1.a female sexual organ homologous to the penis
ClitorisCli"to*ris (klī"t�*rĭs or klĭt"�*rĭs), n. [NL., fr. Gr. kleitori`s, fr. klei`ein to shut up. It is concealed by the labia pudendi.] (Anat.) A small organ at the upper part of the vulva in females, homologous to the penis in the male.
definition of Wikipedia
Clitoris enlargement • Clitoris piercing • Corpus cavernosum of clitoris • Deep artery of clitoris • Deep dorsal vein of clitoris • Dorsal artery of clitoris • Dorsal nerve of clitoris • Superficial dorsal veins of clitoris
Clitoris (n.) [MeSH]
appareil sexuel féminin (fr)[DomainDescrip.]
plaisir sexuel (fr)[DomaineDescription]
button, clit, clitoris[Rel.]
organe de l'appareil sexuel féminin (fr)[DomainDescrip.]
anatomie spécifique de la femme (fr)[DomainDescrip.]
|The internal anatomy of the human vulva, with the clitoral hood and labia minora indicated as lines. The clitoris extends from the visible portion to a point below the pubic bone.|
|Gray's||subject #270 1266|
|Artery||Dorsal artery of clitoris, deep artery of clitoris|
|Vein||Superficial dorsal veins of clitoris, deep dorsal vein of clitoris|
|Nerve||Dorsal nerve of clitoris|
The clitoris (i//, i//, or UK //) is a sexual organ that is present only in female mammals. In humans, the visible button-like portion is located near the anterior junction of the labia minora, above the opening of the urethra and vagina. Unlike the penis, which is homologous to the clitoris, the clitoris does not contain the distal portion of the urethra. The only known exception to this is in the Spotted Hyena. In this species, the urogenital system is unique in that the female urinates, mates and gives birth via an enlarged, erectile clitoris, known as a pseudo-penis.
In humans, the clitoris is the most sensitive erogenous zone of the female and the primary cause of female sexual pleasure. Capable of producing sexual excitement, clitoral erection and orgasm upon sexual stimulation, its size and sensitivity can vary and it has been the subject of extensive sociological, sexological and medical debate.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives the pronunciation // for British English. It gives the likely etymology as coming from the Ancient Greek κλειτορίς, kleitoris, perhaps derived from the verb κλείειν, kleiein, "to shut". It also states that the shortened form "clit" has been used in print since 1958, with first usage noted in the United States; prior to that, the abbreviation was "clitty".. The Online Etymological Dictionary suggests other Greek candidates for the word's origins: a noun meaning "key", "latch", "hook"; a verb meaning "to touch or titillate lasciviously", "to tickle" (one German synonym for the clitoris is der Kitzler, "the tickler"), although this verb is more likely derived from "clitoris"; and a word meaning "side of a hill", from the same root as "climax".
The plural forms are clitorises in English and clitorides in Latin. Its Latin genitive is clitoridis, as in "glans clitoridis". In medical and sexological literature, the clitoris is sometimes referred to as "the female penis" or pseudo-penis.
During the development of an embryo, at the time of development of the urinary and reproductive organs, the previously undifferentiated genital tubercle develops into either a clitoris or penis, along with all other major organ systems, making them homologous. The clitoris is formed from the same tissues that would have become the glans and upper shaft of a penis if the embryo had been exposed to "male" hormones. Changes in appearance of male and female embryos begin roughly eight weeks after conception. By birth, the genital structures have developed into the female reproductive system.
Embryo sex based on external genitalia is apparent to a doctor at the end of the 14th menstrual week, and the sex can usually be identified by an ultrasound after 16 to 18 menstrual weeks. A condition that can develop from naturally occurring or deliberate exposure to higher than average levels of testosterone is clitoromegaly.
|Human vulva stretched to show externally-visible features of the clitoris in relation to other components: 1. Clitoral hood (prepuce); 2. Clitoral glans; 3. Urethral orifice; 4. Vulval vestibule; 5. Labia minora; 6. Vaginal opening; 7. Labia majora (hair removed); 8. Perineum|
"Histological evaluation of the clitoris, especially of the corpora cavernosa, is incomplete because for many years the clitoris was considered a rudimentary and nonfunctional organ," states researcher Atilla Şenaylı. "Baskin and colleagues evaluated the masculinized clitoris after dissection and put the serial dissected specimens together using imaging software after Massion chrome staining." This revealed that the nerves of the clitoris surround the whole corpus. It is "known that the subalbugineal layer between the erectile tissue and tunica albuginea is absent in the clitoris, but desmin and vimentin immunoreactivity evaluations in arterial and vein muscle cells of the clitoris are not clear from previous reports".
The head or glans of the clitoris is roughly the size and shape of a pea, although it can be significantly larger or smaller. The clitoris is a complex structure, with both external and internal components. Projecting at the front of the labial commissure where the edges of the outer lips (labia majora) meet at the base of the pubic mound is the clitoral hood (prepuce), which in full or part covers the head (clitoral glans). Following from the head back and up along the shaft, it is found that this extends up to several centimeters before reversing direction and branching. The resulting branched shape forms an inverted "V", extending as a pair of "legs" known as the clitoral crura formed of the corpora cavernosa. The clitoral crura are concealed behind the labia minora, and terminate with attachment to the pubic arch (according to some), or follow interior to the labia minora to meet at the fourchette (according to others).
Associated are the urethral sponge, clitoral/vestibular bulbs, perineal sponge, a network of nerves and blood vessels, suspensory ligaments, muscles and pelvic diaphragm. The clitoris displays a hood that is the equivalent to the foreskin in men, which covers the glans, and a shaft that is attached to the glans. The corpus clitoridis has two corpora cavernosa with erectile tissue surrounded by dense fibrous tissue around each corpora. These corpora are separated incompletely from each other with a medial located by a fibrous pectiniform septum. Each crus clitoridis is attached to the corresponding ischial ramus.
The tip or glans of the clitoris alone has more than 8,000 sensory nerve endings, as much as or more than the human penis, as well as more than any other part of the human body. There is considerable variation in how much of the clitoris protrudes from the hood and how much is covered by it, ranging from complete, covered invisibility to full, protruding visibility. An article published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in July 1992 states that the average width of the clitoral glans lies within the range of 2.5 to 4.5 millimetres (0.098 to 0.18 in), indicating that the average size is smaller than a pencil-top eraser. There is no identified correlation between the size of a clitoris and a woman's age, height, weight, use of hormonal contraceptives, or being post-menopausal. Recent discoveries about the size of the clitoris show that clitoral tissue may extend into the anterior wall of the vagina.
During sexual arousal and orgasm, the clitoris and the whole of the genitalia engorge and change color as these erectile tissues fill with blood, and the individual experiences vaginal contractions. Masters and Johnson documented the sexual response cycle, which has four phases and is still the clinically accepted definition of the human orgasm. More recent research has determined that some can experience a sustained intense orgasm through stimulation of the clitoris and remain in the orgasmic phase for much longer than the original studies indicated, evidenced by genital engorgement, color changes, and vaginal contractions, although knowledge of the measurement of physiologic parameters of sexual function in women is lacking "and far behind that in men".
Because the clitoris is homologous to the penis, it is the equivalent in its capacity to receive sexual stimulation. Research into the female sexual response cycle demonstrates that most women (70–80%) achieve orgasm only through direct clitoral stimulation, though indirect clitoral stimulation may also be sufficient. Alfred Kinsey was the first researcher to harshly criticize Sigmund Freud's theory that clitoral orgasms are a prepubertal or adolescent phenomenon and that vaginal (or G-Spot) orgasms are something that only physically mature females have. Through his interviews with thousands of women, Kinsey found that most women could not have vaginal orgasms. He criticized Freud and other theorists for projecting male constructs of sexuality onto women and viewed the clitoris as the main center of sexual response and the vagina as relatively unimportant for sexual satisfaction, noting that few women inserted fingers or objects into their vaginas when they masturbated. Believing that vaginal orgasms are a physiological impossibility because the vagina has insufficient nerve endings for sexual pleasure or climax, he concluded that satisfaction from penile penetration is mainly psychological or perhaps the result of referred sensation.
Masters and Johnson's research, as well as Shere Hite's, supported Kinsey's findings about the female orgasm. Masters and Johnson were the first to determine that the clitoral structures surround and extend along and within the labia. They observed that both clitoral and vaginal orgasms had the same stages of physical response, and found that the majority of their subjects could only achieve clitoral orgasms, while a minority achieved vaginal orgasms. On this basis, they argued that clitoral stimulation is the source of both kinds of orgasms. The research came at the time of the second-wave feminist movement, which inspired feminists to reject the distinction made between clitoral and vaginal orgasms. "Men have orgasms essentially by friction with the vagina, not the clitoral area, which is external and not able to cause friction the way penetration does. Women have thus been defined sexually in terms of what pleases men; our own biology has not been properly analyzed," stated feminist Anne Koedt in her 1970 article The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm. "Today, with extensive knowledge of anatomy, with [C. Lombard Kelly], Kinsey, and Masters and Johnson, to mention just a few sources, there is no ignorance on the subject [of the female orgasm]. There are, however, social reasons why this knowledge has not been popularized. We are living in a male society which has not sought change in women's role."
Supporting Masters and Johnson's conclusion of an anatomical relationship between the clitoris and vagina is a study published in 2005, which investigated the size of the clitoris; Australian urologist Helen O'Connell, while using MRI technology, noted a direct relationship between the legs or roots of the clitoris and the erectile tissue of the "clitoral bulbs" and corpora, and the distal urethra and vagina. While some studies, using ultrasound, have found physiological evidence of the G-Spot in women who report having orgasms during intercourse, O'Connell asserts that this interconnected relationship is the physiological explanation for the conjectured G-Spot and experience of vaginal orgasms, taking into account the stimulation of the internal parts of the clitoris during vaginal penetration. "The vaginal wall is, in fact, the clitoris," said O'Connell. "If you lift the skin off the vagina on the side walls, you get the bulbs of the clitoris – triangular, crescental masses of erectile tissue." O'Connell, who made the claims in 1998, and her team were already aware that the clitoris is more than just its glans – the "little hill". They reasoned that it is possible that some women have more extensive clitoral tissues and nerves than others, and therefore whereas many women can only achieve orgasm by direct stimulation of the external parts of the clitoris, for others the stimulation of the more generalized tissues of the clitoris via intercourse may be sufficient. French researchers Odile Buisson and Pierre Foldès reported similar findings. In 2008, and again in 2009, they published the first complete 3D sonography of the stimulated clitoris which demonstrates that the erectile tissue of the clitoris engorges and surrounds the vagina, arguing that women may be able to achieve vaginal orgasm via stimulation of the G-Spot because the highly innervated clitoris is pulled closely to the anterior wall of the vagina when the woman is sexually aroused and during vaginal penetration. They assert that since the front wall of the vagina is inextricably linked with the internal parts of the clitoris, stimulating the vagina without activating the clitoris may be next to impossible. In their 2009 published study, the "coronal planes during perineal contraction and finger penetration demonstrated a close relationship between the root of the clitoris and the anterior vaginal wall". Buisson and Foldès suggested "that the special sensitivity of the lower anterior vaginal wall could be explained by pressure and movement of clitoris's root during a vaginal penetration and subsequent perineal contraction".
O'Connell's findings have been criticized by Vincenzo Puppo, who, while agreeing that the clitoris is the locus of female sexual pleasure, disagrees with O'Connell and other researchers' terminological and anatomical descriptions of the clitoris. "Clitoral bulbs is an incorrect term from an embryological and anatomical viewpoint, in fact the bulbs do not develop from the phallus, and they do not belong to the clitoris: 'clitoral bulbs' is not a term used in human anatomy, the correct term is the vestibular bulbs," stated Puppo. "Gynecologists, sexual medicine experts, and sexologists should spread certainties for all women, not hypotheses or personal opinions, they should use scientific terminology: clitoral/vaginal/uterine orgasm, G/A/C/U spot orgasm, and female ejaculation, are terms that should not be used by sexologists, women, and mass media." Puppo argues that O'Connell et al. "fail to describe" the anatomy of the distal vagina, the differences between lateral and posterior walls of the vagina, and that there are no exocrine glands in the walls of the vagina. He challenges an anatomical relationship between the vagina and the clitoris, saying that the "anterior vaginal wall is separated from the posterior urethral wall by the urethrovaginal septum (its thickness is 10–12 mm)" and that the "inner clitoris" does not exist. "The female perineal urethra, which is located in front of the anterior vaginal wall, is about one centimeter in length and the G-Spot is located in the pelvic wall of the urethra, 2–3 cm into the vagina," Puppo stated. "The male penis cannot come in contact with the venous plexus of Kobelt (situated until the angle of the clitoris) or with the roots of the clitoris (which do not have sensory receptors or erogenous sensitivity) during vaginal intercourse." Puppo did, however, dismiss the orgasmic definition of the G-Spot that emerged after Ernst Gräfenberg, stating that "there is no anatomical evidence of the vaginal orgasm which was invented by Freud in 1905, without any scientific basis".
In contrast to Puppo's belief that there is no anatomical relationship between the vagina and clitoris, other researchers continue to support the hypothesis that G-Spot orgasms are the result of clitoral stimulation, reaffirming that clitoral tissue extends even where the related G-Spot would be located. "My view is that the G-Spot is really just the extension of the clitoris on the inside of the vagina, analogous to the base of the male penis," said Amichai Kilchevsky. Because humans all start out as female in the womb and therefore the penis is essentially an enlarged clitoris, changed by male hormones, Kilchevsky believes that there is no evolutionary reason why females would have an entity in addition to the clitoris that can produce orgasms and blames the porn industry and "G-Spot promoters" for "encouraging the myth" of a distinct G-Spot. If the argument is that vaginal orgasms help encourage sexual intercourse in order to facilitate reproduction, then vaginal orgasms would not be significantly difficult to achieve, a predicament that is believed to be the result of nature easing the process of child bearing by drastically reducing the number of vaginal nerve endings. However, one study, published in 2011, which was the first to map the female genitals onto the sensory portion of the brain, keeps "the possibility of a discrete G-Spot viable". When a Rutgers University research team asked several women to stimulate themselves in a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) machine, brain scans showed stimulating the clitoris, vagina and cervix lit up distinct areas of the women's sensory cortex, which means the brain registered distinct feelings between stimulating the clitoris, the cervix and the vaginal wall – where the G-Spot is reported to be. "I think that the bulk of the evidence shows that the G-Spot is not a particular thing," stated Barry Komisaruk, head of the research findings. "It's not like saying, 'What is the thyroid gland?' The G-Spot is more of a thing like New York City is a thing. It's a region, it's a convergence of many different structures."
Whether or not the clitoris is vestigial or serves a reproductive function has also been subject to debate. Elisabeth Lloyd suggests that there is little evidence to support an adaptionist account of female orgasm. "...Lloyd views female orgasm as an ontogenetic leftover; women have orgasms because the urogenital neurophysiology for orgasm is so strongly selected for in males that this developmental blueprint gets expressed in females without affecting fitness, just as males have nipples that serve no fitness-related function," stated Meredith L. Chivers. At the 2002 conference for Canadian Society of Women in Philosophy, Dr. Nancy Tuana asserted that the clitoris is unnecessary in reproduction, but that this is why it has been "historically ignored," mainly because of "a fear of pleasure. It is pleasure separated from reproduction. That's the fear". She reasoned that this fear is the cause of the ignorance that veils female sexuality. O'Connell said, "It boils down to rivalry between the sexes: the idea that one sex is sexual and the other reproductive. The truth is that both are sexual and both are reproductive." She reiterates that the bulbs appear to be part of the clitoris and that the distal urethra and vagina are intimately related structures, although they are not erectile in character, forming a tissue cluster with the clitoris that appears to be the locus of female sexual function and orgasm.
The clitoris has been thought of as "discovered" and "rediscovered" through empirical documentation by male scholars repeatedly over the centuries. Over a period of more than 2,500 years, some have considered the clitoris and the penis equivalent in all respects except their arrangement. Realdo Colombo (also known as Matteo Renaldo Colombo) was a lecturer in surgery at the University of Padua, Italy, and in 1559 he published a book called De re anatomica in which he described the "seat of woman's delight". In his role as researcher, Colombo concluded, "Since no one has discerned these projections and their workings, if it is permissible to give names to things discovered by me, it should be called the love or sweetness of Venus."
Colombo's claim was disputed by his successor at Padua, Gabriele Falloppio (who discovered the fallopian tube), who claimed that he was the first to discover the clitoris. Caspar Bartholin, a 17th-century Danish anatomist, dismissed both claims, arguing that the clitoris had been widely known to medical science since the second century. Hippocrates used the term columella (little pillar). Avicenna named the clitoris the albatra or virga (rod). Albucasis, an Arabic medical authority, named it tentigo (tension). It was additionally known to the Romans, who named it (vulgar slang) landica.
This cycle of suppression and discovery continued, notably in the work of Regnier de Graaf in the 17th century and Georg Ludwig Kobelt in the 19th. De Graaf also criticized Columbo's claim. O'Connell describes typical textbook descriptions of the clitoris as lacking detail and including inaccuracies, and credits the work of Georg Ludwig Kobelt with providing a most comprehensive and accurate description of clitoral anatomy. The full extent of the clitoris was additionally alluded to by Masters and Johnson in 1966, but in such a muddled fashion that the significance of their description became obscured. In 1981, the Federation of Feminist Women's Health Clinics (FFWHC) continued this process with anatomically precise illustrations. MRI measurements now complement these efforts, as MRI is both a live and multi-planar method of examination, to show that the volume of clitoral erectile tissue is ten times that of what is shown in doctors' offices and in anatomy text books.
The clitoris may be partially or totally removed during female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as a clitoridectomy, or female circumcision. This is carried out in several countries in Africa, and to a lesser extent in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, on girls from a few days old to the age of 15. Amnesty International estimates that over two million FGM procedures are performed every year. Removing the glans of the clitoris does not mean that the whole structure is lost, since the clitoris reaches deep into areas of the genitals.
The largest group requiring surgical genital correction are females with adrenogenital syndrome. Researcher Atilla Şenaylı stated, "The main expectations for the operations are to create a normal female anatomy, with minimal complications and improvement of life quality. Cosmesis, structural integrity, and coital capacity of the vagina, and absence of pain during sexual activity are the parameters to be judged by the surgeon." Atilla added that although "expectations can be standardized within these few parameters, operative techniques have not yet become homogeneous. Investigators have preferred different operations for different ages of patients". Gender assessment and surgical treatment are the two main steps in intersex operations. "The first treatments for clitoromegaly were simply resection of the clitoris. Later, it was understood that the clitoris glans and sensory input are important to facilitate orgasm," stated Atilla. "The epithelium of the glans clitoridis has high cutaneous sensitivity, which is important in sexual responses. Therefore, recession clitoroplasty was later devised as an alternative, but reduction clitoroplasty is the method currently performed. In this operation, the glans is preserved and parts of the erectile bodies are excised." Problems with the technique, include loss of sensation, sexual function, and sloughing of the glans. One way to preserve the organ with its innervations and function is to imbricate and bury the glans clitoris, "although pain during stimulus because of trapped tissue under the scarring is nearly routine. In another method, 50% of the ventral clitoris is removed through the level base of the clitoral shaft, and it is reported that good sensation and clitoral function are observed in follow up. However, it has also been reported that the complications are from the same as those in the older procedures for this method".
In various cultures, the clitoris is sometimes pierced directly. In the U.S., it is extremely rare for the clitoral shaft itself to be pierced, as only a small percentage of people who desire the piercing are anatomically suited for it; furthermore, most piercing artists are reluctant to attempt such a delicate procedure. Some styles, such as the Isabella, do pass through the clitoris but are placed deep at the base, where they provide unique stimulation; they still require the proper genital build, but are more common than shaft piercings. Additionally, what is referred to as a "clit piercing" is almost always the much more common (and much less complicated) clitoral hood piercing.
Enlargement may be intentional or unintentional. Those taking hormones or other medications, or both, as part of female-to-male transition usually experience dramatic clitoral growth; individual desires (and the difficulties of surgical phalloplasty) often result in the retention of the original genitalia, the enlarged clitoris analogous to a penis as part of the transition. However, the clitoris cannot reach the size of most cissexual men's penises through hormones. Surgery to add function to the clitoris, such as metoidioplasty or clitoral release, are alternatives to phalloplasty (construction of a penis) which permit retention of sexual sensation in the clitoris.
On the other hand, use of anabolic steroids by bodybuilders and other athletes can result in significant enlargement of the clitoris in concert with other masculinizing effects on their bodies. Temporary engorgement results from suction pumping, practiced to enhance sexual pleasure or for aesthetic purposes.
|Look up clitoris in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Media related to Clitoris at Wikimedia Commons
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