What You Should Know About the Clitoris

The clitoris is part of the female genitalia. It is a pea-sized structure. It is located at the top of the vulva, above the urethral opening. The urethra is the tube that passes urine out of the bladder.                               

The clitoris is important for sexual arousal. It is sensitive to touch. It may become larger when aroused. 

This article discusses the clitoris, its location, and its function. It also discusses some of the health conditions that can affect the clitoris.

Location of the Clitoris

The vulva is a term used to describe the external female genital organs. The vagina is an internal organ. The parts of the vulva are located around the vagina. These organs include:

  • The labia majora, also called lips
  • The labia minora, also called lips
  • The clitoris
  • The vestibule of the vagina, the area that surrounds the vagina
  • The bulb of the vestibule, tissue located on either side of the vagina
  • The glands of Bartholin, which secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina

The two sets of labia form an oval shape around the vagina. The labia minora are the smaller inner lips that surround the vagina. The labia majora are the larger outer lips. After puberty, the outer side of the labia majora is covered with pubic hair.

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

Recap

The clitoris is one of the external female sex organs. It is located where the labia majora meet.

Role of the Clitoris in Sexual Pleasure

In some ways, the clitoris can be compared to the penis. Unlike the penis, though, the clitoris does not have a direct role in reproduction.

The clitoris is very sensitive to touch. In some people, it becomes slightly enlarged or engorged during sexual activity. When this happens it becomes even more sensitive.

Some females can't orgasm during penetration alone. These people may need clitorial stimulation in order to have an orgasm.

Females who can have an orgasm during penetration may have stronger orgasms with clitoral stimulation.

The clitoris is sensitive to touch. Many people need clitoral stimulation in order to have an orgasm.

Conditions of the Clitoris

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

Most conditions of the clitoris can be treated. Depending on the cause, a doctor may suggest antibiotics to treat an infection, or creams to soothe irritation.

A lump or bump may be more serious. Lumps or bumps could be melanomas or other cancers.

If you have concerns, ask your doctor or OB/GYN. In rare cases, you may need to see a specialist.

Recap

Most conditions of the clitoris are easy to treat. If you have a lump or bump, though, see a doctor.

Female Circumcision

Female circumcision is also known as female genital mutilation (FGM). In this practice, the clitoris is removed. This prevents a woman from feeling pleasure during sex. This is often done as a girl reaches puberty.

FGM is traditionally practiced in some African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. There are a number of reasons why it is done. Some believe it reduces the chances a woman will cheat on her partner. This is because sex is less pleasurable without an intact clitoris.

FGM has been outlawed in many places but still continues in some countries.

Summary

The clitoris is important for female sexual stimulation. Many women can't have orgasms without stimulation of the clitoris.

Certain health conditions can affect the clitoris. This includes pain and itch due to injury, infections, or reactions to soaps and other chemicals. Most can be easily treated.

If you have a lump or bump near or on your clitoris, see a doctor. This could be a more serious condition.  

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pauls RN. Anatomy of the clitoris and the female sexual response. Clin Anat. 2015;28(3):376-84. doi:10.1002/ca.22524

  2. Parada M, D'Amours T, Amsel R, Pink L, Gordon A, Binik YM. Clitorodynia: a descriptive study of clitoral pain. J Sex Med. 2015;12(8):1772-80. doi:doi.org/10.1111/jsm.12934 

  3. Puppo V. Female genital mutilation and cutting: An anatomical review and alternative rites. Clin Anat. 2017;30(1):81-88. doi:10.1002/ca.22763

Additional Reading
  • Katz VL. Reproductive anatomy: gross and microscopic, clinical correlations. In: Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012.