Your Vulva and Clitoris: Everything Sex Ed Didn’t Teach You (so, pretty much everything)

a variety of vulvas
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Get to know your vulva and let the pleasure begin! For starters, your clitoris is a lot more like a penis than you realize and your vulva and vagina are not the same things.

All hail the magical, powerful, and beautiful vulva! For some people, this term is new, and you may be wondering what in the world a vulva is. But no worries, I am here to guide you on all you need to know about the lovely vulva: aka the epicenter of female pleasure center. 

The vulva is commonly mistaken as the vagina, but the vagina is not actually visible on a daily basis (you can easily spread open your legs and take a look at your vulva. In fact, I recommend doing this). Think of the vulva as the “cover” to the vaginal opening, urethra, labia majora, labia minora, and the clitoris. It basically protects your sexual organs and is like the grand entrance to the vagina.

the vulva is the entrance to the vagina
Vulva: The Grand Entrance by Leonor Carvalho

We are often not taught the correct terms when it comes to female anatomy. This is a bummer because we all deserve to know about vulvar anatomy. Once we start to understand what the vulva is, and all that it is capable of, we can see that it plays a very important role in pleasure. When we can correctly and confidently identify our genitals, it can help us embrace our bodies and sexuality. Woo hoo!

While vaginal stimulation is great – most cisgender women, including myself, do not routinely (and some never) experience orgasm solely from sexual intercourse. Many women and people with vulvas need vulvar/clitoral attention to reach orgasm. It also just feels good to stimulate! 

How to Pleasure Your Vulva (or Someone Else’s 😏)

To start, I recommend shifting your pleasure perspective. What does this mean? It means recognizing that the vagina is not the only way to get off. The clitoris, a powerful organ and main part of the vulva, is basically our female penis. Okay, not totally, but it deserves the same respect and recognition as the over-glorified penis. Not only is the structure of the clitoris similar to the penis, but it’s also the most sensitive sex organ and the only part of the human body designed purely for pleasure. This is why direct and indirect stimulation of the clitoris can increase the chance of orgasm.

You can stimulate the clitoris by directly touching it or by touching/rubbing the area around it. Since the clitoral body is relatively small, around 2-3cm in length, the surrounding area deserves attention as well. It all feels pretty darn good when aroused. 

Similarities Between the Clitoris and the Penis

Much like the penis, the clitoris actually becomes erect when aroused. It can become slightly larger in size when stimulated – mainly due to the many nerve endings and blood vessels it contains. Although many think it’s small, it’s plenty mighty.

  • The clitoral hood, (a cluster of skin that protects the clitoris), is like the foreskin of the penis. 
  • The glans of the clitoris, the external part of the clitoris that we can easily see and touch, acts like the head of a penis. It’s very sensitive to touch and the main source of vulvar pleasure.
  • The clitoris also extends farther into the vulva; it’s not just the glans. Just like a penis is more than just the tip!
  • The clitoris contains erectile tissue, much like the corpora cavernosa of the penis.
clitoris and penis
Penis and Clitoris by Leonor Carvalho, based on medical drawings

The Clitoris Doesn’t Stop There!

Most of the clitoris is not visible to the eye. The glans of the clitoris are just a little preview. It extends much deeper into the vulva, a fact that helps us understand why stimulating it feels so rich and sensational. The clitoris extends down from the glans into the tissue of the vagina. The two little brackets that extend are called the crura (or “legs”). The crura create a wishbone-looking structure inside of us. These little legs connected to the clitoral glans are responsible for heightening our pleasure. From the tip of the glans to the end of the crura, the entire clitoral structure can be nearly 10cm long.

The Clitoris by Leonor Carvalho

The vestibular bulbs, another extension of the glans, are underneath the crura. The vestibular bulbs and crura both contain erectile tissue that becomes engorged with blood during sexual arousal. This swelling also adds to the sensation and stimulation. 

Clitoral Erection by Leonor Carvalho, based on drawings by The Vulva Gallery

Wow… there sure is a lot to the wonderful vulva and clitoris! We tend to underestimate how powerful and necessary this knowledge is. Sighs at our education system…

Maybe, if we start to think and teach about the clitoris as our “female penis” (to give it the same significance and glory society places on male pleasure) and our vulva as the cape that shields it, we will gain more trust and confidence in our pleasure. We must be aware of the vulva and how it is home to a potent source of sexual satisfaction. When we know how the vulva and clitoris work, we can truly feel empowered. 

Above all, there is no shame in relearning our body parts. We all deserve to know and love our vulvas!

Camryn Pessin

Camryn Pessin

Camryn Pessin is an aspiring sex educator in NYC and creator of her own sex education magazine, Hush. A recent Fashion Institute of Technology grad, Camryn is passionate about teaching young individuals the ins and outs of sexual health in a creative and welcoming way. She wants everyone to feel empowered in this confusing part of their lives and be a supportive voice for all. Camryn talks about masturbating, vaginal health, the best toys for clitoral stimulation, and how to overcome sexual shame in our society. Her goal is to have her own sexual health course in schools.

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