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File:Fem isa 2.gif
A woman's clitoris extends from the visible portion to a point below the pubic bone.

The clitoris (plural: clitorides) is a sexual organ in the body of female mammals. The visible knob-like portion is located near the anterior junction of the labia minora, above the opening of the vagina. Unlike its male counterpart, the penis, the clitoris has no urethra, is not involved in urination, and its sole function is to induce sexual pleasure.

The word: clitoris can be pronounced KLIHT uh rihs (Template:IPA in IPA notation Template:Noprint)) or klih TOHR ihs (Template:IPA Template:Noprint)). The OED suggests that KLY tor ihs (Template:IPA) is also used in the UK.


Development and formation

File:Clitoris inner anatomy.gif
The internal anatomy of the vulva, with the clitoral hood and labia minora indicated as lines.
Photograph of the human vulva showing the glans clitoris. In many cases the clitoral hood completely covers the glans, as seen in the photo below.
A photograph of the vulva, with the clitoris obscured by the clitoral hood and folds of the labia minora.

The female clitoris corresponds to homologous parts of the male penis, i.e., embryologically it comes from the same tissue that forms the penis. The trigger for forming a penis instead of a clitoris is the action of testosterone in utero.

The organ is formed out of corpus cavernosum, a rich collection of capillary tissue with a substantial presence of nerve tissue. It is particularly well-suited for sexual stimulation.

The outside portion of the clitoris, the clitoral glans, is entirely or partially covered by the clitoral hood or prepuce, tissue that is homologous to the foreskin in males and beneath which smegma is formed and may collect. In humans, the clitoral body then extends several centimeters upwards and to the back, before splitting into two arms, the clitoral crura. Shaped like an inverted "V", these crura extend around and to the interior of the labia majora. Including external and internal components, it is thought the clitoris is similar in size to the penis.

Most of the clitoris is hidden, and external stimulation of the entire clitoris can result in a more profound sexual response. There is considerable variation among women with regard to how much of the clitoris protrudes from the hood and how much is covered by it, ranging from complete, covered invisibility to full, protruding visibility. One explanation advanced for the vaginal orgasm is that it results from stimulation of the internal parts of the clitoris during vaginal penetration. Nevertheless, some women experience both clitoral and vaginal orgasms and distinguish between them in terms of both the physical and general sensations associated with each.

During sexual arousal, the clitoris enlarges as its erectile tissue fills with blood. Shortly before orgasm, this erection often increases further, drawing the clitoris upwards, so that viewed from the outside it actually appears to shrink.

Recognition of existence

Medical literature first recognised the existence of the clitoris in the 16th century. This is the subject of some dispute: Realdo Colombo (also known as Matteo Renaldo Colombo) was a lecturer in surgery at the University of Padua, Italy, and in 1559 he published a book called De re anatomica in which he described the "seat of woman's delight". Colombo concluded, "Since no one has discerned these projections and their workings, if it is permissible to give names to things discovered by me, it should be called the love or sweetness of Venus."

Colombo's claim was disputed by his successor at Padua, Gabriele Falloppio (who discovered the fallopian tube), who claimed that he was the first to discover the clitoris. Caspar Bartholin, a 17th century Danish anatomist, dismissed both claims, arguing that the clitoris had been widely known to medical science since the 2nd century.[1]

Noted researchers Masters and Johnson, Boston based researcher John Garabedian, and Dr. Matt Jaeger at the University of Kentucky all conducted extensive studies of the clitoris.

In the 1970s, the word clitoris was considered offensive in the spoken English language and is still seen as a taboo word by many people. The first use of clitoris on television in the United States is believed to have been by Dr. Rich O'Brien, a Harvard colleague of Garabedian's, on the Dr. Ruth Westheimer show.

Body modification

Main article: genital modification and mutilation

The external part of the clitoris may be partially or totally removed during female circumcision (also known as a clitorectomy) in voluntary or involuntary procedures. The topic is highly controversial with many countries condemning the traditions that give rise to involuntary procedures with some countries outlawing even voluntary procedures. Amnesty International estimates that over 2 million involuntary female circumcisions are being performed every year, mainly in African countries.

In various cultures, the clitoris is sometimes pierced. Piercings of the clitoris include a piercing of the clitoral hood, and the Isabella piercing, among many others. Some cultures at various times in history have practiced stretching, which can enlarge the clitoris, or can make it more visible.

Popular culture

  • In a Seinfeld episode, Jerry Seinfeld does not remember his date's name - he only remembers that it rhymes with a female body part. His first guess of "Mulva" is off the mark. It finally comes to him: "Dolores".
  • Alice Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy is a book about a tribal African Woman, Tashi, who because of a misguided loyalty to the customs of her people voluntarily submits herself to tsunga's knife and is circumcised. She is severely traumatized by this experience. The book encapsulates her journey through life as she tries to regain her ability to recognize her own reality and to feel.
  • The Anatomist (1998), a novel by Federico Andahazi ISBN 0385494009, describes Realdo Colombo's "discovery" and its personal consequences.
  • In a Family Guy episode, Tom Tucker announces an upcoming report on "the Clitoris, nature's Rubik's Cube."
  • It is often joked that the clitoris is hard to find or does not exist at all.
  • An Australian motor sports television show (In Pit Lane on Channel 31 Melbourne) occasionally carries news stories about motor sports events that have occurred in the United States, where the exact location is unknown or cannot be found out in the limited time before broadcast. These events are described as having taken place in "Clitoris, Missouri". This is a ribald reference to the previous point.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode Polymorph from season 3, Rimmer suggest that the crew name themselves "The Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society", the only drawback being that the abbreviation is "CLITORIS".
  • In the Kevin Smith movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the characters Jay and Silent Bob are supposedly the leaders of the Coalition for the Liberation of Intermittent Tree-dwellers, or "CLIT".
  • In South Park: The Movie, Stanley Marsh goes in search of "The Clitoris" to ask her for help with Wendy Testaburger after Chef mentions the name. Near the end he finds the clitoris, which is a giant pink shinning blob. She tells him to be courageous and to be himself.

See also

External links


Template:Reproductive systemca:Clítoris cs:Klitoris da:Klitoris de:Klitoris als:Klitoris es:Clítoris fr:Clitoris gd:Brillean gl:Clítoris id:Klitoris he:דגדגן lt:Varputė hu:Csikló nl:Clitoris ja:陰核 no:Klitoris pl:Łechtaczka pt:Clítoris ru:Клитор sv:Klitoris sr:Клиторис th:ปุ่มกระสัน uk:Клітор

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