Since the dawn of time, men have been comparing penis sizes for sport (and, cough, reminding themselves that size doesn’t always matter). Women aren’t immune to comparisons — one in seven, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has actually considered getting the lips of her vagina surgically trimmed. But what about the clitoris, the magical ~love button~ (with over 8,000 nerve endings!) that pushes you to orgasm? Does the size of that matter?
I recently discovered I have a small clitoris, after interviewing a famous gynecologist about the mysterious clitoris and begging her to take a quick peek at mine. This was something I had never thought about before, and I had to know: What does it mean for my sex life?!
First off: a refresher on the clitoris. It’s bigger internally than it is externally, is shaped like a wishbone that extends all the way down to the vagina, and it is massively important to a woman’s climax. In fact, ‘the clitoris is the way that 90 percent of women have orgasms,’ says Rachel Carlton Abrams, M.D. and author of Bodywise: Discovering Your Body’s Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing. ‘There are few women who can orgasm from penetration alone. We think it still might be responsible for vaginal orgasms — research shows that women who have a clitoris located closer to the vagina (about half a centimeter) find it easier to have a vaginal orgasm.’ In other words, before you get all caught up on the size of your clitoris, a factor as random as its location could be the reason you always (or never) orgasm from a particular sex position.
There’s still a lot that’s unknown about the clitoris, Abrams says, including whether your clitoris size is genetic and how size may or may not affect sexual pleasure — and unfortunately, she says, not a lot of time or money is spent on researching the clitoris itself.
There’s an argument that size does matter, thanks to one study performed in 2014that found a correlation between larger clitorises and more frequent orgasms. Researchers relied on magnetic resonance imaging to scan the pelvic area of 30 women, 10 of whom rarely or never achieved orgasm. They found the women who had trouble climaxing also had smaller clitorises that were positioned about 5 to 6 millimeters further away from the vagina than those who climaxed more often (remember what I said about location?!). But Abrams notes that it’s unclear whether the women cited in the research who were having regular orgasms experienced them because of their larger clitorises or simply because they were having more sex, which could lead to higher testosterone levels and actually increase clitoris size.
Here’s why that could happen: It’s a chicken-or-the-egg situation when it comes to clitoris size and orgasms. ‘Once you start being more sexual, your body produces more oestrogen, oxytocin, and testosterone hormones,’ explains Abrams. ‘Oestrogen increases our “receptive sex drive” (that part of you that invites soft touches). Testosterone increases our aggressive sex drive (“I want you now”), and oxytocin is the feel-good touch hormone, creating peace and calm and a desire for more physical affection. All three of these feel good in the moment and increase our desire for more touch — and more sex — later.’
Testosterone, in high enough doses, makes the clitoris grow, Abrams says, pointing out the fact that women who are female-to-male transsexuals see a noticeable increase in the size of their clitorises when they’re on high doses of testosterone. Women with abnormally high levels of testosterone, including those who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, also tend to have larger clitorises.
As for normal spikes in testosterone? ‘It is purely hypothetical to wonder whether more normal, female surges of testosterone (from sex) will increase the size of the clitoris, but it‘s not a completely ridiculous notion,’ Abrams says.
But here’s the catch: Those with lower levels of testosterone — something Abrams says tends to happen when women reach their mid- to late-thirties and forties and experience higher levels of stress — can also have smaller clitorises and see decreases in their libido, energy levels, and mood. So, there’s a suspicion that there could possibly be a link between smaller clitorises and a lower libido, but that doesn’t indicate causation.
OK, so if all of this has left you in stress-induced puddle of your own sweat, there’s good news! Clitoris size itself shouldn’t inhibit your actual orgasm. Worrying about it, though, could. (Have you ever tried to orgasm while you’re thinking about the laundry? Exactly. Point proven.)
‘Clitoris size shouldn’t matter with orgasm — orgasms start in the mind,’ says Sienna Sinclaire, a certified love, sex, and relationship coach. ‘Many women don’t experience orgasms not because of size of their clitoris, but because they can’t let themselves just open up to the pleasures they are experiencing. They have too much on their minds, from what they look like naked or if they smell funny down there, to kids, work, house cleaning, and so on.’
If you suspect your clitoris size is preventing you from experiencing as much pleasure as possible, there are ways to take control of the matter and help increase your hormone levels, Abrams says. Find ways to relieve stress, which is a total libido killer; exercise regularly to increase endorphins that boost sexual arousal; and masturbate. A lot. Every day, if you can. Think of it as the best prescription you’ll ever receive from your doctor, one that Abrams says will flood your body with hormones that will help make future orgasms easier to achieve. While the jury is still out on how important clitoris size is, there‘s no doubt that hormones play a key role in sexual pleasure.
Ultimately, ‘there’s no right or wrong when it comes to your genital area,’ Sinclaire says. ‘All women are beautiful in their own way, including clit size. Rather than worrying about what you feel like your genital area should look like, just take in all the pleasures your body is experiencing.’
Size aside, it’s important to know your lady parts, as knowing your body is basically step one toward having explosive, holy-shit-I’m-seeing-new-territory-in-the-galaxy orgasms. And really, who cares how big or small your clit is if you’re in a state of coital bliss?
In my case, having a smaller clitoris has never prevented me from having an orgasm. First of all, I’m not shy about requesting oral sex, as I refuse to set up unrealistic expectations that I will or should climax from intercourse (which has happened, like, three times in my entire life). But I also exercise regularly, meditate to reduce stress, and rely on foods like pomegranates, coconuts, and garlic to help naturally boost my testosterone. Knowing more about my body, feeling in control of my sex life, and having a clear understanding of what can and can‘t make me orgasm is a whole hell of a lot more important to me than worrying about a few measly millimeters.
This article was originally published on Redbook