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Clitoral Stimulation

biting lips

Like any kind of sexual activity, isn’t a matter of just knowing the right moves, or being able to guess what kind of stimulation someone wants based on the way they dress or what kind of music they listen to. It’s part art and part science.

Whether you’re stimulating your own or someone else’s clitoris, remember that every sexual interaction is just that, an interaction, an exchange of touch and intent. There’s no one way to do it, but if you’re feeling a bit lost, the following guide may help you find yourself and your (or someone else’s) clitoris.

Here’s How:

Understand the Clitoris
If you don’t know much about the clitoris you aren’t alone. To this day medical students still get inconsistent information about the anatomy and physiology of the clitoris, and as a result what you know about the clitoris will vary wildly depending on who you learned from. The clitoris is not just an external sexual organ, it actually extends deep into the body, and is made up of several parts including a hood, shaft, crura (which are kind of like legs that extend along either side of the labia but inside the body) and clitoral bulbs. There are more than 8,000 nerve endings in the clitoral tip, but over 15,000 throughout the pelvic area. If you think the clitoris is a tiny button, then you may be tempted to simply push it, and you’re missing out.

The Clitoris Ain’t First Base (For Most of Us)
By this I don’t mean that there’s one particular order to sex play, but the truth is that most kinds of clitoral stimulation are going to feel better if the person on the receiving end is already aroused. That arousal may be mental or physical or both, but make sure that before embarking on any clitoral stimulation, that the person whose clitoris it is, is already feeling sexy or sexual. An obvious exception would be someone who likes to start with the clitoris, in which case, their clitoris may be first base. But for many, this won’t be the case.

Stimulate from the Outside In
Continuing this theme of working up, also think about working in. Start stimulation not by zeroing in on the clitoral tip, but by stimulating the internal parts of the clitoris that are farthest away from the tip. Massage the vulva, the area above the pubic bone and the pubic mound. Start with light touch, but you can also explore more kneading/massage like movements. You can gently massage the perineum and even the bum. Remember everything is pretty tightly packed in there, and starting from the outside can create a very pleasurable sense of anticipation of touch to come.
Build Up With Speed and Pressure
Whether you’re providing some quickie clitoral stimulation, or settling in for a lengthy and luxurious sex session, it’s almost always best to ramp up the speed and pressure of clitoral stimulation, from slow to fast, and from soft to firm. Rubbing the clitoris too fast or too hard can temporarily desensitize it (this is true for any body part), and if the clitoris is numb, then most kinds of stimulation are going to be ineffectual. Start stimulation by using a part of your body you have the most control over (this might be your finger tips, your tongue, your toes) which will let you start slow and steady. As you want to increase the pressure and speed you may have more options. There’s no “right” body part to use for clitoral stimulation, and the more you explore, the more variations you may stumble upon which will be pleasurable.
Vary the Movement
Once you’ve built up some tension and anticipation and arousal, if you’re ready to focus on the external clitoris, you may want to start with a simple circular motion around the clitoris. Be aware that for many people the clitoris is capable of incredibly fine sensation, and the feeling of a finger tip running in circles around the tip of the clitoris will feel very different than, say, putting each finger on either side of the clitoris and moving your fingers back and forth in a kind of shuffling movement. And this will feel different than gentle tapping, or licking. It can be fun to try a lot of different movements, but stay with each one at least for a minute or two so you can see how much you like it, or if you’re playing with a partner you can note how they are responding. But once you’ve found something you (or they, or both of you) like, then you may want to stick with it and simply build up intensity.
Play With Fine Differences
The clitoris is one of the most densely innervated parts of the body, and for many it’s capable of noticing fine differences in touch and also location. There are some sex manuals that actually break down clitoral stimulation into “quadrants” suggesting that stimulation of the top right corner of the clitoral tips is the absolute best, or that some people melt when you stimulate the bottom left. Don’t worry so much about finding a magic spot, but don’t be afraid of exploring every millimeter of clitoris you can touch. For some people these differences won’t be as noticeable, but for others, it can be the difference between fun and orgasmic.
The Difference Between Sensitive and Delicate
The clitoris is very sensitive, but that isn’t the same thing as being delicate. For some people, particularly once they are fully aroused, firm, intense, or even “rough” stimulation may be exactly what they want. You need to approach this with some caution, and only build up in intensity when you have enthusiastic permission to do so (too much too soon can not only be a mood killer, it can be unwelcome, and hurt). But if you’re at a point where you are talking about what kinds of touch you like, asking about how intense or how firm, may open new possibilities for both giving and receiving pleasure through clitoral stimulation.
Dry Versus Wet
For people who like rougher stimulation, dry rubbing may be preferred. Certainly you get a lot more friction and surface heat that way. But others prefer the feeling of slippery and wet stimulation, and some people find that using personal lubricant increases their sensitivity. As with everything, this is worth experimenting to see what works best for you and/or your partner. Keep in mind that what works best may change from one sexual scenario to the next.
Sex Toys for Clitoral Stimulation
There are many sex toys designed for clitoral stimulation. These are toys that have variable speeds, often have small tips or variations in surface shape, size, and textures, and provide some reach to allow for easier stimulation. If you can use a part of your body first, it is often recommended as it can provide more immediate feedback than a toy can, but whether you need or want to use one, sex toys provide a kind of strong and consistent stimulation no body part can, and as such are much loved among those who enjoy clitoral stimulation.
Follow the Clitoris Inside
This isn’t meant literally, but you can include internal vaginal or anal stimulation as part of clitoral stimulation. Whether that’s using a hand or toy or penis, providing simultaneous external and internal clitoral stimulation is a preference of many people. One combination that gets mentioned frequently is providing external clitoral stimulation with mouth or tongue, and internal stimulation with fingers or a sex toy. As with everything, this is an individual preference, but some preferences seem more popular than others.Tips:

Remember that everyone is different. Try many things but don’t expect them all to work. And maybe none of the first twelve things you try are doing it for you or your partner. In that case, don’t blame the clitoris or the body it’s attached to. Focus on pleasure and remember that if it’s consensual and not causing anyone unintended or anticipated harm, there’s no wrong way to feel sexual pleasure. Don’t normalize technique by thinking that if they don’t like what you’re doing it’s their fault.

An important general rule for all kinds of sexual stimulation is to build up intensity and movement. If you’re not sure what to do, or what will feel good, just start slow and pay attention. Often you’ll find a groove, and that’s when you can increase things like the speed of the stimulation, the pressure, and even the movements.

Watch long nails, rough hands. The clitoris is sensitive to fine touch, and even people who like rough stimulation usually don’t want the sharp edge of a fingernail or rough skin to accidentally poke them or brush past them. If it’s intended and timed that’s another story. You don’t need a manicure, but if you’ve got rough hands or long nails you may want to consider using gloves for both comfort and increased safety.
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Clitoris

What Do You Think a “Normal” Woman Looks Like Down There?

flower over vagina

Well, this is disturbing: Seeing images of surgically altered vaginas can impact what women view as “normal” and “ideal” down there, according to a new study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

For the study, a group of 97 women ages 18-30 were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a group that looked at pictures of surgically modified vaginas, a group that looked at pictures of vaginas that hadn’t undergone surgery, or a group that didn’t look at any images at all. After that, all three groups were asked to look at 20 images of vaginas (half of which had been surgically altered) and rate how closely they resembled  “normal” female genitalia, as well as “society’s ideal.”

Turns out, the group that had seen the surgically altered privates were more likely to rate them as “normal” (whereas the control group tended to rate them “less normal”). What’s more, all three groups said that the lady parts that had undergone plastic surgery were closer to “society’s ideal” (although the effect was strongest in the group that had first seen the post-surgery photos).

This could help explain why labiaplasty (a procedure where the labia are reduced in size and made symmetrical) is the most popular cosmetic surgery women get for their nether-regions, say the study authors. Plastic surgeons performed five times as many labiaplasties in 2010 as they did in 2001.

Of course, you can’t know for sure whether you’ve seen a surgically-altered vagina or not and how it may have affected your idea of what your nether region is supposed to look like. But what you can know: The definition of “normal” down there encompasses a huge range of different looks—and plastic surgery comes with the potential for scary side effects like bleeding and wound infections. All the more reason to embrace your lady parts as-is.

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Clitoris

Female Anatomy: Your Ultimate Guide

Waves On Beach

That’s right, we’re shining a spotlight on the almighty vajayjay. And it’s about time. Given the ridiculous amount of maintenance it requires — gynecologist visits, bikini waxes, Monistat, and more — you’d think we’d know everything about this attention-getting organ’s intricate design and how to keep it running smoother than a top-of-the-line Lexus. Yet even women who feel perfectly comfortable in their skin don’t give much thought to the nooks and crannies of their pink parts. “Many women never connect with their sexual anatomy because of our society’s ‘keep away’ attitude toward the vagina and vulva,” says Elizabeth Stewart, M.D., author of The V Book.

The following guide to a healthy honeypot explains a few things you might still wonder about, like why discharge varies during your cycle and the secret to finding the nerve-packed hot spots that make intercourse feel as good as a clitoral rubdown. And we bet you know someone who could benefit from some pelvic area info as much — if not more — than you, so be sure to leave this story out where he can see it. For a visual guide, dig deeper with WH’s “The Ultimate Guide to Your Vagina”

The VIP Lounge
Most people call the whole kit and caboodle between a woman’s legs the “vagina.” But the compendium of visible outer parts is technically the “vulva.” Meant to keep dirt and bacteria out while providing a welcoming environment for worthy partygoers, the vulva is like a VIP lounge where the clitoris is the DJ. “The labia majora [outer lips] are a protective layer of fat covered by skin and hair,” says Lillian Schapiro, M.D., an Atlanta ob-gyn. Their job is to keep sex comfy even if your partner’s pelvis is bonier than Iggy Pop’s. Located inside the labia majora (though sometimes extending beyond them), the labia minora, or inner lips, act like a pair of swinging doors guarding the entrance to the vagina and the urethra, the tube that leads from the bladder. “The labia minora are much thinner than the labia majora and even more sensitive,” Dr. Schapiro says. Plus, they contain erectile tissue, made up of clusters of tiny blood vessels, which means they become slightly stiffer (though not as stiff as the clitoris) during arousal. The anatomist who named the parts of the vulva must have found it loungelike too, because the area between and including the inner folds of the labia minora is called the “vestibule.”

Your Sprinkler System

Hiding just below the skin of the labia and clitoral hood (called the prepuce) are hundreds of small glands that secrete oil and sweat to protect these delicate areas from friction and overheating. That means it’s normal if the crotch of your yoga pants is soaked by the end of a workout. The inside of the vagina also stays moist to maintain healthy tissue, but as you’ve no doubt noticed, it gets wetter when you’re turned on. That’s because the lining of the vagina fills with blood during arousal, causing the salt water in blood plasma to push through the vaginal wall. The Bartholin’s glands — on either side of the vaginal opening — also pump out a few beads of slippery mucus. In missionary position, most of this fluid collects in the back of the vagina and fails to lubricate the opening, making sex uncomfortable. Unfortunately, in some women, lubrication occurs for only a few moments, then stops. In both cases, a water-based personal lubricant is key to ensuring a smooth entry.

Pleats and Ruffles
Like an haute-couture handbag, the vulva and vagina feature a variety of textures. Most of the vulva is smooth, but some women’s labia minora have a ruffled appearance. “Labia come in all shapes and sizes,” Dr. Stewart says. “The tips of the nipples and labia are similar because they both contain small, bumpy-looking glands.” Examine your labia minora closely (using a hand mirror) and you may see the glands, which sometimes look like tiny pimples. Separate the labia minora and you may notice that the entrance to the vagina also has a ruffled border or just a few irregular bits of skin. Those are the remnants of the hymen, a thin membrane that once partially covered the entrance but has been torn or pushed aside by sexual intercourse. As for the texture inside the vagina, it’s full of bumpy ridges called rugae. Similar to pleats on a skirt, the rugae stretch and retract to accommodate objects ranging in size from super-slender tampons to roly-poly 8-pound babies.

Finding the Wishbone
In a body full of hardworking organs, the clitoris is like a trust-fund baby who does nothing but party. It’s the only part of the human body whose sole purpose is pleasure. The one thing the clitoris has that a trust-fund baby lacks? Depth. “The clitoris is larger than it seems,” says Laura Berman, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at Northwestern University’s medical school and author of The Passion Prescription. Beneath the visible pink button, called the glans, lies a wishbone-shaped structure comprising a shaft, which extends about an inch up toward the pubic bone, and two 3*inch arms called crura that reach down and back toward the pelvic bone in an inverted V shape. Though the shaft and crura send pleasure signals to the brain during sex, the glans is more sensitive. That’s why it has a hood — without it, a pair of tight jeans would send your nervous system into overdrive.

Two bulbs of erectile tissue run alongside the crura. Many experts, including Berman and Helen O’Connell, M.D., a urologist at Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia and the first person to map the clitoris using magnetic resonance imaging, believe that this tissue is part of the clitoris too. In studies, Dr. O’Connell found that the clitoris is also connected to erectile tissue surrounding the urethra and extending up to the front wall of the vagina — where the enigmatic G-spot has been known to pop up.

Over the Hedge
Before you shave or wax it into a perfect triangle, landing strip, or lucky shamrock, the hair that covers the pubic mound and outer labia grows in a pattern called the escutcheon (based on the Latin term for an ornamental shield).

When allowed to grow wild, some escutcheons will wander up toward the navel and down toward the upper thighs, while others wouldn’t breech the borders of a Brazilian bikini. The shape of hair shafts differs depending on ethnicity: In Asian women they’re typically round, in women of African descent they’re elliptical, and in Caucasians and Latinas they range between the two. “Elliptical shafts are more likely to become ingrown after shaving or waxing as the hair curls in, pierces the skin, and creates a bump,” says Susan Taylor, M.D., a Philadelphia dermatologist and author of Brown Skin. “A depilatory breaks the hair at the surface, which can make ingrowns less likely, but only if the chemicals don’t irritate your skin.” Whenever you try a new depilatory, always spot-test the product on your inner thigh before using it on yourbikini area. Another way to create an aesthetically pleasing patch is with laser hair removal, but only by a trained professional who uses a laser like the Nd:YAG, which Dr. Taylor says won’t create dark spots by damaging surrounding skin.

X Marks the Spot
While the vagina is nowhere near as responsive to touch as the vulva, it does contain hundreds of nerve endings. If a woman were lying on her back with a clock placed upright inside the lower part of her vagina (don’t ask how it got there), the most sensitive area would be at 12 o’clock, right behind the urethra. In a 1982 study of more than 400 women, Rutgers University sex researcher Beverly Whipple, Ph.D., and two colleagues found that when this area was stimulated after a woman was already sexually aroused, a dime-size bump of tissue appeared and could sometimes trigger an orgasm. She named the area the G-spot after Ernst Grafenberg, the German doctor who first documented it in 1950. Further examination of this spongy tissue found it identical to that of the male prostate gland, a well-established pleasure zone. Some doctors believe the G-spot should be renamed the female prostate. Supporting that belief is a study showing the similarity between the fluid expelled by a very small percentage of women through their urethra during a G-spot orgasm (aka female ejaculation) and that produced by the male prostate. What if you’ve never found your G-spot, much less ejaculated? Whipple says don’t sweat it: “There are many sensitive areas inside the vagina that, when stimulated by a finger, vibrator, or penis, can contribute to sexual pleasure.”

Honorable Discharge
That strip of cotton in the crotch of every panty is there for a reason — even if you’re not on your period or the tiniest bit sweaty, it will collect moisture. The vulva and vagina produce an average of 1 to 2 grams of vaginal discharge (or about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) every 8 hours. But even normal discharge doesn’t make a pretty picture. “It may be clear, white, or yellow, and fluid, waxy, stringy, or clumpy,” Dr. Stewart says. Some of it is a buildup of the oil that the glands in your vulva produce. Some is cervical mucus. Still more comes from normal vaginal secretions. Throw a sample under a microscope and you’ll also find bacteria, skin cells, and yeast spores. Quantity and consistency change over the menstrual cycle. “During ovulation, secretions are thinner and more plentiful,” Dr. Stewart says. “After ovulation, discharge becomes thicker. As you near menstruation, there’s less.” How do you keep this fluid factory fresh? Don’t mess with it. “The vagina cleans itself. Over-the-counter products can make matters worse, since the protective bacterial balance will be further disrupted,” Berman says. “If discharge smells bad or is accompanied by discomfort, see your doctor.” Wash with water and a perfume-free, pH-balanced soap like Dove, Berman says. Always wear cotton undies and go commando at night or whenever possible. That’s right: Unless you’re wearing something that could chafe or otherwise irritate you down under, docs are big fans of a panty-free lifestyle.

Tilt-a-Whirl
As seen on the diagram in every Tampax box, the vagina tilts back 30 degrees from the opening, which is why you’re supposed to aim toward your lower back when pushing the plunger. A side effect of this 30degree angle is that in missionary position, the penis has little to no contact with the super-sensitive front wall of the vagina. As far as orgasm goes, this is not good. Placing a pillow under your hips, wrapping your legs around your partner’s lower back, and rocking back and forth to create clitoral friction can help you get maximum bliss out of missionary, but other positions typically yield better results. “The best positions for G-spot stimulation include woman-on-top and rear entry,” Berman says. Woman-on-top lets you experiment with different angles to find the most feel-good sensations. “Leaning back targets the anterior wall,” Berman says. Zero in on your G-spot in rear entry by lying flat on your stomachand tucking a pillow under your hips. Or try reverse cowgirl, where you face his feet — and with that view, he’ll be one very happy cowboy.

The Big Squeeze
You’ve heard of sex-enhancing Kegel exercises: Squeeze the muscle you’d use to stop urine midflow (except don’t actually do it while you’re peeing, since that can cause bladder infections), hold it for as long as you can, release, and repeat. But perhaps you haven’t seen Berman’s vaginal barbells. Neither had we. For beginners, there’s the Isis, which looks like a slim, clear plastic bow tie with smooth, rounded edges. And for women with power vaginas (Asia Argento? Shakira? Condi Rice?), there’s the Juno, a plastic rod containing four spherical, 0.3- to 1.5-ounce weights in a row from smallest to largest (you’ll find both for sale at My Pleasure). Start by inserting the bigger end in your vagina, tightening your pelvic floor muscles around it, and holding it in place with your hand. You’ll know your muscles are getting stronger when you can hold the smaller end in your vagina with no hand support. “Just like other muscles, strengthening pelvic floor muscles is more effective when you add resistance,” Berman says. “Over time, using the Isis or Juno leads to improved vaginal tone and enhanced arousal and orgasm ability.” But even without resistance, Kegels make a real difference; according to Dr. Stewart, if you squeeze out 10 to 20 daily, you’ll sense stronger orgasms in about 3 months.

Friendly Invaders
Inside your vagina reside trillions of bacteria, some friendly, some not so friendly. “Lactobacillus is a beneficial bacteria that keeps nastier bacteria in check,” says Christopher A. Czaja, M.D., an infectious disease fellow at the University of Washington at Seattle. “Classic urinary tract infections often occur when the number of Lactobacillus drops and E. coli bacteria [often present in the vagina] start to flourish and ascend the urethra.” Yech. To prevent E. coli from migrating into the vagina from the other side of the ‘hood, always wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom. Besides bullying bacterial bad boys like E. coli, Lactobacillusalso crowds out yeast spores, another normal inhabitant of the vagina, which can otherwise grow to the level of an itchy infection. Keep your Lactobacillus count up by eating a daily cup of yogurt that contains the bacteria and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics, which kill off the good guys along with the bad. (For more information, see “It’s Alive!“)

Strings Attached
As tender as the vagina may seem, it’s actually a pretty tough cookie. When it sustains small scrapes from, say, enthusiastic booty, the vaginal lining can heal surprisingly fast. Another way it gets beat up is by improper use of super-absorbency tampons. This is different than scary toxic shock syndrome, a rare, dangerous condition (odds of getting it are about 1 in 100,000) that results from an overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The staph bug can be exacerbated by wearing the same tampon for longer than 8 hours — but is not actually caused by tamponsthemselves. (The best way to avoid TSS, besides changing your tampon regularly, is making sure that only clean hands and objects come in contact with your cooch.)

What tampons can give you are vaginal ulcers that don’t cause any discomfort but do make you more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. “Using a high-absorbency tampon during light flow days or when spotting can draw too much fluid out of the vagina, damaging cells and causing them to erode,” Dr. Stewart says. The good news is that the vaginal lining is quick to produce new cells, allowing ulcers to heal completely in as little as 48 hours. To prevent vaginal stress, avoid super-absorbency tampons on all but your heaviest days and don’t use them at all between periods.

Vagus, Baby
Many lucky-as-hell women report experiencing three different kinds of orgasms (four if you include the faux-gasm): one that radiates from the clitoris and feels a little bit superficial, a more satisfying one that happens deeper inside the vagina, and an even bigger bang that’s a divine blend of the two. Makes sense, considering that our brains receive pleasure signals through as many as four sensory fields. According to The Science of Orgasm, a new book coauthored by Whipple, Barry Komisaruk, Ph.D., and Carlos Beyer-Flores, Ph.D., clitoral stimulation sends tingles up the pudendal nerve; sensations inside the vagina travel up the pelvic nerve; and pleasurable contact with the cervix activates the pelvic, hypogastric, and vagus nerves.

That last link — between the cervix and the vagus nerve, which controls activities as seemingly unrelated as swallowing and sweating — is a new one that Whipple’s team discovered during a clinical study of women with spinal cord injuries. “We don’t yet know if it’s a supplemental tract that the genitals normally use to send messages to the spinal cord or if it’s activated only if the spinal cord is cut off by injury,” Dr. Stewart says. But one thing the involvement of the vagus nerve makes clear is that female orgasm is just as mysterious on the inside as it can seem from out here.

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