Love & Sex

The Size of Your Clitoris Might Be Behind Your Orgasm Problems

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For some women, size really does matter.

In the 1920s, Princess Marie Bonaparte (yes, the great-grandniece of that guy) surgically moved her clitoris closer to her vagina. She had studied the vaginas of over two hundred women and concluded that the farther your clit was from your vagina, the less likely you were to ever have those earth-shattering, toe-curling orgasms she had heard so much about from contemporaries like Sigmund Freud. Her surgery failed miserably, but Bonaparte's theory about the far-away clit may have been accurate.

A study published this month in the Journal of Sexual Medicine has discovered that the size and position of a woman's clitoris may play a key role in how easily she can achieve orgasm. Utilizing MRI scans of the pelvic regions of both normal climaxers and women reporting sexual dysfunction, researchers found that the direct distance between the clit and the vagina was five to six millimeters longer on the women who couldn't come. It's a maxim most men have been trying to eschew for decades, but for some women, size really might matter.

But researchers aren't sure whether this finding means some women are at a genetic advantage for having orgasms, or if having more orgasms actually alters your anatomy. It would make sense that women whose clits were a bit larger and closer to their vaginal openings would experience more stimulation during penetrative sex (and, hey, probably why they would love it on top), but science doesn't know if it's the chicken or the egg. Or, in this case, the coming or the clit.

Previous estimates have pegged that up to 18 to 34 percent of women have trouble having orgasms during sex. In fact, a whole industry hungry on servicing these frigid women through pills, gels, shots, and surgeries has arisen, ready to tell women what is wrong with their orgasms. For many of these treatments, the obsession and sole focus is on clit size and appearance.

While not many are attempting to relocate their clit à la Bonaparte, the age-old practice of clitoral unhooding is still a demanded procedure in the female genital cosmetic surgery business. One physician in Chicago offers removal of the clitoral hood for $1,000 a pop, a supposed "sexual enhancement surgery" practiced since the late 19th century as a boon for the marriage bed. The Victorians thought that by removing the clitoral hood — homologous with a man's foreskin — a passionless woman would get through all that unnecessary skin to the part that really mattered, the glans clitoris. The practitioners of FGCS explained (and still do) that clitoral de-hoodings make way for the central organ in female sexual satisfaction and that hoods are, if anything, superfluous. Of course, this belief disregards female anatomy entirely.

There are 8,000 nerves in the tip of the clitoris alone. That's almost double the amount of nerves found in the head of the penis. The clitoral hood not only has immunological importance, but the hood itself is made up of erogenous tissue and serves as the great protector of the clitoral glans. In most women, the clitoral glans is too sensitive to be touched directly. When we wax poetic about rubbing or licking a clit, what we're really inferring is that we're rubbing or licking a clitoral hood. The clitoral hood is both a point of pleasure and safety for the actual clitoris, so removing it, either through FGC or harmful FGM practices effectively makes sex a whole lot less enjoyable for the ladies. In 2007, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came down hard against female circumcisions, citing that there was absolutely no medical evidence that hood-trimming leads to more orgasms or sexual satisfaction. Entire movements, like Cliteracy, have grown around the rejection of such back-dated beliefs surrounding the pearl in the cave.

While new findings suggesting the size, shape, or positioning of a clitoris play an important role in your orgasm may seem like daunting revelations, in reality, they're missing one of the most essential components of female pleasure: the brain. And fortunately for the ladies, doctors in Chicago aren't trying to clip those back.

[h/t Pacific Standard]

Image via Flickr.