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Clitoral Stimulation

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Updated April 12, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Clitoral stimulation, like any kind of sexual activity, isn't a matter of just knowing the right moves, or being able to guess what kind of stimulation someone wants based on the way they dress or what kind of music they listen to. Whether you're stimulating your own or someone else's clitoris, remember that every sexual interaction is just that, an interaction, an exchange of touch and intent. There's no one way to do it, but if you're feeling a bit lost, the following guide may help you find yourself and your (or someone else's) clitoris.
Time Required: Clitoral stimulation knows no time limit. It can last 2 minutes or 2 hours (probably not 2 days).

Here's How:

  1. Understand the Clitoris
    If you don't know much about the clitoris you aren't alone. To this day medical students still get inconsistent information about the anatomy and physiology of the clitoris, and as a result what you know about the clitoris will vary wildly depending on who you learned from. The clitoris is not just an external sexual organ, it actually extends deep into the body, and is made up of several parts including a hood, shaft, crura (which are kind of like legs that extend along either side of the labia but inside the body) and clitoral bulbs. There are more than 8,000 nerve endings in the clitoral tip, but over 15,000 throughout the pelvic area. If you think the clitoris is a tiny button, then you may be tempted to simply push it, and you're missing out.

  2. The Clitoris Ain't First Base (For Most of Us)
    By this I don't mean that there's one particular order to sex play, but the truth is that most kinds of clitoral stimulation are going to feel better if the person on the receiving end is already aroused. That arousal may be mental or physical or both, but make sure that before embarking on any clitoral stimulation, that the person whose clitoris it is, is already feeling sexy or sexual. An obvious exception would be someone who likes to start with the clitoris, in which case, their clitoris may be first base. But for many, this won't be the case.

  3. Stimulation from the Outside In
    Continuing this theme of working up, also think about working in. Start stimulation not by zeroing in on the clitoral tip, but by stimulating the internal parts of the clitoris that are farthest away from the tip. Massage the vulva, the area above the pubic bone and the pubic mound. Start with light touch, but you can also explore more kneading/massage like movements. You can gently massage the perineum and even the bum. Remember everything is pretty tightly packed in there, and starting from the outside can create a very pleasurable sense of anticipation of touch to come.

  4. Build Up With Speed and Pressure
    Whether you're providing some quickie clitoral stimulation, or settling in for a lengthy and luxurious sex session, it's almost always best to ramp up the speed and pressure of clitoral stimulation, from slow to fast, and from soft to firm. Rubbing the clitoris too fast or too hard can temporarily desensitize it (this is true for any body part), and if the clitoris is numb, then most kinds of stimulation are going to be ineffectual. Start stimulation by using a part of your body you have the most control over (this might be your finger tips, your tongue, your toes) which will let you start slow and steady. As you want to increase the pressure and speed you may have more options. There's no "right" body part to use for clitoral stimulation, and the more you explore, the more variations you may stumble upon which will be pleasurable.

  5. Vary the Movement
    Once you've built up some tension and anticipation and arousal, if you're ready to focus on the external clitoris, you may want to start with a simple circular motion around the clitoris. Be aware that for many people the clitoris is capable of incredibly fine sensation, and the feeling of a finger tip running in circles around the tip of the clitoris will feel very different than, say, putting each finger on either side of the clitoris and moving your fingers back and forth in a kind of shuffling movement. And this will feel different than gentle tapping, or licking. It can be fun to try a lot of different movements, but stay with each one at least for a minute or two so you can see how much you like it, or if you're playing with a partner you can note how they are responding. But once you've found something you (or they, or both of you) like, then you may want to stick with it and simply build up intensity.

  6. Play With Fine Differences
    The clitoris is considered by many to be the most densely innervated part of the body, and for many it's capable of noticing fine differences in touch and also location. There are some sex manuals that actually break down clitoral stimulation into "quadrants" suggesting that stimulation of the top right corner of the clitoral tips is the absolute best, or that some people melt when you stimulate the bottom left. Don't worry so much about finding a magic spot, but don't be afraid of exploring every millimeter of clitoris you can touch. For some people these differences won't be as noticeable, but for others, it can be the difference between fun and orgasmic.

  7. The Difference Between Sensitive and Delicate
    The clitoris is very sensitive, but that isn't the same thing as being delicate. For some people, particularly once they are fully aroused, firm, intense, or even "rough" stimulation may be exactly what they want. You need to approach this with some caution, and only build up in intensity when you have enthusiastic permission to do so (too much too soon can not only be a mood killer, it can be unwelcome, and hurt). But if you're at a point where you are talking about what kinds of touch you like, asking about how intense or how firm, may open new possibilities for both giving and receiving pleasure through clitoral stimulation.

  8. Dry Versus Wet
    For people who like rougher stimulation, dry rubbing may be preferred. Certainly you get a lot more friction and surface heat that way. But others prefer the feeling of slippery and wet stimulation, and some people find that using personal lubricant increases their sensitivity. As with everything, this is worth experimenting to see what works best for you and/or your partner. Keep in mind that what works best may change from one sexual scenario to the next.

  9. Sex Toys for Clitoral Stimulation
    There are many sex toys designed for clitoral stimulation. These are toys that have variable speeds, often have small tips or variations in surface shape, size, and textures, and provide some reach to allow for easier stimulation. If you can use a part of your body first, it is often recommended as it can provide more immediate feedback than a toy can, but whether you need or want to use one, sex toys provide a kind of strong and consistent stimulation no body part can, and as such are much loved among those who enjoy clitoral stimulation.

  10. Follow the Clitoris Inside
    This isn't meant literally, but you can include internal vaginal or anal stimulation as part of clitoral stimulation. Whether that's using a hand or toy or penis, providing simultaneous external and internal clitoral stimulation is a preference of many people. One combination that gets mentioned frequently is providing external clitoral stimulation with mouth or tongue, and internal stimulation with fingers or a sex toy. As with everything, this is an individual preference, but some preferences seem more popular than others.

Tips:

  1. Remember that everyone is different. Try many things but don't expect them all to work. And maybe none of the first twelve things you try are doing it for you or your partner. In that case, don't blame the clitoris or the body it's attached to. Focus on pleasure and remember that if it's consensual and not causing anyone unintended or anticipated harm, there's no wrong way to feel sexual pleasure. Don't normalize technique by thinking that if they don't like what you're doing it's their fault.

  2. An important general rule for all kinds of sexual stimulation is to build up intensity and movement. If you're not sure what to do, or what will feel good, just start slow and pay attention. Often you'll find a groove, and that's when you can increase things like the speed of the stimulation, the pressure, and even the movements.

  3. Watch long nails, rough hands. The clitoris is sensitive to fine touch, and even people who like rough stimulation usually don't want the sharp edge of a fingernail or rough skin to accidentally poke them or brush past them. If it's intended and timed that's another story. You don't need a manicure, but if you've got rough hands or long nails you may want to consider using gloves for both comfort and increased safety.
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