updated from the 2011/2012 post
With 8 000 nerve endings and almost as much erectile tissue as a penis, Dorothy Black discovers the true wonders of the internal clitoris
I only found out about my clit a few years ago. Well. The whole of it at least. The whole other part that is attached to the little bean I so know and love and that spreads out and around my vaginal canal and down into the fleshy bulbs that make my inner labia swell with joy. It’s a whole subvulvic world of wonder I tell you.
At the 2011 Sexuality and Consciousness Conference, a sex educator and tantrika named Andrew Barnes took to the stage to tell us something both mind-blowing and reassuring: The vagina is not a mystery. Orgasm is not a mystery. In fact, women’s bodies are arranged for pleasure.
With diagrams and photos of medical cross-sections, he outlined for us everything from the internal structure of the clit to labia to the prostate.
I had never quite looked at a vagina and vulva with that much dedicated observational focus before.
While Andrew may not have uncovered these facts, he’s doing a great job of spreading the word of yoni to all that will hear. And praise be, cos we could sure do with some enlightening. Sitting in a room full of sexually liberated and educated women and men, I was relieved to find that I was not the only one who expressed surprise at the information that’s come to light about length, depth and breadth of the female sexual anatomy.
In hundreds of years of dissecting and labelling the human body, it was only in the 1980s that we started checking out the structure of the clit with MRI scans. Between then and the mid-2000s detailed reports by urologist Helen O’Connell about the scope of the clitoris went largely unnoticed. It was only in 2009 when two French researchers, Odile Buisson and Pierre Foldès, produced the world’s first 3D pics of the internal structure of the clitoris that the world took notice.
So here we are. Thousands of years of civilisation and we’ve only just ‘discovered’ the marvel that is the clitoris.
A basic introduction to your internal clit
Right now a lot of focus is being placed on the ‘internal clit’, but what I liked about Andrew is that he basically covered the whole vaginal area. Here’s what I learnt (I hope you appreciate my totally suitable for work artist’s impression of ‘Only the things I’m interested in showing’ cross-section diagram).
So the clit itself basically comprises the glans (the little bean that’s covered by a hood, and what we generally think of when we think ‘clitoris’), a shaft that extends into the body as clitoral ‘legs’ in a wish-bone shape that hugs the vaginal canal, and clitoral bulbs made up of erectile tissue (this is what makes your inner labia swell up when you get super horny).
When you massage your clitoral area – from bean to lips to vaginal opening – you’re basically stimulating all the erectile tissue that surrounds the vagina.
The clitoral hood itself is connected to the inner labia, so as this engorges, the hood pulls back, exposing the glans to stimulation. With over 8 000 nerve endings, the glans is the only body part that is designed only for pleasure, providing no other function than to hotwire sensation to the rest of the internal structure and make you sigh or scream. (As an aside, after initial arousal I’ve found that gently squeezing just the lips together – remember these are ‘home’ to the bulbs – is incredibly orgasmic.)
Now something that’s not mentioned in chats about the internal clit are the skene’s glands. We’ve barely gotten a good handle on this. They were discovered in the 19th century, but no one really knew what they did except that they could become swollen.
Then in the 2000s their description was added upon: the ‘female prostate gland’, since they’re kinda made of the same stuff as the male prostate. Now there is a reckoning that these may or may not be the G-spot and may or may not be the source of female ejaculate.
Point is, figuring this all out is an ongoing journey for the whitecoats. But considering what we now know about how extensive the clit is, I think it’s a safe bet to say that its range for ‘internal’ and ‘external’ orgasms is pretty wide.
What does this mean for you?
I suppose one of the most important aspects of this for me is that we now know how totally structured the female genitals are for pleasure. This should raise a lot of questions about why we labour under shame or disgust at our bodies.
The more empowered we are to know how our bodies function, the better equipped we are to manage or, hopefully dispel, inherited guilt and shame about ourselves and our sexuality.
We’ve found what’s under the tip of the iceberg, and, as they say, with great knowledge comes great responsibility to get your sexy on. Or something like that. Go forth, explore your clit – the whole of it – and report back. We should be swopping notes on this.
P.S. Check out this delightful video of artist and sex educator Betty Dodson illustrating the whole female genital area – from the internal structure to the external. It is fucking amazeballs.
Also, DO check out 3DVulva for more insight into the goings on ‘down there’ :) [clickety click]
And this > The Mystery of The Female Orgasm < is a really great article about what we know in 2015 about orgasm
(i’ve taken a lot of images from random sites for this, if one of them is yours please let me know and i’ll credit.)