Pleasure, understanding sexual response and the clitoris

FAQ: the clitoris and sexual response from teens:

“How do we get horny?”

“How are girls turned on?”

“Can girls get erections?”

Why do teens need to know about the clitoris and sexual pleasure?

Teens complain that sexual health education generally focuses on avoiding ‘problems’ like STIs, unplanned pregnancy and sexual abuse, and does not include information about sexual pleasure and relationships. When teens do experience sexual arousal, they may feel bad or guilty about it.

It is important to know that our sexual thoughts and body responses are perfectly normal!

The questions in this post show the ignorance many people have about female sexual arousal. Historically, sexual arousal has been viewed from the male genital perspective – penis size, erections, masturbation and sexual penetration. Biology text books always give adequate descriptions and illustrations about the penis, but leave out or minimise the corresponding organ for women – the clitoris. Many people struggle to experience sexual pleasure and climax because of clitoral ignorance.


3D model of the clitoris

Sexy Smarts facilitators use a 3D printed clitoris to help position the organ inside the body accurately and describe how it works.

So how does the clitoris work?


Sexual Nerves, Sexy Sensations and Orgasm

The brain, hormones and millions of nerves in the penis and clitoris all work together to enable us to experience sexual pleasure. The structure of the penis and the clitoris are similar and need to be touched or stimulated directly for sexual arousal. The penis is easy to see because it is external (outside), but the clitoris is largely hidden under the skin with just the ‘head’ visible. People need to learn how the vulval area can be touched to provide pleasure. Each person experiences their sexual pleasure differently.

During arousal, blood flows into the clitoris or penis. The spongy tissue in these organs swells – the penis becomes erect and women have a feeling of fullness in the vulva. The inner lips (labia minora) become firm and open slightly. With increased stimulation the genitals produce more moisture. The peak of sexual arousal is climax or orgasm – a series of muscular spasms in the genital and pelvic area. Semen usually spurts out of the penis. Some women produce a little extra fluid at orgasm – called ‘female ejaculate’. After climax, the blood flows away from the genitals and the body becomes relaxed.

Masturbation is touching the genitals for comfort or sexual pleasure. Personal private masturbation is a way to learn about how we enjoy receiving sexual pleasure. We can then communicate more effectively during partnered sexual encounters.