The clitoris is a small projection of erectile tissue in the vulva of the female reproductive system. It contains thousands of nerve endings that make it an extremely sensitive organ. Touch stimulation of the nerve endings in the clitoris produces sensations of sexual pleasure. The clitoris is structurally and functionally homologous to the penis of the male reproductive system, except that the clitoris does not contain the urethra and plays no role in urination.
The clitoris is located within the vulva at the anterior intersection of the labia minora. It is vaguely cylindrical in shape and usually just a centimeter or two in length, although its size may vary greatly in individuals. The prepuce, or hood, of the clitoris is a small fold of skin that covers and protects the clitoris anteriorly; the labia majora and labia minora surround and protect it in all other directions.
The clitoris can be divided into three major regions: the glans, body, and crura.
- Under the surface of the skin, two legs of erectile tissue known as the crura fan out to support the exterior structures of the clitoris and attach to the underlying tissues.
- Extending from the crura is the body, the main cylindrical region of the clitoris, which contains two columns of the erectile tissue. Blood filling the hollow chambers of the erectile tissue allows the clitoris to grow in size and harden during sexual stimulation.
- Finally, the glans forms the pointed tip of the clitoris extending outward from the body and beyond the prepuce that covers the rest of the clitoris.
Thousands of touch and pressure sensitive nerve endings are found throughout the clitoris. Nerve endings in the body and glans are sensitive to direct touch and pressure stimulation from outside of the body while the nerve endings of the crus are sensitive to stimulation from within the vagina. The stimulation of the clitoral nerve endings is responsible for the majority of sexual pleasure and sensation in the female body.