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The Clitoral Truth

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Updated April 09, 2014

Q. How important is clitoral stimulation in female orgasm

A. Orgasm can occur with or without direct clitoral stimulation, but for many women direct stimulation with hands or a vibrator is necessary. This is because only one part of the clitoris, the urethral sponge, is in contact with the penis, fingers, or a dildo in the vagina. The tip of the clitoris and the inner lips, which are also very sensitive, are not receiving direct stimulation during intercourse. The clitoris surrounds the vagina somewhat like a horseshoe. The urethral sponge, discussed previously, does run along the "roof" of the vagina, and it can be stimulated through the vagina, but the vagina itself has no mechanism to stimulate pleasure or orgasm for women. Through penile thrusting, however, the vagina provides exactly the right type of pressure and stimulation to result in male orgasm.

Of course, if you are excited enough, orgasm can occur without any physical stimulation of any kind, or it can occur through kissing, touching other parts of the body, watching sexy videos, or even during sleep when no physical stimulation of any kind occurs. Many heterosexual women find that both partners can have more rewarding pleasure and orgasms by avoiding intercourse and using manual stimulation, vibrators, watching erotica, sharing erotic fantasies, and so forth. Some men are willing to do anything to ensure that their partners are pleased, and are surprised to find how rewarding non-intercourse-called outercourse--sex can be.

Q. What is the historical view of the clitoris? Why, and when did that change?

A. Physicians and philosophers in ancient Greece understood that the clitoris and the penis were similar and this view prevailed, in fact, was the only view, until the 18th century when women were judged to be "disabled" by menstruation and pregnancy, and their sexuality was defined as less powerful and passionate then men's. In the 19th century, orgasm was seen as unnecessary and perhaps even unhealthy for women. At the beginning of the 20th century, Freud declared that the clitoris was a child's plaything and that vaginal orgasm was the only healthy, appropriate type of orgasm for women. Even today, many women and men believe that women who do not experience orgasm through intercourse are "sexually dysfunctional." This is not true. Orgasms are orgasms regardless of how they are stimulated.

Q. How can masturbation and sex toys improve a woman's sexual response?

A. Masturbation can help women discover what feels good and what types of stimulation work best to produce orgasm. Masturbation also allows a woman to be sexually active when no partner is available. Sex toys-vibrators, dildoes, ben-wa balls, ticklers, or restraints, can be used as alternatives to hand stimulation, and to achieve variety in types of stimulation. Many people also use vegetables and foods such as chocolate or whipped cream, and common household items such as brush handles or clothespins, and battery-operated devices such as electric toothbrushes. There are many kinds of vibrators with many different speeds-electrical or battery-operated-some have all kinds of attachments and some of which can be used under water.

Q. What are Tao and Tantra?

A. Chinese Taoism and Hindu Tantra are ancient spiritual traditions in which sexuality is seen at a central sacrament of society and a pathway to "enlightenment" or a bridge between the human and the "divine." There are many rituals surrounding sex that mark it as a special and intensely pleasurable human activity. In these traditions, women are honored for their ability to conceive and give birth and for their sexual power, and are seen as sexual teachers. Women's pleasure is considered central to sexual activity. Men learn to control and postpone ejaculation until women have had as many orgasms as they wish and sexual sessions usually last much longer than in the "intercourse model,"-maybe several hours as compared to three to seven minutes.

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