Image Caption : Female Genitalia Cross Section Showing Relaxed Clitoris: 3D visualization of a cross-section of the female genitalia reconstructed from scanned human data. Revealed are structures such as the mons pubis, the fatty eminence anterior to the pubic symphysis formed by the blending of the labia majora anteriorly. Enclosed within the labia majora are the labia minora which are thin skin folds which contain sebaceous glands. Superior to the labia majora is the clitoris, the main erectile organ in the female. The pea sized clitoris has one purpose only -- excitation - the product of extraordinary bioelectrics. It contains 8,000 nerve endings, twice as many as the penis and the most of any external structure in the body including fingers, lips and tongue. In this image the clitoris is in a relaxed state.
An erectile structure homologous with the penis, situated beneath the anterior labial commissure, partially hidden between the anterior ends of the labia minora.
National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine
The external genitalia are the accessory structures of the female reproductive system that are external to the vagina. They are also referred to as the vulva or pudendum. The external genitalia include the labia majora, mons pubis, labia minora, clitoris, and glands within the vestibule.
The clitoris is an erectile organ, similar to the male penis, that responds to sexual stimulation. Posterior to the clitoris, the urethra, vagina, paraurethral glands and greater vestibular glands open into the vestibule.
External Female Genitals
The external female reproductive structures are referred to collectively as the vulva (Figure). The mons pubis is a pad of fat that is located at the anterior, over the pubic bone. After puberty, it becomes covered in pubic hair. The labia majora (labia = "lips"; majora = "larger") are folds of hair-covered skin that begin just posterior to the mons pubis. The thinner and more pigmented labia minora(labia = "lips"; minora = "smaller") extend medial to the labia majora. Although they naturally vary in shape and size from woman to woman, the labia minora serve to protect the female urethra and the entrance to the female reproductive tract.
The superior, anterior portions of the labia minora come together to encircle the clitoris (or glans clitoris), an organ that originates from the same cells as the glans penis and has abundant nerves that make it important in sexual sensation and orgasm. The hymen is a thin membrane that sometimes partially covers the entrance to the vagina. An intact hymen cannot be used as an indication of "virginity"; even at birth, this is only a partial membrane, as menstrual fluid and other secretions must be able to exit the body, regardless of penile-vaginal intercourse. The vaginal opening is located between the opening of the urethra and the anus. It is flanked by outlets to the Bartholin's glands (or greater vestibular glands).
The external female genitalia are referred to collectively as the vulva.
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The clitoris (/ˈklɪtərᵻs/ or /klᵻˈtɔərᵻs/) is a female sex organ present in mammals, ostriches and a limited number of other animals. In humans, the visible button-like portion is near the front junction of the labia minora (inner lips), above the opening of the urethra. Unlike the penis, the male homologue (equivalent) to the clitoris, it usually does not contain the distal portion (or opening) of the urethra and is therefore not used for urination. While few animals urinate through the clitoris, the spotted hyena, which has an especially well-developed clitoris, urinates, mates and gives birth via the organ. Some other carnivorous animals, or mammals in particular, such as lemurs and spider monkeys, also have a well-developed clitoris.
The clitoris is the human female's most sensitive erogenous zone and generally the primary anatomical source of human female sexual pleasure. In humans and other mammals, it develops from an outgrowth in the embryo called the genital tubercle. Initially undifferentiated, the tubercle develops into either a penis or a clitoris, depending on the presence or absence of the protein tdf, which is codified by a single gene on the Y chromosome. The clitoris is a complex structure, and its size and sensitivity can vary. The glans (head) of the human clitoris is roughly the size and shape of a pea, and is estimated to have more than 8,000 sensory nerve endings.
Extensive sociological, sexological and medical debate have focused on the clitoris, primarily concerning anatomical accuracy, orgasmic factors and their physiological explanation for the G-spot, and whether the clitoris is vestigial, an adaptation, or serves a reproductive function. Social perceptions of the clitoris range from the significance of its role in female sexual pleasure, assumptions about its true size and depth, and varying beliefs regarding genital modification such as clitoris enlargement, clitoris piercing and clitoridectomy; genital modification may be for aesthetic, medical or cultural reasons.
Knowledge of the clitoris is significantly impacted by cultural perceptions of the organ. Studies suggest that knowledge of its existence and anatomy is scant in comparison with that of other sexual organs, and that more education about it could help alleviate social stigmas associated with the female body and female sexual pleasure; for example, that the clitoris and vulva in general are visually unappealing, that female masturbation is taboo, or that men should be expected to master and control women's orgasms.
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