9 Facts About Your Clitoris You Were Never Told In Sex Ed

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Fun fact: the clitoris is a surprising little thing. In fact, it's been lost and found throughout history, with the Italian anatomist Realdo Colombo claiming that he'd discovered the clitoris in 1559 — never mind that people throughout history had known that this little "nub" gave people with vulvas pleasure (and that they had even created ancient sex toys to take advantage of that fact). Later, Dr. Alfred Kinsey was kind enough to find it again in the 1950s, but even now, nearly 70 years later, science is still discovering facts about your clitoris that you definitely didn't learn in sex ed.

While the clitoris has come and gone, the fact remains that it exists, it has always existed, but human beings just really aren't sure what to make of it. Yes, the clitoris is really that fascinating and mysterious to both professionals and laymen alike. For example, scientists still can even explain why the clitoris is located where it is. It really doesn't have any logical reason to be part of the vulva, yet there it is, just hanging out down there, when it could have been put on the forearm instead.

Because the clitoris truly is one of the greatest wonders of our anatomy, here are seven surprising things that you probably never knew about it.

1. It's Far Bigger Than You Might Have Thought

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"The clitoris, as a structure, is much more than the little visible nub in the vulva," Isadora Alman, MFT, CST and Psychology Today contributor, tells Bustle.

How much more exactly? Try a whole four inches more of erectile tissue that lies just behind that little nub.

"The clitoris is more than just a tiny nodule at the top of where the labia meet," Jess O’Reilly, PhD., host of the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast, tells Bustle. "That shiny pearl-like structure, which is often referred to as the clitoris is actually only the head of the clitoris. It also has two legs, two bulbs, foreskin, glands, nerves, blood vessels, a shaft, and the capacity to become erect."

This part of the clitoris is called the internal clitoris and, similar to the external part of the clitoris and the rest of the vulva, when you're aroused, it all becomes engorged with blood.

2. It Exists ONLY To Give Pleasure

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Stop the presses! Yes, the clitoris is the only part of the human body that exists only to give pleasure. While a male orgasm results in the release of semen, which can conceive a baby if it gets hooked up with an egg at the right time of the month, the female orgasm isn't necessary to procreate. It's literally just there for those of us who have a clitoris to have an orgasm.

3. It's Not Just A Smaller Version Of A Penis

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"Once you study the full anatomy of the clitoral complex, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the clitoris is much like a penis... only smaller," Dr. Jess says. "But when you further examine the deep roots and multiple parts of the inner clitoris, it becomes more obvious that the clitoris isn’t a smaller version of the penis, but simply a variant model."

It's also believed that both the penis and clitoris are derived from the same tissue while in utero, according to Dr. Jess. Because of this, the two organs share attributes, but are still distinctly different in their own ways.

Both structures have glans and corpora cavernosa, but where things start to differ is that the clitoris has a hood, while the penis contains the urethra (for peeing), corona, corpus spongiosum, and foreskin, if the penis hasn't been circumcised.

3. It Does Some Fancy Trickery When Aroused

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"When a woman is aroused her clitoris recedes," Alman says, "just the opposite of a man who becomes erect."

Not only that, but it doubles in size, too.

"The clitoral legs and bulbs are part of the inner clitoris and... point toward the thighs when relaxed and then stretch backward during arousal allowing the clitoris to double in size as it becomes engorged with blood," Dr. Jess says. "The bulbs or vestibules of the clitoris underlie the labia and also swell with excitement. As they expand, they cause the vulva to expand outward and create a tight sensation around the outer third of the vagina, which Masters and Johnson named the orgasmic platform."

And, yes, this engorged blood does create a "lady boner," so it's not just a saying, but a legit thing!

4. It Has Twice As Many Nerves Than A Penis — And They're Long

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As much as people with penises love to think they hit the anatomy jackpot, the reality is that, well, they didn't. Especially when it comes to nerves endings.

The clitoris has twice as many nerves as the penis and, if those 8,000 weren't enough, those are connected to a very large network of 15,000 more nerves. These far-reaching nerves can induce more than one type of orgasm.

"Many women achieve orgasms through anal stimulation, and one of the reasons for that is because clitoral nerves travel all the way down there as well," Alexis Thomas, sex educator and owner of the sex-positive shop Taboo Tabou, tells Bustle. "There is really no wrong way to achieve an orgasm, but we should give a lot of credit to those clitoral nerves because they do play a major role one way or another."

5. Size And Distance Matters

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When it comes to the clitoris, the size and shape actually matter in regards to orgasm ability. Research has found that the smaller the clitoris and further it is from the vagina, the harder it can be to orgasm.

It's also because of the size component that some women struggle to even locate their clitoris.

"It is not uncommon for a woman to have trouble visually locating her clitoris, as it is not a body part that most of us learn about from a young age," Dr. Jess says. "We may discover its pleasure capacity by accident, but few girls are actually taught about its name, location, and function as part of their regular growing up routine."

Dr. Jess suggests, if you have yet to locate and actually look at your clitoris, to give it a try! Check it out! See what's going on down there.

"After a relaxing shower or bath, sit on your bum with your knees bent, legs spread and feet flat on the bed. Use a hand mirror to take a look at your entire vulva and press your fingers gently into your lips to become familiar with the area," Dr. Jess says. "Pull up gently on the skin at the top of your inner labia (just below your pubic mound) to reveal your sensitive clitoral head. It is usually round and a bit shiny and protrudes from beneath the hood. Every woman’s body is different so your clitoral head may poke out conspicuously or only extend slightly from beneath its hood. Either way, you’re perfectly normal!"

6. Not Every Clitoris Enjoys Direct Contact

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Because not ever clitoris is the same, we can't expect every clitoris to respond the same way to stimulation either.

"Pressing, flicking and encircling the clitoral head can be arousing, but it can also be annoying and even uncomfortable at times," Dr. Jess says. "Most women report that its sensitivity and pleasure capacity fluctuates depending on how aroused they are and some opt to forgo direct touch in favor of indirect stimulation (e.g. pulling on the skin of the mons to stroke the hood over the erect shaft) at the peak of arousal."

In fact, some women prefer that it's never directly touched because it's always very sensitive.

"Some women are just too sensitive to have their clitoris touched or licked, and prefer general stimulation around or near it," Alman says.

7. Not Every Clitoris Wants To Be Stimulated The Same Way

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While some women prefer indirect touch, others prefer attention on specific parts of the clitoris.

"Some women have a distinct preference for a very specific spot on the clitoris to be stimulated," Alman says. "Too high or too low, the left, if it's the right side, etc., just won't do it."

This is where masturbating on a regular basis can help you discover how and where your clitoris likes to be touched or, in some cases, not directly touched.

"You can stroke its legs and bulbs through the labia, rub its shaft via the hood, stimulate its erectile tissue through the shallow walls of the vagina or apply direct pressure to its highly innervated head," Dr. Jess says.

8. It Continues To Grow In Size Throughout Your Life

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It may be easy to look down and wonder how the hell the clitoris can continue to grow past puberty and into adulthood, but it does. By the time a person with a clitoris is about 32, their clitoris is four times larger than it was when they was going through puberty. By the time menopause rolls around, the clitoris has reached being seven times the size it was than when the person was born.

9. Clitoral And Vaginal Orgasms Are Actually Connected

Although many of us already know that clitoral orgasms are the most common, with 70 to 80 percent of women needing clitoral stimulation to climax, it should be noted that the elusive vaginal orgasm we hear about is the result of the clitoral stimulation — but from the inside.

"Vaginal orgasms are not invariably distinct from clitoral ones and there is a great deal of overlap between these interconnected erogenous zones," Dr. Jess says. "The vagina and clitoris are not only close neighbors, but are, in fact, connected by a number of nerve pathways and muscular structures. The corpora cavernosa of the clitoris, which are two sponge-like tubes that form the erectile tissue of its body are located around the vaginal canal. For this reason, some experts believe that all genital orgasms are clitoral in nature on account of the corollary stimulation through the vagina."

But, as Dr. Jess points out, it doesn't matter how we label our orgasms. It's only that we enjoy them.

Ultimately, the clitoris has yet to be entirely figured out. But that's also one of its charms. However, at least these nine facts can give you some sort of insight into that little nub, that's not exactly a little nub after all.