How to Stimulate the Clitoris, According to Sexperts
For as long as science has been aware of the clitoris, it has been the subject of much scrutiny, confusion, and dismissal.
The Greeks seemed to get the hype, as the word for the female organ comes from the Greek kleitoris, which has been translated as both "little hill" and "to rub." But that doesn't even begin to cover the treasure trove of nerves, blood vessels, and, in turn, the potential mind-blowing pleasure that it offers — right at our fingertips.
And that pleasure part is key. Casey Tanner, certified sex therapist and an expert for sex toy company LELO, explains that the clitoris is the only genital organ that functions solely for sexual satisfaction as opposed to reproduction. "The clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings in the tip alone," she notes. "That's twice as many as the penis, and yet the clitoris often gets only half of the attention, if that."
It's no wonder that, according to a study of over a thousand women published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 37% 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. And while you might think of clitoral and vaginal orgasms as two different things, we now know that what most of us think of the clitoris is actually just the external tip of the iceberg — the clitoris continues inside of the body, too. "Even vaginal orgasms are dependent on the clitoris, which is much larger than its visible tip such that it can be stimulated internally through penetration," says Tanner.
No doubt that's a case for learning more ways to enjoy the ultimate pleasure spot. Here, the best ways to stimulate the clitoris on your own or with a partner, according to Tanner and other sex experts.
First Thing's First: Prioritize Lubrication
Those same 8,000 nerve endings mean that the clitoris is sensitive in the best way, but sometimes friction can increase sensitivity to the point of discomfort or pain — especially when the clitoris is aroused, which experts will refer to as erect (yep, same as a penis), says Tanner. And although your vaginal tunnel is capable of creating its own lube when you're turned on, the clitoris is not.
For that reason, Tanner says it's vital to introduce a lubricant to stave off chafing and dryness. She recommends starting with a water-based lubricant (like LELO's Personal Moisturizer, $25 for 5 fl. oz.). "It uses natural ingredients, is pH balanced to prevent infection, and safe for use with toys," says Tanner. "A little goes a long way, so massage a few drops onto the clitoris and add as needed."
Ways to Stimulate the Clitoris If You’re a Beginner
If you're new to clitoral stimulation, Tanner offers the following tips for getting acquainted with your clit.
Be mindful. Try explorative touch with the optional addition of a hand-held mirror. "Every clit is different, so notice the anatomy of yours," she notes. "Where is it in relation to your labia? How large or small is it? Take note of the clitoral hood, the small fold of skin that surrounds the head of the clitoris. No need to judge or label – simply notice." After all, the more familiar you become, the easier it will be to locate during solo play, she points out.
Start with a super slow, gentle touch. "Even before you touch, you can give the vulva a little hug," advises Amy Baldwin, sex educator and co-host of the Shameless Sex Podcast. "Cup the vulva with your well-lubed hand, and let it hang out there so the skin temperatures can acclimate to one another."
Try different patterns. "Use your index and middle fingers to massage the head in small, circular motions," advises Tanner, who adds that you might also enjoy rubbing the same fingers back and forth just slightly across your clitoris in small, straight lines, noting the difference in sensation.
Other motions to consider, according to Baldwin: kneading, pinching, swirling, stroking, tugging, and tapping on and all around the clitoris, including the labia.
Use varying pressures. "Experiment with pressing down harder as your massage, finding an intensity that feels stimulating without causing discomfort," suggests Tanner.
When it comes to the amount of pressure you might prefer, consider that the main factor in the sensitivity of your clitoris is the size of your clitoral hood. "The anatomical equivalent to the foreskin on a penis, the hood is the small fold of skin that surrounds the head of the clitoris to protect its delicate tissue from friction," explains Tanner. "When the clitoris becomes erect, the clitoral hood retracts to expose the sensitive tissue to pleasurable sensations. Folks with a larger clitoral hood, and thus more protection, may be able to tolerate more direct and intense touch. People with a thinner or smaller hood may find that they enjoy a lighter touch."
And if you happen to have a larger clitoral hood, you can also manually retract it by taking your index finger and pulling upwards slightly on the skin above your clitoris, she recommends. Then, using your fingers or a vibrator, you'll notice the increased sensitivity to touch.
Be indirect. "If these options are feeling too sensitive, try massaging your clitoris indirectly, through your labia," notes Tanner. "Use your fingers to move your labial folds over your clitoris, and then try the same techniques again. If these options aren't stimulating enough, use a vibrator to up the intensity."
You can also simply spend time massaging the outer areas of the vulva, including the labia majora and minora and opening of the vagina where the clitoral anatomy attaches internally, recommends Shannon Chavez, Psy.D., a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles.
If you're partnered: The same techniques described above can be used by someone else during partnered sex, either with a partner's fingers or tongue, notes Tanner. "Use directive language, such as 'a bit softer' or 'a little to your right,'" she suggests. "If you're comfortable doing so, move their hand to locate your clit, or show them where it is using your own hand. Introduce these activities by letting your partner know that you're learning more about what makes you feel good, and you want them to be part of that."
Ways to Stimulate the Clitoris If You’re More Advanced
If you're a seasoned pro at jilling off, consider these next-level moves.
Try layering. "When playing solo, try massaging your clitoris indirectly, through your labia, to control for the sensitivity of your clitoris," recommends Tanner. "This technique involves using your fingers to move your labial folds over your clitoris before applying pressure."
Experiment with "broadening." In order to explore what different surface areas feel like on your clitoris, you can move away from using just two fingers and try using the surface of your palm instead.
If you're partnered: "When choosing a position, think about angling yourself such that each thrust or hand motion will also hit rhythmically against your clitoris," advises Tanner. "For example, ask your partner to lie on their back while you straddle them seated on top. Rather than moving vertically — up and down — angle your body forward at about 45 degrees, letting your clitoris rub against the shaft of their penis or strap-on." Another option: "Choose positions such as doggie style, wherein you or your partner have a free hand that can stimulate the clitoris with fingers or toys during penetration," she says.
Incorporate Toys Into Your Clitoral Stimulation Repertoire
Interested in incorporating some tech-savvy gear? Consider these tips.
Reach for a wand toy. There's no doubt that you can use a classic wand vibrator on the clitoris. Because the head is larger than a cylindrical model, it'll cover more surface area of the clit, says Chavez.
Try internal stimulation. "Thrusters or curved devices will stimulate the G-spot and can be moved from side to side and stimulate the internal anatomy of the clitoris," points out Chavez.
Explore with a clitoral vibrator. You might also consider experimenting with toys that were designed with clitoral stimulation in mind. If you're playing solo, Tanner likes LELO's ORA 3 ($169; LELO.com). "It has a rotating tongue stimulator that mirrors the sensation of oral sex and can be applied directly to the clitoris for intense stimulation, or massaged around the clitoris for a slightly more gentle experience," she notes.
If you're with a partner: "If you're desiring more clitoral stimulation with a partner, try introducing TIANI 3 ($169; LELO.com) in the missionary position," she recommends. "Insert the smaller arm into the vagina, and the larger one on your clitoris. You or your partner can then use the hand-held remote control to explore different settings and intensities."
The Case for Taking Your Time
No matter what technique you're using, do your best to be patient with yourself and how long it might take to reach climax. "Porn and romcoms depict people with vulvas orgasming after mere seconds of sexual activity, and this is not reflective of reality," says Tanner. "If your goal is to have an orgasm, it's not at all abnormal to need 20 minutes or more to get yourself there. Take breaks, or alternate between internal and external stimulation if sensitivity becomes a problem."