The clitoris [cli-tor-is], a part of the female anatomy that has or may have the ability to produce orgasms, is part of the vulva, which encompasses the external female genital organs and surrounds the opening to the vagina. The clitoral structure is mostly hidden and, except for a small portion, the hidden parts tend to look like a double-legged wishbone.

There are theories as to the function of the clitoris, besides pleasure, since female orgasms are not necessary for reproduction. One theory suggests that the clitoris may have been in or closer to the vagina to be stimulated during sex to release an egg, but that role changed as humans developed ovulatory cycles. Another theory is that its function mimics that of the penis, since they are formed by embryonic tissue that is prompted by a hormone to become a penis, or continue without it to become a clitoris.

According to an article in the 2018 Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy: “While 18.4% of women reported that intercourse alone was sufficient for orgasm, 36.6% reported clitoral stimulation was necessary for orgasm during intercourse, and an additional 36% indicated that, while clitoral stimulation was not needed, their orgasms feel better if their clitoris is stimulated during intercourse.”

The sourced articles below should provide you more information on the clitoris and its impact on female sexual pleasure.

  1. Penis Development

    “Development of the human penis and clitoris … ‘The human penis and clitoris develop from the ambisexual genital tubercle. To compare and contrast the development of human penis and clitoris, we used macroscopic photography, optical projection tomography, light sheet microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, histology and immunohistochemistry. The human genital tubercle differentiates into a penis under the influence of androgens forming a tubular urethra that develops by canalization of the urethral plate to form a wide diamond-shaped urethral groove (opening zipper) whose edges (urethral folds) fuse in the midline (closing zipper). In contrast, in females, without the influence of androgens, the vestibular plate (homologue of the urethral plate) undergoes canalization to form a wide vestibular groove whose edges (vestibular folds) remain unfused, ultimately forming the labia minora defining the vaginal vestibule. The neurovascular anatomy is similar in both the developing human penis and clitoris and is the key to successful surgical reconstructions.'”

    Dr. Mark Hill,, 5/2/2019

  2. Clitoris

    “Did you know the clitoris is the only organ in the human body whose only purpose is pleasure? This part of the genitals may look small, but it can give lots of sensation. The clitoris gets bad press for being hard to find, complicated, and finicky. But it’s not the clitoris’s fault! It’s time for better education and information. If you have a vulva, the clitoris is your main focus of sexual pleasure. You have other sexually sensitive areas, called erogenous zones, like the nipples, the neck and the vulva. But the clitoris is the most sensitive of all.”,, accessed on 4/9/2019

  3. The Internal Clitoris

    “Alas it wasn’t until as recent as 2009, French researchers Dr. Odile Buisson and Dr. Pierre Foldès gave the medical world it’s first complete 3-D sonography of the stimulated clitoris. They did this work for three years without any proper funding. Thanks to them, we now understand how the erectile tissue of the clitoris engorges and surrounds the vagina—a complete breakthrough that explains how what we once considered to be a vaginal orgasm is actually an internal clitoral orgasm.”

    Ms. M,, 1/19/2019; (Broken link removed 12/2023)

  4. 9 Things Everyone Should Know About The Clitoris

    “The clitoris is, without a doubt, incredible. Not that we need any further proof of this (erm, have you seen what one of these babies can do?!), but relationship and sex mentor Colin Richards, and Clue researchers reckon there’s 9 more, pretty awesome, surprising things everyone should know about the not-so-humble clit. …
    [1.] It’s way bigger than you think …
    [2.] It functions just like a penis …
    [3.] It has 8,000 nerve endings …
    [4.] It keeps growing, and never ages …
    [5.] It was (officially) ‘discovered’ in the 1500s …
    [6.] It’s the only human organ specifically designed to give pleasure …
    [7.] Clitoral orgasms release A LOT of oxytocin …
    [8.] It enlarges around the time of ovulation …
    [9.] There’s a flower that looks just like it … Clitoria ternatea, commonly known as Asian pigeonwings …”

    Paisley Gilmour,, 10/26/2018

  5. 9 Fascinating Facts About Female Sexual Anatomy

    “In case you still had doubts about whether the clitoris is as magnificent as the penis, get this: clits get erections when they’re aroused, just like penises do — and not just the shaft but the whole thing. ‘There are twin elongated teardrop-shaped bulbs of corpus cavernosum, that tissue that lies just underneath the inner lips,’ Chalker writes. ‘During sexual excitement, when the bulbs are filling with blood, you can feel the erection as they expand and press on the inner lips, which are themselves becoming engorged and expanding outward.'”

    Suzannah Weiss,, 7/9/2018

  6. The Clitoris: What Is There To Know About This Mystery Organ?

    “Although this organ may be the key that unlocks female sexual pleasure, it is not just a ‘little hill,’ as it has long been believed. In fact, the little hill (protected by a cloak of skin, or the ‘clitoral hood,’ which is found over the urethral opening) is just the tip of the much larger organ that is the clitoris. That tip, called the clitoral gland, is the most readily visible part of this genital organ. Yet the entire organ extends much farther than that, and this notion was initially brought to public attention only a few years ago by researcher Dr. Helen O’Connell.”

    Maria Cohut,, 6/22/2018

  7. The ‘Big O’: How And Why Evolution Brought Us The Female Orgasm

    “The female orgasm is perplexing. It’s not necessary to get pregnant. Penis-in-vagina sex is not the best way to generate one, although that’s still the most efficient way to make a baby. And when thinking in human evolution terms, it seems hard to find a compelling reason why humans need have one at all.”

    Meredith Knight,, 5/11/2018

  8. The Biggest-Ever Orgasm Study Tells Us More About How Women Come

    “‘Freud contended that the clitoral orgasm was adolescent, and that upon puberty, when began having intercourse with men, women should transfer the center of the orgasm to the vagina,’ the feminist Anne Koedt wrote in the famous 1970 essay, The Myth of Vaginal Orgasm. ‘The vagina, it was assumed, was able to produce a parallel, but more mature, orgasm than the clitoris.’ … ‘The idea of one kind of orgasm being more mature is ridiculous,’ [Debby] Herbenick [researcher at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University] says. ‘I also don’t like the clitoral/vaginal orgasms binary because, anatomically, all of these parts are really tiny and close to each other and packed. Ultimately I don’t think fighting over which nerve endings led to the orgasm is instructive.'”

    Daniel Oberhaus,, 9/6/2017

  9. Women’s Experiences With Genital Touching, Sexual Pleasure, And Orgasm: Results From A U.S. Probability Sample Of Women Ages 18 To 94

    Abstract: “The study purpose was to assess, in a U.S. probability sample of women, experiences related to orgasm, sexual pleasure, and genital touching. In June 2015, 1,055 women ages 18 to 94 from the nationally representative GfK KnowledgePanel® completed a confidential, Internet-based survey. While 18.4% of women reported that intercourse alone was sufficient for orgasm, 36.6% reported clitoral stimulation was necessary for orgasm during intercourse, and an additional 36% indicated that, while clitoral stimulation was not needed, their orgasms feel better if their clitoris is stimulated during intercourse. Women reported diverse preferences for genital touch location, pressure, shape, and pattern. Clinical, therapeutic, and educational implications are discussed.”

    Debby Herbenick, Tsung-Chieh (Jane) Fu, Jennifer Arter, Stephanie A. Sanders, and Brian Dodge, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, Taylor & Francis Ltd,, 8/9/2017

  10. The Existential Crisis Of The Female Orgasm

    “Wagner realized copulation-induced ovulation occurred most often in animals in which the clitoris was located within or near the copulatory canal. Spontaneous ovulators, in contrast, evolved to separate the clitoris and vagina. Together, this information suggests that the common ancestor of many mammals was a copulation-induced ovulator. However, as spontaneous ovulation evolved in humans and primates, clitoral stimulation as a means to induce ovulation became useless, and evolution distanced the clitoris from the copulatory canal. Though researchers yet to prove that copulation-induced ovulation is triggered by clitoral stimulation and orgasm, the theory is pharmacologically testable. … In the context of spontaneous ovulation, clitoral stimulation leading to female orgasm may serve another purpose. For example, orgasm might improve pair bonding.”

    Krisstel Gomez,, 3/25/2017

  11. Intimately Connected

    “The only safe interpretation is that a woman’s orgasms are directly linked to her clitoris, the developmental equivalent of a man’s penis. Ultimately, [Elisabeth] Lloyd concluded that both the clitoris and orgasms are evolutionary by-products that serve no function, comparable to the vestigial nipples of men.”

    Robert D. Martin, PhD,, 9/13/2016

  12. Why Female Orgasm Evolved

    “Some female mammals ovulate spontaneously, like humans, while other species do not ovulate until stimulated. And in some species, this stimulation comes in the form of hormone surges during and after sex. Mihaela Pavličev of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio and Günter Wagner of Yale University now propose that the female orgasm may have evolved as the ovulation-triggering event in these species, and it thus may serve no biological function in species like humans that release eggs without stimulation.”

    Jef Akst,, 8/4/2016

  13. Mystery Of Female Orgasm Solved

    “A new study shows that in prehistoric times, orgasm was directly related to reproduction. A woman needed clitoral stimulation in order to release hormones that caused her to ovulate, releasing an egg that was promptly fertilized by the male’s sperm. The ‘feel good’ hormones prolactin and oxytocin triggered ovulation. Modern rabbits, camels and cats release an egg in this manner before and during sex. … The researchers blame the changes in humans and primates on societal changes. When we moved from solitary creatures into established social groups, access to sex became more commonplace. The need for stimulation to reproduce became unnecessary and biological changes evolved.”

    Nancy Loyan Schuemann,, 8/3/2016

  14. A Darwinian Perspective On The Female Orgasm

    “While the roots of the female orgasm seem evident, the reasons for why it still exists today is a little less clear. A 2010 study found that only a bit more than a third of women reported orgasming the last time they had sex. But, even if it’s not essential for continuing the species, that doesn’t mean chasing the big ‘O’ is pointless. The debate over why both sexes experience la petite mort has gone on for decades now. Some dominant theories hold that female orgasms are a byproduct of the male climax, as the clitoris and the penis emerge from the same lump of fetal tissue. Others think that female orgasms actually encourage promiscuity — the more males a female copulates with, the more potential caregivers she has access to when her baby is born. Orgasms could also push us in the opposite direction though, and some researchers think that they reinforce the pair bond by convincing us to stay with partners that give us pleasure.”

    Nathaniel Scharping,, 8/2/2016; (Broken link removed 9/2022)

  15. New Theory Suggests Female Orgasms Are An Evolutionary Leftover

    “They also noticed another change. In earlier mammals, the clitoris, which is so often key to a woman’s orgasm, tends to be part of the vagina—guaranteeing that intercourse stimulated this organ and kick-started ovulation. But in later arising species, particularly primates, the clitoris has moved ever farther away from the vagina, even out of reach of an inserted penis. ‘A shift in the position of the clitoris is correlated with the loss of intercourse-induced ovulation,’ says Martin Cohn, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.”

    Elizabeth Pennisi,, 8/1/2016

  16. The Evolutionary Reason Why Women Orgasm

    “This surge of hormones, including prolactin and oxytocin, is similar to other surges observed in animals like rats, who need these natural chemicals to tell their body to ovulate. The surge can also help eggs implant in species like rodents. Some studies even suggest that humans have similar connections between egg implantation with post-orgasmic hormone shifts. That hormone-orgasm connection in both humans and induced ovulators led Pavličev to believe that they were once connected long before humans became a species. She speculates that spontaneous ovulation likely evolved in the last common ancestor of primates and rodents. Eventually, however, they must have evolved into so-called spontaneous ovulators, but the hormonal reactions associated with orgasms remained.”

    Erin Blakemore,, 8/1/2016

  17. Scientists Ponder An Evolutionary Mystery: The Female Orgasm

    “While women release an egg each month, other female mammals, such as rabbits and camels, release an egg only after mating with a male. Ovulatory cycles evolved in only a few lineages of mammals, including our own, Dr. Pavlicev and Dr. Wagner found. Before then, our ancient mammal ancestors originally relied on ovulation triggered by sex with a male. Those early mammals developed a clitoris inside the vagina. Only in mammals that evolved ovulatory cycles did the clitoris move away. Based on these findings, Dr. Pavlicev and Dr. Wagner argue that the female orgasm first evolved as a reflex to help females become pregnant.”

    Carl Zimmer,, 8/1/2016

  18. Yale Researchers Shed Light On Evolutionary Mystery: Origins Of The Female Orgasm

    “The scientists suggest that female orgasm may have evolved as an adaptation for a direct reproductive role — the reflex that, ancestrally, induced ovulation. This reflex became superfluous for reproduction later in evolution, freeing female orgasm for secondary roles. A comparative study of female genitalia also revealed that, coincidental with the evolution of spontaneous ovulation, the clitoris was relocated from its ancestral position inside the copulatory canal. This anatomical change made it less likely that the clitoris receives adequate stimulation during intercourse to lead to the neuro-endocrine reflex known in humans as orgasm.”

    YaleNews,, 8/1/2016

  19. Researchers Describe A New Hypothesis About Why The Female Orgasm Exists

    “A pair of scientists have a new hypothesis about why the female orgasm exists: It might have something to do with releasing an egg to be fertilized. Scientists have puzzled over, and sometimes even questioned the existence of, a phenomenon that appears to have no physical effect on conception. While a male orgasm is crucial to impregnate a female, it is not obvious how a female orgasm affects whether she is impregnated.”

    Rebecca Hersher,, 8/1/2016

  20. The Evolutionary Origin Of Female Orgasm.

    “The evolutionary explanation of female orgasm has been difficult to come by. The orgasm in women does not obviously contribute to the reproductive success, and surprisingly unreliably accompanies heterosexual intercourse. Two types of explanations have been proposed: one insisting on extant adaptive roles in reproduction, another explaining female orgasm as a byproduct of selection on male orgasm, which is crucial for sperm transfer. … In summary, we suggest that the female orgasm-like trait may have been adaptive, however for a different role, namely for inducing ovulation. With the evolution of spontaneous ovulation, orgasm was freed to gain secondary roles, which may explain its maintenance, but not its origin.”

    Mihaela Pavličev, and Günter Wagner,, 7/31/2016