Sex therapy can sometimes turn into a lesson in anatomy. Many of the men and women I meet at my clinic don’t have the foggiest idea about the structure of the vulva.
Not that long ago, a young man shared with me his frustration at his inability to find his partner’s clitoris. From conversations with his friends, he realized that this organ mainly likes to play hide and seek.
“And your girlfriend?” I asked. “Can’t she help you find it?” The guy was scared stiff and didn't answer.
He then asked if it is true "what they say", that the clitoris looks like a small male genital, and if so, how come he can't find it.
As you might’ve already guessed, the poor guy lives off rumors. I gave him a short lesson on the structure of the vulva and encouraged him to build sexual communication with his partner so that the little fella would come out of hiding.
This client is nothing out of the ordinary, and unfortunately enough, many women around the world would have failed a test about the clitoris’s anatomy, and unsurprisingly so.
Half of humankind is equipped with this organ, which has an intricate network of approximately 8,000-12,000 nerve endings and its entire purpose is to induce pleasure. However, it has gotten little attention so far and its structure has been explored in depth only in recent years.
Those acquainted with the clitoris would recognize its visible portion, or the glans, at the front junction of the inner lips, above the opening of the urethra.
But what most of us don't know is that there are two “legs” branching out from the hood of the clitoris extend inward into the vagina, and here the similarity to the male penis is relevant: the outer part
The outer part is the homolog (equivalent) to the dome of the male penis, while the two elongated extensions are equivalent to the two cavernous bodies, which make up the shaft of the penis.
Freud believed there were two kinds of female orgasms — one through the clitoris and another deeper inside the reproductive tract.
But Freud was not familiar with more recent findings on the structure of the clitoris. Today we attribute both orgasms to external stimulation as opposed to an internal one.
My young patient, whose friend told him the clitoris likes to play hide and seek, knows today that this tiny organ is covered by a crease of skin, a fun-size foreskin if you will.
He also learned that during sexual arousal, the head of the clitoris swells and retracts a little into the vagina, and this is the reason that during sexual stimulation, one should switch from external contact with the clitoris to more internal contact through the vaginal tract.
Women whose clitoral hood makes contact with the glans more difficult can pull it sideways to allow optimal stimulation. On the other hand, there are women for whom it is precisely this cover, which prevents direct stimulation, that pleases them. They enjoy being aroused by indirect contact, even if they are still in their underwear or rubbing themselves against a pillow. The dispersion of the stimulus pleases them more than focused stimulus.
Unfortunately, there is not enough in-depth medical research about the clitoris. Various surgeries or other medical procedures may damage the innervation of the clitoris, if not the organ itself.
Women who have piercings in this sensitive area and claim it boosts their pleasure should know that studies on the subject found zero connection between the two, plus the potential for reduced pleasure due to the formation of scar tissue in the pierced area.
If you are interested in pleasure enhancers, there are excellent vibrators that stimulate the clitoris. Unlike the vibrating devices designed for the vagina, these perform a suction action that is more suitable to that end.
So with or without a vibrator, if we wish to make much more use of the not so well known and talked about gift that biology has given us, we are asked to deepen our acquaintance with it.
This is the only way we can give the clitoris the stimulation that will do wonders for our sexual relations. Good luck!
Dr. Itzhak (Zahy) Ben-Zion is the Southern District chief psychiatrist at Clalit Health Services and a sex medicine specialist.