What is the clitoris?

This clitoris It is the part of the genitals found in people designated female at birth and plays a key role in sexual stimulation and pleasure. Most of the clitoris is inside the body, invisible to the naked eye, but there is a small lump (the glans of the clitoris) that can be seen.

The clitoris develops from the same human embryonic structure as the penis, and the two actually share many similar properties. The clitoris is highly sensitive during arousal and stimulation.

This article discusses the clitoris, its location, and its structure and function. It also explains some health issues that can affect the clitoris.

Where is the clitoris?

vulva A general term used to describe all external female reproductive organs. The vagina is an internal organ.

The vulva part is located around the vagina. These organs include:

  • labia majora, major/external lip
  • labia minora, minor/inner lip
  • clitoris
  • Vaginal vestibule, the area around the vagina
  • Vestibular bulbs, located on either side of the vagina
  • Bartholin’s glands that secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina

The clitoris is located near the pubic bone where the labia majora meet.

The clitoris is attached to the labia, and structures called the labia pubic symphysis and mons pubis (pads of adipose tissue), consisting of ligaments. They hold the clitoris in a curved position.

In gender-affirming surgery to build a penis, these ligaments are released to straighten and lengthen the clitoris.


The clitoris is the part of the genitals found in people who are assigned female at birth. You can see that it has a small outer part, called the clitoral glans, located where the labia majora (lips) meet near the pubic bone. The rest of the clitoris consists of erectile tissue in the body.

clitoral structure and anatomy

The parts of the clitoris you can see include:

  • glans clitoris: This small part of the clitoris is located at the top of the vulva. It is full of nerves and is highly sensitive to stimuli.
  • clitoral hood (Foreskin is too long): This layer of skin covers the glans of the clitoris. It’s technically part of the labia minora, but is sometimes included in the clitoral anatomy.

The inside of the clitoris wraps around the urethra (the tube that allows urine to exit the body) and extends to the top of the vagina. These internal components include:

  • Body (corpus): The body of the clitoris is relatively short. It consists of two pairs of erectile tissue cylinders called corpora.
  • Crura: Each branch of the corpus grows feet. The ankle enters the pelvis approximately 5 to 9 centimeters (cm). They consist of erectile tissue that surrounds the urethra and vaginal canal.
  • Bulb: The bulb of the clitoris is also made up of erectile tissue. They are located between the labia minora, near the surface of the vaginal wall, along the line of the labia minora. During sexual arousal, the bulb doubles in size, from a flaccid 3 to 4 centimeters to an erect approximately 7 centimeters.
  • Root: The root is where all the nerves of each erectile body of the clitoris come together. The junction of the little foot is close to the surface of the body, and this area is very sensitive. The back of the clitoral root is near the opening of the urethra.

Erectile function of the clitoral tissue requires blood flow and an adequate supply of blood vessels to the clitoris.The clitoris body is albugineathe sheath of connective tissue.

The function of the clitoris also depends on many different nerves: the dorsal nerve, parts of the clitoris Pudendal nerve, and the cavernous nerve. These nerves also supply vaginal structures, which may be part of the reason that stimulation of the clitoris causes sexual arousal.

Anatomical variation

Some people have differences in the way their genitals develop. These are called bisexual conditions.

Some of these involve changes to the clitoris and how it looks at birth. congenital adrenal hyperplasiaFor example, it may result in a larger clitoris that looks more like a penis.

Surgeons have “corrected” for these differences in the past. In recent years, opposition from intersex people and their families, as well as many doctors and researchers, has grown. Many people now recommend delaying surgery until a person is old enough to decide for themselves.

The exception is when these anatomical differences may cause difficulty or inability to urinate. For medical reasons, this is a problem that needs to be corrected surgically.


Most clitoris is actually an internal structure made up of erectile tissue. Its response to sexual stimulation relies on blood flow to the clitoris and the many nerves that support sensation. Some people may be born with an enlarged clitoris, which may indicate an intersex condition.

The role of the clitoris in sexual pleasure

Unlike the penis, the clitoris has no direct role in reproduction. Its main function is sexual arousal and sexual pleasure.

There is still some debate about the role of clitoral anatomy in sexual function and orgasm. Exactly how the clitoris affects arousal and orgasm is not fully understood.

In some people, the clitoris grows slightly during sexual activity. When this happens, it becomes more sensitive.

Stimulation of the clitoris may also directly affect blood flow to other reproductive organs, including the vaginal wall.

Many people require clitoral stimulation to achieve or enhance orgasm.

The clitoris is not involved in reproduction, but it plays a key role in sexual pleasure. Some people have a hard time reaching orgasm without being stimulated.

Main Difference Between Sexual Arousal and Desire

conditions affecting the clitoris

Like most organs, there are some health conditions that can affect the clitoris. Some are very mild and easy to treat. Others are more serious.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • soreness from sexual stimulation
  • itching caused by soaps, cleansers, or lotions
  • pain from injury or infection
  • pain or itching from vulvar cancer
  • pain from prolonged congestion

Most conditions that affect the clitoris, including yeast infections or sexually transmitted diseases, can be treated. Depending on the cause, your doctor may recommend antibiotics or creams to relieve irritation.

There are some conditions that also directly affect the structure or health of the clitoris:

clitoral hypertrophy

This is a bigger name than a typical clitoris.

Babies may not need treatment. However, when it occurs in childhood, it is usually due to neurofibromatosis, a disease in which tumors form on nerve tissue. If needed, it can be treated with surgery.

lichen hardening

hardened lichen is a condition characterized by white, thin skin.

In rare cases, it can cause genital scarring. In severe cases, scar tissue may affect the function of the clitoris.

clitoral adhesions

These occur when the clitoral hood sticks to the glans and can no longer be fully retracted. Why this happens seems to be different and not fully understood.

Risk factors appear to include genital damage, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, lichen sclerosus, and hormonal imbalances.

These adhesions can be mild to severe and can cause clitoral pain. Minimally invasive surgery may be a treatment option.

metastatic cancer

Although rare, cancer that has spread from another site can cause clitoral lesions.

Scientists report that in breast cancer cases, this spread to the clitoris, Cervical and endometrial cancer.


Most conditions that affect the clitoris, such as yeast infections, are relatively easy to treat. Other changes in the clitoris may signal an underlying medical condition. Although rare, this can include cancer that has spread from other parts of the body. If you have concerns, consult your OB/GYN or other healthcare provider.

medical test

For problems involving the clitoris, you are unlikely to need any medical tests.

If it changes in size or shape, a biopsy may help determine the cause. Imaging may also be used for some people at risk of cancer spreading.

One exception is when babies are born with enlarged clitoris. Health care providers often try to determine the cause of the enlarged clitoris. This may involve blood tests to check hormone levels, or genetic tests to look for different underlying intersex conditions.

Understanding why may provide insight into a child’s later gender identity expression.


The clitoris plays a central role in the sexual stimulation and pleasure of those who are designated female at birth. Most of the clitoris is located inside the body, although you can see a small external nub.

Health problems related to the clitoris are relatively rare and, in most cases, easy to treat.

One of the more serious problems is an enlarged clitoris at birth, which may indicate an intersex condition. Or, if the clitoris gets enlarged later in childhood, it could be a sign of an inherited neurological disorder called neurofibromatosis. This condition can cause tumors and require treatment. If you have concerns about the look or feel of your clitoris, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.

VigorTip words

There’s still a lot to learn about the erectile tissue of the clitoris and how its functions relate to other structures in the pelvis.

Everyone has their own sensitivities and preferences when it comes to stimulating the clitoral glans. It’s best to experiment with different levels of stress and techniques to find what works best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an internal clitoris?

    The part of the organ located inside the body accounts for most of its size and contains all its erectile tissue.

  • How do you find the clitoris?

    The glans of the clitoris (outer clitoris) is located above the opening of the urethra at the junction of the labia minora (inner labia) and is covered by a retractable clitoral hood. The rest is inside and connected to the glans.

  • How big is the clitoris?

    The length from the tip of the glans to the end of each ankle is approximately 9 cm (4 inches). The outer glans is about 2.5 cm (about 3/4″ to 1″) long and about the same diameter.

  • What is female circumcision?

    Female circumcision is the removal of the clitoris to prevent women from experiencing sexual pleasure. It is traditionally practiced in some African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries, usually when girls reach puberty. This is considered a form of female genital mutilation (FGM). While illegal in many places today, it still persists in some countries.