a conclusion that all women can be considered normal and mature only when they achieve vaginal orgasm. It went to the extent that women who failed in this aspect were diagnosed with sexual dysfunction. This was the main reasons which lead to faking of orgasm during a penetration just to be recognized as mature and called a real woman.

Celebrating the clitoral orgasm

William Masters and Virginia Johnson who were US sexologists in 1960 came to a conclusion that orgasms begin at the clitoris and extend to the vagina.  They debated that the pleasure experienced by women during penetration was mainly due to the connection between the clitoris and the vagina and came to a conclusion that frigidity is a result of poor sexual technique and not a sexual dysfunction.

They went one step further and reported that women were able to experience multiple orgasms whereas on the other hand, men were not able to achieve this. This was appreciated by a lot of feminists. Many people also argued that a true female orgasm can be achieved only by clitoral stimulation and not by penetration.

A woman’s perspective

When you look at this from a woman’s perspective, the debate surrounding a woman’s pleasure is quite irrelevant. As a matter of fact, each woman is different from others and gains pleasure through various means. Few women thoroughly enjoy vaginal penetration and use of fingers and attain an orgasm while on the other hand, few women tend to use sex toys such as vibrators to stimulate the clitoris.

Both these types of women find considerable sexual pleasure with their respective techniques. Judging a woman’s maturity based on the way they attain orgasm is highly unacceptable. The bottom line is that orgasm is an extremely pleasurable experience regardless of how it is achieved.


TL;DR?

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