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7 Surprising Discoveries About Sex

The average clitoris is about as long as the average penis.

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In contrast to the examples people encounter in pornography, the average penis is a humble  5.57 inches long when erect. More than two-thirds of men fall within one inch of the average and 95% fall within two. So, despite the fact that half of men are worried about their penis size, the majority are average, pretty darn close to average, or above average. The rest shouldn’t worry too much about it. See #4. That said…

6. The clitoris is much bigger than you think.

If men come in two types—growers and showers—women are non-disclosers. Textbooks often describe the clitoris as a cylindrical structure found at the top of a woman’s vulva. Sometimes it’s described as the “size of a pea," and it’s almost always described as small.

In fact, the average clitoris is  about as long as the average penis. The part that can be seen is just the tip of a long structure that separates into two branches that lay on either side of the urethra and vagina. The entire clitoris is erectile, adding to the pleasure of vaginal intercourse for women.

7. You probably have a pretty good idea what it feels like to be the other sex.

While we often think of male and female sexual anatomy as opposite, our bodies aren’t as different as they may seem. Nor are our orgasms, it turns out.

The external genitalia of both men and women come from  the same fetal tissue. What will eventually become the scrotum in men becomes the outer labia in women; the shaft of the penis shares its origins with the inner labia; the erectile tissue in the penis is the same erectile tissue we find in the clitoris; and the head of the penis and head of the clitoris come from the same tissue as well (fun fact: this means that the head of the clitoris has the same number of nerve endings as the head of the penis, just more densely packed). So, the sensations we experience when those parts of our bodies are touched probably aren’t that different. 

Likewise, in both men and women the experience of orgasm involves muscle contractions in the pelvic floor starting at about 0.8 per second with a declining interval until resolution. Both  Kinsey and Masters and Johnson argued that sexual response was quite similar between the sexes. 

All that’s quite clinical, but creative ways of measuring the experience of orgasm more personally tells a similar story. Way back in the 1970s, a team of researchers collected  48 descriptions of orgasm (half from men and half from women), stripped them of obvious markers of sex (like body parts), and asked 70 doctors and psychologists to indicate which were written by men or women. All failed to do so with any accuracy at all. The experience of orgasm, then, is probably pretty similar whether you’re a man or a woman.

Lisa Wade holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in sociology and an M.A. in human sexuality. She is a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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