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EXTERNAL FEMALE ANATOMY: CLITORIS

The word “clitoris” (derived from a Greek word meaning “small hill”) can be pronounced with the accent on either the first or second syllable, there being no general consensus on pro-nunication, since this term lacks the household-word status of its closest relative, the penis (see Chapter 6, prenatal differentiation). The clitoris is a highly specialized and unique organ; its sole function is for sexual pleasure.The clitoris extends from the hood to the pubic bone, where it is connected by a suspensory ligament. It is composed of two cavernous bodies which are tissues that fill with blood during sexual arousal, causing the clitoris to swell. It has a glans (tip) and a shaft, which feels like a rubbery cord under the skin. The shaft internally divides into two parts which spread out, like a wide wishbone. These parts are called the crura (singular is crus) each of which is three inches long and which attach to the pelvic bone. From the place where the shaft and the crura fork, and continuing down along the sides of the vestibule (area enclosed by the inner lips and containing the urethral and vaginal openings) are two bundles of erectile tissue called the vestibular bulbs. These become congested with blood during sexual excitement. The crura of the clitoris and the vestibular bulbs are surrounded by muscle tissue, which tenses during sexual arousal and which is part of the muscular system that contracts during orgasm.Thus we see that the visible external clitoral structure is like the tip of the famous iceberg or, perhaps more accurately, the volcano (Seaman, 1972); in this case, it is the tip of a complicated internal system of highly responsive sexual tissue. This internal system of the female is in contrast to the male system, where the responsive tissue is mainly external (in the penis). Various African tribes have been known to manipulate the clitoris and labia to enlarge them, since a large size was equated with beauty. However, there is no known correlation between the size of the clitoris and its sexual functioning.*101\265\8*

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