Get to Know the Clitoris (& How to Pleasure It)

Cropped image of a girl wearing off white briefs. Her hand is holding on her vagina

Here are a few essential truths about the clitoris. First: its single purpose is pleasure, full stop. Second: only a part of the clitoris is visible to the naked eye. So where’s the rest of it? 

The (very) recent history of clitoral research

In 1998, Australian urologist Helen O’Connell was the first researcher to claim that there was more to the clitoris than the glans: the small nub we can see, covered by the clitoral hood. I’ll let you take a moment to absorb the 1998 part. 

Using photography to map the nerve structure of the clitoris, O’Connell and her colleagues concluded that there was much more clitoral erectile tissue tucked inside the body. More under the hood, if you will.

The rest of this pleasure organ, and why you need to know it

The glans is the part you already know: it contains a dense network of nerve endings and swells when stimulated, either by fingers, a toy, a mouth, or a penis.

Beneath the hood, the clitoris goes subterranean. The glans connects to a spongy shaft that extends inside your body, and splits into two clitoral legs (the crura) that run back and down along both sides of the vagina. Together, the shaft and the crura is about 5 inches long.

But there’s more! The internal clitoral network also contains clitoral bulbs (also called the vestibular bulbs), which wrap around the urethral opening – where you pee – and run down either side of your vaginal opening.  

Having a hard time visualizing all this? Anatomy photos abound online, but one sex toy company actually made a sweet vibrator that’s modeled after the clitoris itself. It’s the Lalalena by CERĒ: the first line of sex tools designed by physicians. 

Hand with white nail polish holding red Cere Lalalena Toy

It’s a pretty amazing teaching tool, to explore the clitoris in 3D. Seeing as how pleasure products have been made in the shape of the penis for 28,000 years, I consider this a refreshing development. CERĒ’s team of physicians created the first-ever vibrator in the shape of the clitoris, a breakthrough we can all applaud. 

So bottom line: if you want to pleasure a clitoris – either yours or someone else’s – I recommend getting familiar with the anatomy. Why? So you can press, lick, or otherwise stimulate it during sexy times, and this toy is a great option for exactly that (use code SWE for 15% all CERĒ products). 

How to stimulate all of the clitoris

While it’s an interconnected network of erectile tissue and nerve endings, there are techniques you can use to stimulate each part of the clitoris. 

The glans

For most vulva owners, the action begins here. The glans of the clitoris – which again, is that small, visible nub – can be pleasured through oral sex, masturbation, or direct contact with a finger or a penis. Techniques run the gamut (including the very popular Kivin Method), but here’s one easy trick to try whether you’re masturbating or pleasuring a partner:

  • Rub on the glans over underwear first, to tease and engorge the area with blood.
  • Next, move to direct stimulation, either with a toy or a tongue, and make small circles to find the most sensitive part of the glans.
  • Once you’ve found it (listen for the telltale sounds of pleasure: heavy breathing, moaning, etc.), stay there while inserting a finger, making a “come here” shape towards the belly. 
  • This will stimulate the internal vaginal walls including the “G-area” (what I call the G-spot), for super intense pleasure and even squirting

The shaft

To find the shaft on yourself (if you’re a vulva owner), press on your pubic bone, just above your glans. While pressing down, move your finger side to side: you’ll feel something rolling under your finger. 

To activate it, try pressing, stroking, or rubbing it, while you stimulate the glans. You’ll wake up even more nerve endings than you would by just focusing on the glans alone. 

The crura

While you can’t feel the crura with your fingers, you can help stimulate them. They reach deeply into the pelvic floor muscles – the muscle group responsible for orgasmic contractions – so if you’re a vulva owner, a great way to activate them is kegels. Squeeze like you’re stopping the flow of urine, but see if you can squeeze the muscles closer to your urethral opening, rather than the muscles closer to your anus. The squeezing action presses on the internal nerve endings. 

If you’re pleasuring a vulva owner, you can indirectly stimulate the crura from the inside. Gently insert the fingers, and using rhythmic motions, slightly “tilt” your fingers in different directions, to see if you land on a sweet spot. If you find it…don’t stop. (At least not until they’re ready to move on, because that’s just mean.) 

The clitoral bulbs

While you can’t see it, the clitoral (vestibular) bulbs swell with arousal and are what make the outer labia lips puff up. They help engorge the vulva with blood, and to stimulate them, you can run two fingers (or a tongue) down either side of the urethral opening. From there, apply gentle pressure, while simultaneously stimulating the glans. You can watch the labia lips puff up in real time! It’s kind of magical. 

Another excellent way to explore all these parts, if you’re a vulva owner? Masturbate, using the aforementioned Lalalena. Align the glans clitoris of the toy with your own clitoris, place the crura and bulbs of the toy around the outer skin surrounding your vaginal opening, and press the button. As it fits against the entire clitoris, it stimulates much more than just the glans. Cool, huh? 

Great job: you just took a deep dive into the clitoris, to pop off even more sexual fireworks. To get more tips just like these, sign up for my weekly newsletter and get useful sex ed on the regular.